Nobody cares about impeachment. The American people have moved on. They will vote on the issues, not on the past.
So says conventional wisdom.
But when I walk into the voting booth on Nov. 7th, I will vote for a Democrat for the first time in my life thanks to a single issue: Yes, impeachment. My congresswoman, seven-term incumbent Republican Connie Morella of Maryland, joined President Clinton's lackeys in 1998 and voted against all four impeachment articles. Despite the wealth of evidence before her, from Clinton's videotaped lies to the stained blue dress, Morella rejected Article I, accusing Clinton of perjury before a grand jury; Article II, accusing Clinton of perjury in a civil lawsuit; Article III, accusing Clinton of obstruction of justice; and Article IV, accusing Clinton of abuse of presidential power.
For these votes alone, Morella deserves to be booted out of office. The mainstream press praised her "maverick" votes, but they were acts of cravenness, not courage. When the majority of her party was willing to stand up and do what was right and unpopular -- isn't that what leadership is? -- Morella tucked tail and ran. In a fawning Baltimore Sun profile, Morella explained that her full acquittal of Clinton on all charges came down to "my country, my conscience and my constituents."
Not to mention her cozy office, television appearances, taxpayer-subsidized mail privileges, fund-raising cocktail parties, and all the attendant perks of entrenched incumbency.
"I searched my conscience as a grandmother and mother, in terms of what does this say to parents who are raising children," Morella explained. The message is loud and clear. It says to me that Morella cared more about focus groups than about the rule of law. It says she was more willing to stand by a Democrat president -- who lied under oath, lied to his family, lied to his Cabinet, lied to the nation, attempted to persuade his staff to lie under oath, and used the people's house and resources to escape the consequences of lies piled upon lies -- than by her own fellow Republicans who performed their constitutional duty against the prevailing tide of moral relativism.
Morella said her "stomach troubled me all day. It was churning," before she cast her straight votes to acquit the prevaricator-in-chief. I would be sick to stomach, too, if I had to explain those calculated votes 50 years from now to my grandchildren. As Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts said at the time of the proceedings: "What's popular isn't always right. Polls would have rejected the Ten Commandments. Polls would have embraced slavery and ridiculed women's rights. You say we must draw this to a close. I say we must draw a line between right and wrong."
Four other House Republicans up for re-election this year slinked over to Clinton's side. Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut joined Morella in casting straight votes against all four impeachment articles, as did New York Reps. Peter King and Amo Houghton. Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana voted against three of the four articles. In the Senate, liberal Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Jim Jeffords of Vermont cast straight votes against both conviction articles, and Slade Gorton of Washington split his votes to convict.
Beltway prognosticators consider most of these anti-impeachment Republicans -- Republicans In Name Only -- to be "safe." One vote, they say, won't make a difference. At the same time, some GOP loyalists argue that it's better to put aside grudges and vote for the party straddlers than to risk giving the majority to the Democrats. I beg to disagree. When it comes to Clinton apologists, I'd rather cast my ballot for an unabashed donkey than a cowering RINO who can't be counted on when fundamental issues of truth, morality, and law are at stake.