Michael Medved opined today that the Republicans would have been better off censuring Bill Clinton than impeaching him. Diane Feinstein and Joe Lieberman would have gone along with a censure vote.
Like most Republicans, I supported impeachment at the time. You have to remember the context: for one and a half presidential terms we had heard Bill Clinton lie every day. Every day. The guy could not speak without lying. Even before he was elected in 1992 he had lied repeatedly. “I didn’t inhale” became a national joke. Slick Willy slid his oily way through scandal after scandal — Whitewater, bimbo eruptions, cattle futures, travel office, dubious campaign funding, missile secrets to the Chinese. For six long years Clinton had gone unpunished for his lies and corruption. I yearned for justice. When he lied to the grand jury about having sex, I wanted him hanged.
Looking back on it now, I have to agree with Medved that it was a mistake. First, in purely practical terms, the impeachment made no friends for Republicans outside their base. The American people rallied around the President.
More important is the question: should a president be impeached for lying about sex? I think impeachment should be saved for weightier matters. It’s not a good thing to stop the nation to hear details about stains on a blue dress. Yes, I know that Bill Clinton was the prime mover of the whole mess. If he had just had the maturity and judgment to keep his zipper up, we would have been spared the disgusting details. Still, the Republicans could have risen above it all. They could have held a quick censure vote and moved on to more important things.
As bad as impeachment was for the Republicans, it was worse for the Democrats. It furthered the radicalization of the Democrat Party. You could say it drove them insane. When Bush was elected, the party’s base expected Democrat lawmakers to do to Bush what the Republicans did to Clinton. The Republicans had Clinton mired in scandal for eight long years. The Democrat base desperately wanted their politicians to get Bush. Get him! Get him!
The Dems had a problem: Bush was not Clinton. Bush was a Christian who took his faith seriously. He was not corrupt. He didn’t have Clinton’s bizarre need to see if he could get away with cheating reality.
Because the leftist narrative became, “Republicans cynically impeached the President for getting a blow job,” the Democrats hardened their own cynicism. They now believe that any lie in politics is fair game. If they don’t lie, cheat and smear their opponents, then the evil Republicans will steamroll them — look at what they did to Clinton!
I suppose the Republicans cannot be blamed for the left’s willful rewriting of reality. I wonder, however, if things would be a smidgeon better today if Republicans had not gone to the mattresses in 1998. Perhaps not, given that the left’s premises are driving them toward totalitarianism in the long run regardless of the accidents of history.