How We Learned to Love Impeachment

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We almost got the impression that the GOP-controlled Congress wanted so desperately to charge Clinton with everything from the crime of Reconstruction to giving women the vote. Never before had conservatism lost its edge and de-evolve into ugly reactionary tactics as the Republican Party’s weird attempt at a good old-fashioned putsch in the drive to crucify William Jefferson Clinton.

You can give the GOP one thing: they remained consistent. When Clinton was elected President, the Anti-Clinton Echo Chamber sprung into existence: “I hate this man, this man is despicable, he must be removed.” In the years following the election, the echoes seemed so real that Clinton’s enemies, namely one Richard Mellon Schaife, a noted philanthropist, embarked on “The Arkansas Project,” a full-time venture devoted to digging into Clinton’s past in an attempt to destroy him. The fine work of this organization vomited forth Paula Corbin Jones and those Arkansas state troopers who swore up and down they played escort boys to Clinton’s sexual appetites, and who it turned out, later recanted their stories.

The Anti-Clinton Echo Chamber continued to grow unabated though, taking on the appearance of Ezekiel’s wheel gone beserk, consuming everything in its path. “If we hate the President so much,” the charge reverberated, “surely everyone else must.” As the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in early 1998, the volume was turned up and the long-dried juices of a pointless, expensive investigation by Kenneth Starr were reinvigorated. The Anti-Clinton Echo Chamber lives!

The power of this magnificent device carried GOP members to convince themselves that THIS WAS IT. The Holy Grail of destroying William Jefferson Clinton had been found in the roly body of a Jewish ex-White House intern. (Baptists were saying, “See! We knew it!”) Now the public would understand what the Machine had been trumpeting all along: that Clinton is evil, that he is mad, that adultery and possibly lying about it under oath were worse crimes than living with nuclear weapons or selling arms to Iran.

But the public just didn’t get it. The drama of testimony, presidential apologies and finally impeachment for actions stemming from a private affair jaundiced the body politic. The pubic had made up their minds; Clinton is a bad boy, but not a bad president. Leave enough alone.

The public misjudged the Machine though, just as the GOP had defiantly dismissed the public. The siren song of the Machine had proven itself to be an accurate barometer of just How Evil Clinton Really Is, and if people didn’t get it, too bad. In a weird sense, the GOP acted like so many of the country’s milita-survivalist haters of democracy, who are willing to blow up federal buildings and kill innocent people, because in every conflict, there are those who must die for the greater good. So in this vein, the GOP was willing to sacrifice public opinion for the greater good of removing Clinton. And damn the public to hell if they couldn’t recognize what was for their own good.