Since witnesses IN the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton now look inevitable, it appears this entire sordid ordeal could last through the beginning of summer. That means America will be forced to roll around in the mud for months to come. Talk about the politics of destruction!
So why, why is this president putting us through this? I put the question to him because that's where it belongs, even if the best case is made for the president and the worst motives are attributed to the Republicans.Let's put the most positive spin possible on what the president has been up to. That being, as no one really disputes, that he used the office of the presidency both literally and figuratively to have a sordid affair with a then-22-year-old White House intern. In other words, that he exploited a very young woman in his employ for sex; that at the very least he misled a court in his deposition in the Paula Jones case, that he allowed his attorney to mislead the court as well; that he bold-faced lied about his activities to the American people and lied to his top aides about it, knowing that they would continue the lie to the American people. He was even willing to use the secretary of state, whose word should be held beyond reproach around the world, for this purpose.
The very best the president's supporters can do is to rationalize those activities and lies, because the activities and lies themselves are not in dispute.
Moving on, let's grant him his legal arguments. For starters, that he wasn't trying to coach his secretary, Betty Currie, when he was as he says refreshing his memory of events to her -- after he already had sworn to them under oath. That oral sex isn't sexual intercourse. That his original deposition in the Paula Jones case was fully honest, so it was truthful to incorporate it under oath in his grand jury testimony. Whether or not these claims pass legal muster, they are sure awfully smelly.
And that is the best case for the president.
Now let's assume the worst case for the Republicans. That they are only politically motivated and are making a concerted effort to get out of office a president they despise. A little hard to fathom, maybe, since Al Gore, who is far more liberal, would be the one to step in. But let's just hypothesize.
The point is that even if the Republicans were just out to muckrake, it's the president and the president alone who has given them an unbelievable amount of muck to rake. Even when the best face is put on what he has done.
So I can only stand amazed that he is putting us through this -- that he is willing to put his personal pride and ego ahead of the well-being of his country, ahead of the ability of his party to have any kind of moral authority for perhaps decades to come, and perhaps even ahead of his own legacy.
Of course, I'm talking about resignation -- about the fact that an honorable president, even one who was truly innocent, would have long ago put his country's interests ahead of his own. A president, after all, puts the lives of America's men and women in uniform at risk every day. Innocent men and women must be willing to die for their country. So should not a president who all agree is on some level guilty at the very least be willing to give up his job for the same?
This president has said he will not go -- that in spite of all the scandalous acts that even he admits to, in spite of all the wrongdoing that even his most partisan allies confess is true, Clinton still maintains that nothing, nothing, is as important to him as himself.
Such a one is not fit to serve as our president.
And after everything else is said and done, after the legal case has been sorted out, after the mud we've been dragged through has been cleaned up as much as possible, it is this selfish and shocking defiance by the president that may prove to be his most shameful act and his most vile sin.
Betsy Hart may be reached be reached by e-mail at email@example.com