That didn’t happen, however. Instead, Democrats went into a defensive mode in which they lost all connection to any discernible principle other than partisan political interest. (It is only one of the many bizarre aspects of these events that while they marched in a remarkable lockstep, Democrats were able to pin the “partisan” label on their Republican opponents.)
Given the resistance of the president and his party to an appropriate remedy, the president’s prosecutors and political opponents responded with a series of miscues that greatly compounded the already existing crisis.
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr, to pick the most important offender, should never have entered the murky waters of the Paula Jones case in an attempt to make his own against the president. The sexual harassment law that allows prosecutors to probe the intimate personal histories of defendants is a brainchild of the moralists of the left. In particular, it is the work of the same feminists these events have discredited by slamming them up against a human complexity that remains forever out of reach of their ideological catch phrases. The bottomless probing into the emotional quicksand of human relationships is the very stuff of “sexual McCarthyism.” It is a pursuit that conservatives above all should find both dangerous and abhorrent.
It is true that, as Republicans claimed, the president lied under oath. But it is also true, as the Democrats maintained, that the lies were about sex and that the law, as the saying goes, is sometimes an ass. Particularly a law devised by radical feminists to ensnare demonized males. What Clinton’s lies revealed about his lack of character is one thing. Whether the crime he was shown to have committed actually merited his removal is quite another. This question is now moot, because the House Republicans failed to convince the American public that it was.
The impeachment process is a political process, not a legal or moral exercise. For all their political courage and for all their concern for constitutional principle, the House Republicans and the Republican Party failed in the only political task that really mattered: persuading the American public that the president should be removed. Therefore, the appropriate course for them was to concede the terrain, as Paul Weyrich has done: to admit defeat. They could have done this after the November elections sent a strong message as to where the American people stood: They did not believe their president; they were pretty well convinced he had committed a crime; they did not want him removed. Instead, Republicans pushed the process where it could not go and inevitably came up short. This effort won them respect from the rank and file convinced that the president should be impeached and gratified to see their party stand up for principle. But it also wasted precious political capital and precious months of political time.
Now that the impeachment process is over, some conservatives don’t want to move on and are calling for renewed investigations into the Broaddrick allegations. But if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that these calls and allegations should be ignored. Disturbing though the claims of Juanita Broaddrick may be, they are irrelevant to the political process and should be disregarded by those who have a responsibility to govern. The reason is simple. No one will ever know what happened between Broaddrick and Clinton in that hotel room, and no one can assess how it affects the president’s conduct of his political office now.
Whatever happened to Juanita Broaddrick happened 20 years ago. It was not reported then and she herself has lied about it since, under oath. Even the courts — which are the appropriate venue for establishing the truth or falsehood of such charges — recognize the extreme difficulty of establishing facts so long after the event by imposing a statute of limitations (which the Broaddrick incident has already exceeded). The political process, beset by partisan agendas and lacking even a jury insulated from the defendant, is certainly incapable of doing do so.
Without the possibility of ascertaining the truth, a congressional investigation would be just another partisan smear campaign similar to the Democrats’ successful campaign to remove Sen. Bob Packwood. (The fact that feminists have begun to rally to Broaddrick’s cause — now that the president who champions their political agendas can no longer be removed — should be a caution to Republicans who entertain these ideas. Sometimes, who your allies are does tell you something.)
This entire destructive course in America’s political life began, of course, with the most disgraceful episode in the history of American liberalism — the public lynching of Justice Clarence Thomas seven years ago over the unproved and unproveable allegations of a probably spurned and certainly spiteful woman seven years earlier. One of the chief lessons of the Clinton scandal is that the Anita Hill era is over. Another should be: Good riddance.