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The Gloat Zone By: Larry Elder
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 22, 1999

BEFORE THE ANTICLIMACTIC SENATE VOTE on whether to convict and remove the President, press secretary Joe Lockhart declared the White House a "gloat-free" zone.

Apparently, some didn't get the road map.

Minutes before the Senate vote, former presidential counsel Lanny Davis called the vote a "vindication" and declared that the Senate would hold the President "innocent." Davis also took the opportunity to again slap Linda Tripp, stating that he felt like "taking a shower" whenever her name came up. Following the Senate vote, MSNBC's Geraldo Rivera said that he, too, would restrain himself from "gloating."

Did Messrs. Davis and Rivera watch West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd's pre-Senate vote appearance on This Week with Sam and Cokie? There, Byrd said, "The question is, does this rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors? I say 'yes,' no doubt about it in my mind. . . . I have no doubt that he has given false testimony under oath and that he has misled the American people and that there are indications that he did, indeed, obstruct justice . . . " Despite his misgivings, however, Byrd said he intended to vote to acquit because "conviction carries with it removal," the American people want him to remain in office, the President has but two years to serve, and the whole ordeal has created a "division."

Before this burst of candor, newspapers routinely referred to Byrd as "a statesman" and "elder," the "guardian of the tradition of the Senate." Following his televised statement on the President's guilt, one major newspaper described Byrd only as "influential," dropping its earlier title of "statesman." Make that former elder statesman Sen. Byrd.

University of Akron constitutional law professor Wilson Huhn found Byrd's words shocking. Huhn, who does not believe the President's actions warranted impeachment, let alone removal, nevertheless sharply objected to Byrd's logic: "If he feels the President committed perjury and obstruction of justice, and that they constitute high crimes and misdemeanors, he has no choice but to vote to convict." Professor Huhn agreed that Byrd engaged in pure and simple jury nullification. "Yes," said Huhn, "conviction carries removal. It's supposed to."

A gloat-free zone? The Los Angeles Times, in editorializing against impeachment, called the President's behavior "odious," "contemptible," "shameful," "reckless," "indefensible," "despicable," "dishonest" and "stupid." No, the President's defenders would be well-advised not to gloat. And even the President's own defense lawyer, Charles Ruff, said that "reasonable people" could conclude that the President "crossed the line" into perjury. Oh, so reasonable people could agree with the dastardly, vicious, sex-obsessed, witch-hunting Independent Counsel Ken Starr? Reasonable people could conclude that oral sex meets the Paula Jones definition of sexual relations, which includes "contact with the genitalia . . . with an intent to arouse or gratify"?

A gloat-free zone? Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also voted against conviction. She did, however, propose a censure resolution, containing the following:

"Whereas William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee in the White House, which was shameful, reckless, and indefensible;

"Whereas William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, deliberately misled and deceived the American people, and people in all branches of the United States government;

"Whereas William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, gave false or misleading testimony and his actions have had the effect of impeding discovery of evidence in judicial proceedings;

"Whereas William Jefferson Clinton's conduct in this matter is unacceptable for a president of the United States, does demean the office of the President as well as the President himself, and creates disrespect for laws of the land;

"Whereas future generations of Americans must know that such behavior is not only unacceptable but also bears grave consequences, including loss of integrity, trust, and respect;

"Whereas William Jefferson Clinton's conduct in this matter has brought shame and dishonor to himself and to the office of the President; and

"Whereas William Jefferson Clinton through his conduct in this matter has violated the trust of the American people."

Gloat? The only people arguably entitled to gloat are the House managers, who stood tall in the face of the unsympathetic media and poll numbers that worked against them. But the thirteen House managers, shackled in the presentation of their case by the Senate, know better than to gloat. They're likely too busy grieving. For the country.

A gloat-free zone? The President has about as much reason to gloat as O. J. Simpson. They got away with it. But I see an upside. Maybe O.J. "The Killer" Simpson can take time from the golf links to help the President find the real perjurer.

Larry Elder is the author of the newly-released Showdown. Larry also wrote The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America. He is a libertarian talk show host, on the air from 3-7 pm Pacific time, on KABC Talkradio in Los Angeles. For more information, visit LarryElder.com.

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