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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Impeachment Doings Offer Some Peachy Insights

October 09, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

I spent much of Thursday sifting through some of the reactions from U.S. lawmakers after the House called the roll and voted 258 to 176 to commence an impeachment inquiry against President Clinton.

Like this one from John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia.

"Republicans," he said, "want to do what they could not do in an election--defeat Bill Clinton. Beware the wrath of the American people, Mr. Speaker, beware."

John, I can just see Newt Gingrich now, bewaring.

"The question is," said Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, rhetorically, "are we going to punish America instead of him?"

Well, let's start with him, Zoe, then see where it goes, OK?

And then there was my personal favorite, from Mary Bono, a California Republican, widow of Sonny.

"Look at all of our children's eyes," she said, "for the strength that we need to go forward and do the right thing."

I don't know about you, Mary, but when I look into children's eyes, it doesn't help me one bit as to whether or not we should impeach the president. They usually just want to go to McDonald's.

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Thirty-one Democrats in the House proved beyond a shadow of a doubt Thursday that they have minds of their own. The mere fact that they are Democrats did not make them willing to overlook anything and everything a Democrat in the White House might try to pull.

Therefore, in a House vote on whether to commence an impeachment inquiry against President Clinton, 31 of 206 Democrats polled voted "yes."

No Republican voted "no."

I would have been so delighted if a solitary Republican legislator had gotten out of bed Thursday morning and said, "It's my party, and I'll vote how I want to."

But no, not one GOP representative broke from the pack. Not one believed the president should get off with a slap on the wrist--perhaps aware that with this president, a slap on the wrist might be the very kind of thing he enjoys.

"Shall we look further or shall we look away?" asked a leader of the pack, Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde. "I respectfully suggest we must look further."

So, look further, they shall.

Republicans wouldn't even accede to Democrats' attempts to set a Dec. 31 deadline for this impeachment inquiry. They rejected that one, virtually along party lines, 236 to 198.

Why drag it out? Probably because of the possible "15 impeachable offenses, including felonies" that special prosecutor Kenneth Starr has gathered in his evidence, which he is still gathering like a squirrel gathering nuts.

Not only is this inquiry going to look into Clinton's lies about his involvement with you-know-who, but also his Whitewater real estate dealings, the firing of the White House travel staff and any charges leveled by Kathleen Willey, Paula Corbin Jones or any other woman who steps forward and cites sexual advances by the American president, America being a large country.

I swear, before this thing is over, Congress might go back to looking into whether or not Clinton really did inhale.

"This isn't about sex," somebody is always saying. "This is about lying."

"No, this is all about sex," somebody else will say.

Well, it's neither anymore.

This is all about being Democratic or being Republican. This is about October being an election campaign crunch from coast to coast.

No matter how anyone votes, someone is going to suggest an ulterior motive. It didn't take long for Joe Lockhart in his new role as White House press secretary to gripe Thursday, on the president's behalf, "We were promised a process that was serious, fair, nonpartisan. We don't believe the process has been particularly fair at this point. The process has been infected with politics."

At least he didn't tell the speaker to beware America's wrath.

*

President Clinton made, if you'll pardon the expression, his bed and now he must lie in it. Gingrich didn't make him lie through his teeth. Starr didn't. Hyde didn't. He did it all by himself.

I'm glad 31 Democrats know that.

One who doesn't is Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), who insists, "The continued investigation of the president is nothing more than a cover-up for the failure of a do-nothing Congress to address the real issues facing the American people."

Bob, what Bill Clinton did is the real issue facing the American people.

*

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or e-mail mike.downey@latimes.com.

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