President Clinton’s trial in the senate ended as was expected. The obvious was stated by both sides: The President lied under oath and tried to keep people quiet, and when he couldn’t, he tried to influence their testimony. Yet there was not a two-thirds majority saying that Bill Clinton should be put out of office. What I find most interesting is not that Clinton was allowed to stay in office, but the maneuvering done by both sides to re-interpret the Constitution.
The Constitution is quite clear, and puts things simply. I quote, "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.... When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the members present. Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office...." The House of Representatives is to determine if an act by the President is of a serious enough level to be impeached. To me, this is like a grand jury. If there is enough evidence to bind an individual over for trial, the House impeaches and forwards the charges to the Senate. The ensuing trial in the senate is just that, a trial. The Senate is to act as jury on the guilt or innocence of the President while the House Managers act as the prosecution. The House, while having some serious partisan fighting, did their part and voted on impeachment. It was a mildly bipartisan vote, sending the case to the Senate for trial. The Senate, however, put more twists and turns on this trial than a circus contortionist in a side show.
The confusion among Senators on both sides about their role in this whole thing was incredible. They decided to pick and choose which parts of a traditional trial they would use, redesigning the legal process even to the point of reshaping the Senate’s role as jury, and saying they were another grand jury, and debating over whether or not to have witnesses, which tends to be a basic part of any trial. The argument by the House Managers showed simple logic in how they wanted to proceed, but the Senate constantly rewrote the rules as things moved along trying to follow polls and ease their re-election fears.
Chief Justice William Renquist was suppose to preside over the trial, but only made one ruling, and that had to do with whether House Managers could refer to the Senate as "the jury." The Chief Justice sat back and let the Senators run the show and dictate the terms under which this whole circus would unfold. Judge Ito (of the O.J. Simpson case) looks like a wise, decisive jurist in comparison to Renquist’s flaccid handling of the Clinton trial. I kept hearing about how tough the Chief Justice was on lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court, but I think he was sleeping through the Senate trial.
What I saw was that the elected representatives of the federal government worked at warping the basic understanding of the Constitution like the creatures they are, lawyers who argue over the interpretation of laws and struggle to find new rights, loop holes and meanings to what is meant by the words of a law. The spirit of the law never changes, just the chosen interpretation of the law. We have a bunch of lawyers running the country and they are incompetent to function in the interest of the people as a whole. They are all too busy trying to figure out what the real definition of sex is and what the meaning of "is" is (to borrow from the "First lawyer", Bill Clinton). Only a bunch of poll watching, self-serving lawyers/politicians would have so much trouble understanding what their responsibilities are and argue for days over defining them. If anyone in management in the business world had as much trouble coming to a decision, they would be fired for incompetence.
The people in Washington D.C. are so wrapped up in big government preservation efforts, as well as party and self preservation efforts, they are incapable of truly governing this country. The Republicans and Democrats are once again turning the Constitution upside down so they can do whatever they desire to do regardless of what the rule of law says. The ones that followed the letter of the law the best (even if they weren’t driven by the purest of motives) are the ones receiving the most abuse from the national liberal media: The House Republicans.
Typical of this Yankee government, the constitution only has real meaning if it meets their needs. If the constitution doesn’t meet their needs, then it is time to discover new meanings for sections of the Constitution "that the founding fathers left vague so as to meet unforeseen situations and future interpretation." Our Constitution is quickly becoming a worthless piece of paper that has no true meaning except as a tool for politicians to twist to their personal desires and ambitions.
February 12, 1999