PRIMAL SCREED/James McCarty Yeager

Findings of Fantasy, Fact

Washington, D.C.:

Now that we, the people, operating through our dully elected Senators, have saved Henry Hyde's face, the question arises: where shall we put it? It is a truth recognized everywhere save in the echt-right hindquarter of Congress that the reason impeachment dragged out another three weeks was because the House managers (pronounced "manglers") had demanded it. Having again failed to prove Ken Starr's case, the House leadership needed the "respect" from the Senate of having witnesses deposed, one for the 24th time. So Hyde Whitest, leader of the 13 Dwarves, pleaded for the Senate to confirm his own self-respect, weak as it is.

There is a sufficient number of public monuments on which Hyde's saved face could properly be erected. The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building is one candidate for two-faced memorialization. You could have the Great Leaker's face in the lobby and Hyde's in bas relief on the wall of, say, the evidence repository room, since Hyde seems to have as much understanding of evidence as Hoover did of the rule of law. Or the Ronald Reagan National Airport Building might do too, with the Great Prevaricator's in the lobby and Hyde's in bas-relief on one of the runways because Hyde blithely winked at every obstruction of justice by Reagan, Bush, Meese, Donovan, North, Poindexter, and Casey. (Hyde would only get bas-relief while the principals get full-round sculptural treatment in order to underline the second-rate nature of the second face.) The front of the three dollar bill might also be a good place, but surely that distinction has been reserved for Richard Nixon.

And obviously Hyde will be soon forgotten, so there is a real need to put his face up in public somewhere. The Tory weekly The Economist has decried "the spiteful, even unethical handling of the impeachment proceeding by the House Republicans." For better or for worse, the face of the House on impeachment is not that of the harpooned Great White Whale Gingrich, who instigated it, nor of the perjurious but self-righteous DDTom DeLay, who impelled it, but of Hyde, who ran it. Defeated generals are always obliterated from the public memory.

The assassination by resolution, or attempted coup d'etat, that was carried out drool by drool, drip by drip, leak by leak will undoubtedly go down in history as the Republican Party's version of the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968. There, it will be remembered, the forces of lawn order so far forgot themselves as to stage a riot in which they beat and jailed unarmed citizens by the thousands. Here they were only after the First Citizen, but the beat goes on. After Chicago, the Democrats were deemed to be so unfit to govern that a laughably inadequate, if not completely certifiable, Republican was twice elected president, only to be driven from office in disgrace for criminally trashing the Constitution.

After Clinton's impeachment failed, it became more and more likely the Republicans will lose both House and Senate in 2000, as well as the Presidency. Why? The Republicans will be punished for persistence in folly, error, imbecility, and blunderings compared to which Clinton's seem the height of good judgment. The people's business has suffered for a year and, as with Gingrich and DeLay's shutdown of the federal government in 1995, the people blame the Republicans for it.

Two good things have come out of the impeachment farce. They are the names of the second and third Democratic Supreme Court Justices of the Gore Presidency: Charles Ruff and Vernon Jordan. Each showed himself to be a man of decency, probity and gravity, despite each being a lawyer, and despite the provocative flights of fantasy they were faced with from the 13 Dwarves that would have sent most reasonable men screaming from the room. The reason Ruff and Jordan are only the second and third is that the first vacancy must, of course, go to former Senator George Mitchell for his work in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. Anybody who can get the Protestants and Catholics to sit down peaceably together is obviously over-qualified for the U.S. Supreme Court. But it wouldn't hurt to have him.

The legacy of this impeachment ought to be the end of the imperial presidency. Yeah, sure. Begun by Johnson, developed by Nixon, completed by Reagan and Bush, the imperial presidency has satisfied the white-guy hierarchical needs of the Republican world-view so well that they can't stand it when a President doesn't act like King of the World, as Carter didn't and Clinton doesn't. Carter and Clinton being from the economically conservative wing of the Democrats, the Republicans were left only with social issues for which to snipe at them. Accordingly, all their venom went into the only remaining publicly acceptable form of racism, which is to oppose federal spending for the poor, (even though most of the poor are white.) In the 1950s the Republicans passed the No-Third-Term Amendment to spite Franklin Roosevelt and thereby had the unintended consequence of preventing Eisenhower and Reagan from ruling until death. Now in the 1990s the use of impeachment to hound a president of whom a congressional, if emphatically not popular, majority disapproves signals a cyclical swing of power away from one nationally elected person to 535 locally elected ones. Long may the Republicans enjoy the fruits of this one. I can't wait to see the Chief Justice impeached for prescription drug abuse.

And the fun stuff in the Republican party has just begun. The Religious Reichgt is already propagating the myth that the noble German Army of World War One (I mean the House Manglers) would have won the war except that they were stabbed in the back by the Jews back home (I mean the Senate Republicans.) Any theory of impeachment that requires the lockstep Senate Republicans to assume the role of moderates is as cockeyed as, well, Nazi racial theory.

Here are a few findings of fact the Senate could properly have included had if it gone ahead with such a clearly unconstitutional method of subverting the straight up-or-down vote on impeachment that was contemplated and ordained by the Founding Fathers.

-- That the Office of the Special Prosecutor needs to be abolished.

-- That Ken Starr needs to be impeached for incompetence, abuse of office, or both.

-- That the House of Representatives has brought more shame upon the country than have the allegedly impeachable offenses of the President.

-- That the Senate joined the House in partisan dishonor.

-- That by rejecting the option of Presidential censure in both the House and Senate before impeachment, the option should have been foreclosed.

-- That Bill McCollum needs a chin.

-- That Trent Lott needs a backbone.

James McCarty Yeager is looking forward to the spring rise at the Little Falls of the Potomac River.

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