President Clinton was able to ride out his impeachment not merely because he has the conscience of a slot machine, but because he and his partisans managed to convince the nation that the matter at issue was not truth but power.Blinded By Lies
Virtually all his arguments were founded upon lies. It was a lie that he did not perjure himself. It was a lie that lie did not conceal evidence. It was a lie that he did not conspire to intimidate witnesses. It was a lie that all these things were personal mistakes. It was a lie that the assemblage of raw FBI files on 900 Republicans was not for the purposes of blackmail. It was a lie that these files came to the White House by mistake. It was a lie that Mrs. Clinton did not benefit from guaranteed transactions in commodities trading. It was a lie that this was not a bribe. It was a lie that the president did not receive millions of campaign dollars front China. It was a lie that lie did not personally intervene to aid the transfer to China of military technology that China intends for potential use against the United States. It was a lie that these two actions were unconnected. It was a lie that the grounds for impeachment were not mystifyingly narrow. It was a lie that the Senate could not try on political rather than legal grounds. There were so many lies that they were like sand in a sandstorm. They got into everything. You could not see the ground in front of you for all the lies that swirled in the air like brown dust.
The President was able to compel these lies because, finally, the Republican Party was unwilling and unable to go into battle to defend American exceptionalism, to defend the idea that our politics depend upon self-evident truth, as once it had gone into battle at Antietam, Chancellorsville, Petersburg, and other places, where hundreds of thousands of men died in defense of principles that the modern Republican Party fails to defend because its leaders are interested not in truth but in power.
Soldiers and sailors, young eighteen-year-olds, are prepared to lay down their lives in defense of the Constitution. And for little more consideration than the privilege of doing so, they often do. Ending root and branch, families give of their children, of their sons and may God forgive the United States – of their daughters, for this idea. They have done so since the beginning and they do so even unto this day. What must they think of those who send young soldiers into battle, who take the same oath and serve the same Constitution, but who flinch and cower not at the prospect of giving up their lives but of losing an election?
The case that the impeachment was inconsequential, the work of hotheads without the capacity for nuance or moderation, rested upon the assurance that the issues of impeachment were inconsequential, or, if consequential, anomalous. Supposedly, there was no logic to such things as the impeachment sought to check, and there would be no extension of them. They would go away. This view received its ultimate endowment when the Republican nominee for president said, only four months ago: "I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years."
It seems, however, that he did have a stake. What the impeachment sought to check did not go away. It came back in the person of a horrible, fleshy, bovine creature in whose thick and sweaty hands the entire state of Florida became the victim of date rape. That which remains unsettled and unattended is usually destined to multiply. The forces that, during the impeachment, constituted the unspeakable defending the indefensible, rushed south in response to an election that had gone against them by only a few votes and that, drawing upon the Democratic patriarchs (Curley, Tweed, Pendergast, Long, and Daley), they were confident they could overturn by sheer force of manipulation.
In subjecting the established standards for the acceptance of ballots to recurrent free falls, they hoped via numbing recounts in predominantly Democratic counties to produce the Democratic votes required to tip the balance. They would allow themselves the Delphic privilege of divining the intent of unknown voters who had cast spoiled ballots; they would hold absentee and military votes to a strict standard while searching for indented Gore chads as desperately as cosmonauts searching for bottles of oxygen after punching a hole in Mir; they would count as many times and take as much time as necessary to achieve the outcome they sought; after their statisticians informed them that the Vice-President would not win based only on the many rule changes to that point, they would change the rules yet again to include the infamous dimpled chads; their slogan, "All votes should count," would apply only to spoiled ballots in their target counties, ignoring spoiled ballots everywhere else; they would hurl upon the state of Florida a writhing mass of amoral lawyers and semi-human political operatives.
And after all this, unbelievably, they would accuse their opponents of trying to steal the election. They do not know that what they have done is wrong. They believe they have been commendably exercising power in search of a triumph of the will. How strong they are, how ruthless, how clever. No matter that what they seek is a triumph over truth, reason, established procedure, the Constitution, and the climate of decency that has sustained this country since its beginnings.