OFF TO ELLICOTT CITY In many ways the perception that impeachment is over is a great thing. It lowers expectations, tones down the rhetoric, and lets Congress do its duty while the country focuses on other priorities for a while. But that doesn’t mean things are over — though even I look forward to the day when they are. Some people talk of scandal fatigue; I suffer from scandal Epstein-Barr.
Nevertheless, the forces of truth and light are on the march, slowly. The House held fascinating hearings about impeachment yesterday. Aside from the dyspeptic Arthur Schlesinger Jr., acting like somebody forgot to get him a bran muffin, the witnesses were excellent on both sides. Schlesinger is one of the most over-rated and deeply partisan historians around. (His rating of the Presidents in the New York Times Magazine a ways back was a national embarrassment.) Yesterday, unlike during Watergate, Congress actually held a hearing about what impeachment is. (Hint: it doesn’t depend on what the meaning of “is” is.) Republican members, starting with Henry Hyde, made it clear that they are going to stick to their duty rather than the polls and see this through. “I’m frightened for the rule of law . . . I really believe that notion that no man is above the law,” said Hyde. The other day he invoked Edmund Burke, which really shows his heart is in the right place.
Then there’s my meager contribution. The day after tomorrow my mother and I will go to Ellicott City to testify before the Maryland grand jury investigating Linda Tripp’s tape recording of her conversations with Monica Lewinsky. We are cooperating fully, though the law affords ample opportunities to delay and disrupt. Indeed, we are contemplating not even bringing a lawyer. After watching Clinton use his lawyers like the biblical fig leaf for so long, bringing a lawyer to the courthouse would feel dirty. Whether we bring one or not, we have no intention of invoking privileges or inventing them. We’ve got nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
Speaking of invented privileges, shame, and hiding — the Supreme Court knocked down both the Secret Service and, more importantly, Bruce Lindsey’s claims yesterday. Perhaps now we will find out why the White House — totally out of character — does not dispute Lewinsky’s testimony or impeach her reputation. Perhaps now we will find out what Lindsey knows about the talking points. I’m cautiously optimistic because I think Lindsey would perjure himself for the President. But, still, getting him to lie on the record is better than letting him lie through silence.
Then, in about a week, Ken Starr is going to the Hill to testify before Congress. He was asked to clarify certain aspects of his investigation. And, guess what? He’s going to do it. If Bill Clinton had done that from the beginning, indeed if he had a scintilla of the respect that Starr has for the law and the truth, the country would have been spared a lot of turmoil and I would be spared a trip to Ellicott City.
WHAT IS IT WITH WEBTV? I get a lot of supportive e-mail from readers and others. I also get some very intelligent criticism. It’s welcome, appreciated, and expected; writing a daily column is not perfectly conducive to flawless logic and unimpeachable word choice. (As many out there will attest, I sometimes spend a considerable amount of time responding to the thoughtful criticism). And then, I get some really nasty, usually boring and stupid hate mail from some very lonely or disturbed people. A lot of it is about my mother, or Linda Tripp, or Linda and my mother, etc. It’s schoolyard stuff, very personal, very self-defeating. But it does give an insight into the various neuroses of these Clinton fifth columnists on the World Wide Web. More about them another time.
There is one thing that mystifies me: Why these hate-filled missives are disproportionately sent from addresses at WebTV. Certainly WebTV doesn’t have the kind of market share so that some 10-15% of my e-mail comes from one domain. And even if it did, why would it be overwhelmingly critical — and nasty? Surely WebTV doesn’t market to jackasses. One theory is that they have a regional bias, California and New York perhaps, which are disproportionately liberal. Another possibility is that there is lone buffoon with a WebTv account, who continually changes his name so as to foster the impression that the ranks of the sexually obsessed, logically impaired Jonah-Haters are legion. Or maybe the guys over at the DNC have a lot of time on their hands. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. I really don’t know, but it is weird.
WILLIAM BENNETT, CAVEMAN In the 1981 spoof, Caveman, Ringo Starr leads a tribe of prehistoric misfits. They all wear bear skins, fight dinosaurs, and speak total nonsense of the “unga bunga” variety. Except for one Japanese caveman who says in perfect, patient, English, “fire,” “rock,” “food,” etc. But since everyone else speaks gibberish they think he’s the moron. In the movie, it’s a joke about Japanese stereotypes. But in real life today, I couldn’t help but think of Bill Bennett as that Japanese caveman. In the Wall Street Journal today, Bennett offers an op-ed entitled “What We Know — Continued.” It’s a straightforward recounting of exactly what this scandal is about rather than what the White House says it is. Bennett’s not totally alone like the Japanese caveman, but there’s just so much more unintelligible gibberish out there to contend with. His piece is a pleasant chord of truth amidst the cacophony of lies out there. I recommend it highly.