Still on the Conviction Track
Jude Wanniski
January 27, 1999


The media commentators continue to insist that President Bill Clinton is home free because there is no way 67 Senators will vote to convict him. They still do not understand the importance of Sidney Blumenthal’s testimony, which inevitably will demonstrate that Mr. Clinton not only committed a criminal act a year ago, but an evil criminal act, designed to save himself by destroying Monica Lewinsky. Barring some new unforeseen barrier thrown in the path of the House impeachment managers, Blumenthal’s deposition will be sufficient to bring him to the well of the Senate to explain how the President used him to broadcast the accusation that he, William Jefferson Clinton, was sexually harassed by Lewinsky, and that the Linda Tripp tapes were a fantasized fiction designed to punish him for his refusal to have sex with her. The press corps seemed astonished yesterday when it was announced that the three witnesses who would be permitted did not include Betty Currie. As we have been advising you since December 15, “Impeachment on Wall Street,” the key to conviction depends on Blumenthal. In a handshake deal prior to the bipartisan agreement on process, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told Minority Leader Tom Daschle that he would limit witnesses to no more than three, which is why Currie had to be cut in order to get Blumenthal on the list with Lewinsky and Vernon Jordan.

The reason it seemed clear to me that this put the President on a conviction track was that it poses an impossible problem for the distaff Democrats, especially the feminist ladies who have insisted that this only involves consensual sex. The Democrat on the margin is California’s Dianne Feinstein, who has argued that what the President has done may constitute perjury and obstruction of justice, warranting a harsh centure, but because the crimes were “victimless,” they do not warrant conviction and removal. In other words, the President did not touch or grope Paula Jones, who in any case got $850,000 for her troubles, and that whatever he did with Lewinsky was private and consensual. What Rep. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] has done in developing the Blumenthal story is to produce a victim for Senator Feinstein and all the feminists of the planet Earth. On Monday, Graham turned the White House lawyers upside down, using David Kendall’s own words to show that the President also used Dick Morris in his cover story that Lewinsky was a “stalker” who had blackmailed him. When Morris told the President he would hold a press conference to trash Lewinsky, the President told him to go easy on her -- as if this were a defense. As far as Graham is concerned, it was as if Morris were proposing to blow her away with a shotgun, mutilating the body, but the President said a clean head shot would do.

In the conviction scenario, Senator Feinstein, who has chosen to play a prominent role in arguing for censure over conviction, is not going to be able to hide from the three distaff Republicans, led by the formidable Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. This cultural war is about how men treat women, and it will be decided by the women of the Senate. If Feinstein cannot defend the President’s crimes once a victim has been produced and knows she will have to vote for conviction, the Senate’s Democratic men will follow. In the scenario, a small delegation of Senate men will call upon the President and tell him that it is over and he must resign. It of course is not guaranteed that this is the way the process will play out, but it is clearly why the White House and the Democrats have been hysterical about having witnesses deposed and brought into the Senate well for cross-examination. In the background, there also are several stories that we hear are close to breaking, involving other women in the President’s past life. These will not be brought into the trial itself, but the President’s defenders now are coming to grips with the likelihood that there is going to be more and more to the story, and it will get worse and worse.

Here is a memo I sent today to the House managers regarding a confusion on the difference between “nation” and “state” as it bears upon the impeachment process:

“There is a definite confusion in the minds of the Senators on the difference between ‘the state’ and ‘the nation.’ Some seem to use it interchangeably, when in fact they are two different animals. The White House wants this confusion to continue, because it allows many Democrats to believe that an impeachment must be a crime against ‘the state,’ when in fact the far worse crime of a President is that which is against ‘the nation.’ A mechanism can be more easily repaired than the nation that it serves. I’m constantly surprised to see the television lawyers, such as those who do the legal prattling for CNN, agreeing with each other that even if the President strangled the First Lady, he could not be removed from office, because her departure would not damage the state. Only treason and bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors are interpreted as messing up the state. The law would have to wait until a new President took office in 2001 before they brought out the handcuffs for Bill Clinton.
“This is because it has not occurred to many folks that ours is the only nation that was brought forth by a state. In the history of the world, all other states were preceded by nations, as national interests led to the creation of a mechanism to serve the state. The state is only a task-oriented mechanism. A nation is a community of interests -- social, political, commercial, and religious. The United States is a union of diversified states that in combination make up a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal. We became the nation of nations.
“In her interviews, Senator Barbara Boxer [D-CA] always exonerates the President because he did nothing to damage the state, which may or may not be correct. Another California Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, confuses ‘state’ and ‘nation.’  She says Clinton did nothing to damage the nation when she means ‘state.’ Practically everyone agrees the President has damaged the nation to one degree or another, even if the Senate decides the damage is not sufficient to remove him from office. The constitutional framers clearly indicated that high crimes and misdemeanors include ethical lapses that undermine the fabric of society. As Rep. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] put it, we know the damage that results when a father is forced to tell his children, do as I say, not as I do. The children are confused and the standard is devalued. The President not only is father to the country, but also father to the whole world. For the Senate to conclude that it is okay to commit these crimes against the nation sends a cultural wave that will ripple to every corner of the world. For the Senate to expel the President and cleanse the office also sends a positive and wholesome cultural wave around the world and into history.”