Looks Like Impeachment
Jude Wanniski
December 7, 1998


Memo To: Rep. Marge Roukema [R-NJ]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Vote for Impeachment

When I heard last week that you would now consider voting to impeach the President, I knew for the first time that the House would probably vote out articles of impeachment. I'd finally decided a week ago that if I were a member of the House that I would vote to impeach. Since the November elections, the President made the mistake of thinking the voters had exonerated him by giving Democrats surprising gains at the polls. By acting as if he were home free, he relaxed, and thereby gave us a glimpse of his soul. There, I'm afraid we found a man who thinks he has maneuvered out of a meaningful punishment for his actions. I'd actually persuaded myself that he knew he deserved punishment and would throw himself on the mercy of the court, which most likely would lead to "forgiveness" in the form of a vote of censure.

This is a defining moment in American history, far more important than any single piece of legislation likely to come before the Congress. It's about the way we expect our culture to develop in the period ahead. Specifically, it's about how we expect our "leaders" to behave, right down to the leaders of the family unit. The culture has to permit a husband and a father to find a way back into the good graces of the family after sinning against it. This is what we've been trying to do with Clinton and he keeps letting us down. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Bill Safire figured the only way the President could avoid impeachment now would be to shelve his lawyers and ask to appear before the Judiciary Committee without them, putting himself in jeopardy. If he is not willing to face divorce proceedings because of what he has done, the House practically has no way to go but to initiate divorce proceedings. Otherwise, at the very top of the nation's social pyramid, the rules will have changed. Our entire culture will have been diminished.

There are a few Democrats who are insisting Republicans will be punished for an impeachment vote when the President has such high approval ratings for his job performance. I don't think so. The report that you had reined in your natural inclination to forgive told me that the nation itself had come to understand that something more than a censure is now required. If there are articles of impeachment drawn up against the President, I imagine there now may be more than four or five Democrats joining in, for that very reason. The President will have another opportunity in a Senate trial to come to terms with what is required of him. If he still doesn't get it, I can now begin to imagine that he will be convicted and removed from office.