Sunday, December 19, 2010

Twelve Years Ago Today

when the Congressional power dynamics were reversed, the GOP was focused like a laser on using its Sacred Nonspecific Calendar Interval Christian Holiday Lame Duck session to the single issue they considered more important than anything else in the world.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton.

For no reason other than they just fucking hated him.

Of course now many of the the same media hacks and politicians who dined out in parasitic splendor on ginned-up scandals and fake outrage against the "Sociopath"-in-Chief who "trashed" their happy little inbred Byzantium on the Potomac now bury whole decades of their own past under a thick layer of Villager, history-nullifying nostalgia goo and fawn over the statesmanlike sagacity and triangulatory genius of the same man they had only recently been trying to bum rush into impeachment, prison and political oblivion.

But some of us rubes out here in the hinterlands do not forget. And rude, unschooled fuckers that we are, we keep forgetting our places and bringing up the inconvenient histories of our betters over and over again.

Here, for example, is what some of the Heroes of the Party of Personal Responsibility were saying exactly 12 years ago..

This from a December 17, 1998 airing of the News Hour on PBS

First, excerpts from a lively little chat between Mark Shields and Paul Gigot on the insistence by Wahabi Republicans that the frivolous and irresponsible impeachment of one William Jefferson Clinton proceed despite military action in Iraq.

Remember that at this time we were being warned, daily, that the Hussein was incredibly dangerous and volatile.

It began with a lot of procedural information about how long debate and rebuttal would proceed, etc. And then (with emphasis added)…

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Paul, assess for us on both sides the risks and the benefits in going ahead with this tomorrow while the bombing is going on.

PAUL GIGOT: Well, the benefits for the Republicans are that they get it over with. They believe they have the votes, and they can put this behind them, and a lot of their members, frankly, want to get it done. The leadership, I think, also fears that if it's delayed into next week, as Lee Hamilton suggested, just wait till Monday, there will be another objection on Monday. Why not do it after Christmas, and then why not after New Year's, so let's get it done. ...

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But there are some risks, aren't there?

PAUL GIGOT: Well, there is some that the Democrats are going to talk about process; they're going to talk about shackling the commander-in-chief. So this takes away from what the Republicans would like the debate to be about, which is the behavior of the president, and that's the advantage the Democrats have in this, which is they can change the subject and try to undermine this as a strictly partisan exercise pointing to the Senate down the road.

MARK SHIELDS: … But there is within the Republican House caucus a strong conservative group, and I think the only way to describe many of them is they're seized and animated by a phobia about Bill Clinton. I mean - and there's no question - they do have the votes; they want to do it; they want to get it over with; they want to get him; they don't want him to have another day without being impeached. And I'll tell you where it comes down to - you can see their attitude toward the president on foreign policy. I mean, they say is a diabolically shrewd fellow - oh, my goodness, he calibrates every move. The move to go into military action didn't change a single vote in the House on impeachment. There was no way it was going to change a vote.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're saying the bombing hasn't made any big political difference.

MARK SHIELDS: It hasn't changed a single vote in the House on either side, and I defy anybody to tell whose vote has been changed by it.

PAUL GIGOT: I think they believe that if they wait until Monday, the Democrats will find a reason not to hold the debate on Monday too. And who knows what Saddam Hussein might do and what the president might do, and so if we're going to have the debate at all this Congress, let's do it now. And if the president can do his - undertake his constitutional responsibility as commander-in-chief on the eve of impeachment, then the House should be able to do its constitutional duties, while the president is pursuing his.

Listen to Bob Livingston argue that just because we had troops in harm's way in Iraq and by his reckoning had no timetable or metric to measure when or if we reach “Mission Accomplished”, that is no reason why the President should not be impeached.

REP. BOB LIVINGSTON, Speaker of the House-Designate: Do we just anticipate that the troops in the field will complete their business by Ramadan or by a time certain, or by Tuesday, or by Christmas Day, or by New Year's Day, or by two weeks into January? How do we assess when that mission is going to be complete? There's no way to know when the troops will have completed their mission. There's no way to know whether or not Saddam Hussein in his mindless self-absorption decides to lash out at American troops, at British troops, at Kuwait, at his neighbors anywhere in the Middle East. We can't anticipate what Saddam Hussein will do, and yet, we cannot refrain from advancing the people's business under this critical issue.

KWAME HOLMAN: Livingston reminded Democrats that when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the United States had troops on the ground in Vietnam.

REP. BOB LIVINGSTON: And, yet, the Democrat Congress at the time undertook the responsibility of impeaching Richard Nixon, but he resigned.

Now note here where Republican and veteran Duncan Hunter argues that it is an insult to the troops NOT to proceed with impeachment and work straight through the Christmas holidays if necessary...

KWAME HOLMAN: Republican leaders backed up their argument with the support of several of their members who are veterans of foreign wars.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) California: You know, there's one term, I think, that is common to both this House and to our military, and that term is duty. We refer to it often, and it's clear now that our uniformed people are carrying out their duty in difficult circumstances to defend the liberties and the security of this country. They're doing that so that we can perform our duty. And our duty is to carry out the Constitution.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Minority Whip David Bonior said there was another reason Democrats were blocking the Republicans' proposed rules of debate.

REP. DAVID BONIOR, Minority Whip: And that is the inability of this side of the aisle to have the chance to offer a reasonable alternative, a censure alternative, which the majority of Americans now support. It is unfair, it is wrong, there is something about this whole process that shows a lack of judgment, a lack of proportionality, a lack of common sense…

Then there was this jumble of superpatiot doubletalk, all but one of which is from the WaPo...

Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.):

And we all share in the emotional trauma getting back to our subject of this constitutional crisis in which we are ensnared. But this cup cannot pass us by, we can't avoid it, we took an oath of office, Mr. Speaker, to uphold the Constitution under our democratic system of government, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

And we must fulfill that oath and send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial. …

Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.):

How can we expect a Boy Scout to honor his oath if elected officials don't honor theirs? How can we expect a business executive to honor a promise when the chief executive abandons his or hers?

Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.):

How did this great nation of the 1990s come to be? It all happened Mr. Speaker, because freedom works. . . . But freedom, Mr. Speaker, freedom depends upon something. The rule of law. And that's why this solemn occasion is so important. For today we are here to defend the rule of law. According to the evidence presented by our fine Judiciary Committee, the president of the United States has committed serious transgressions.

Mr. Speaker, a nation of laws cannot be ruled by a person who breaks the law. Otherwise, it would be as if we had one set of rules for the leaders and another for the governed. We would have one standard for the powerful, the popular and the wealthy, and another for everyone else.

This would belie our ideal that we have equal justice under the law. That would weaken the rule of law and leave our children and grandchildren with a very poor legacy…

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI):

The framers of the Constitution devised an elaborate system of checks and balances to ensure our liberty by making sure that no person, institution or branch of government became so powerful that a tyranny could be established in the United States of America. Impeachment is one of the checks the framers gave the Congress to prevent the executive or judicial branches from becoming corrupt or tyrannical.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas):

When someone is elected president, they receive the greatest gift possible from the American people, their trust. To violate that trust is to raise questions about fitness for office. My constituents often remind me that if anyone else in a position of authority -- for example, a business executive, a military officer of a professional educator -- had acted as the evidence indicates the president did, their career would be over. The rules under which President Nixon would have been tried for impeachment had he not resigned contain this statement: "The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than the average citizen in the United States."

Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.):

Many have asked why we are even here in these impeachment proceedings. They have asked why we can't just rebuke the president and move on. That's a reasonable question. And I certainly understand the emotions behind that question. I want to move on. Every member of this committee wants to move on. We all agree with that.

But the critical question is this: Do we move on under the Constitution, or do we move on by turning aside from the Constitution? Do we move on in faithfulness to our own oath to support and defend the Constitution, or do we go outside the Constitution because it seems more convenient and expedient?


Why are we here? We are here because we have a system of government based on the rule of law, a system of government in which no one -- no one -- is above the law. We are here because we have a constitution.

A constitution is often a most inconvenient thing. A constitution limits us when we would not be limited. It compels us to act when we would not act. But our Constitution, as all of us in this room acknowledge, is the heart and soul of the American experiment. …

We would all be spared embarrassment, indignity and discomfort. But there would be a high cost if we followed that course of action. Something would be lost. Respect for the law would be subverted, and the foundation of our Constitution would be eroded.

Rep. Bob Ingliss (R-S.C.):

I think is important to point out here is that we have a constitutional obligation, a constitutional obligation to act. And there are lots of folks who would counsel, Listen, let's just move along. It's sort of the Clinton so-what defense. So what? I committed perjury. So what? I broke the law. Let's just move along. I believe we've got a constitutional obligation to act.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.):

Mr. Chairman, this is a somber occasion. I am here because it is my constitutional duty, as it is the constitutional duty of every member of this committee, to follow the truth wherever it may lead. Our Founding Fathers established this nation on a fundamental yet at the time untested idea that a nation should be governed not by the whims of any man but by the rule of law. Implicit in that idea is the principle that no one is above the law, including the chief executive

Mr. Chairman, we must ask ourselves what our failure to uphold the rule of law will say to the nation, and most especially to our children, who must trust us to leave them a civilized nation where justice is respected.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.):

You know, there are people out all across America every day that help define the nation's character, and they exercise common-sense virtues, whether it's honesty, integrity, promise-keeping, loyalty, respect, accountability, they pursue excellence, they exercise self-discipline. There is honor in a hard day's work. There's duty to country. Those are things that we take very seriously.

So those are things that the founders also took seriously. Yet every time I reflect upon the wisdom of the founding fathers, I think their wisdom was truly amazing. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to escape the tyranny of a king. They understood the nature of the human heart struggles between good and evil.

So the founders created a system of checks and balances and accountability. …

Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.):

In the next few days I will cast some of the most important votes of my career. Some believe these votes could result in a backlash and have serious political repercussions. They may be right. But I will leave the analysis to others. My preeminent concern is that the Constitution be followed and that all Americans, regardless of their position in society, receive equal and unbiased treatment in our courts of law. The fate of no president, no political party, and no member of Congress merits a slow unraveling of the fabric of our constitutional structure. As John Adams said, we are a nation of laws, not of men.

Our nation has survived the failings of its leaders before, but it cannot survive exceptions to the rule of law in our system of equal justice for all….

Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.):

I suggest impeachment is like beauty: apparently in the eye of the beholder. But I hold a different view. And it's not a vengeful one, it's not vindictive, and it's not craven. It's just a concern for the Constitution and a high respect for the rule of law. ... as a lawyer and a legislator for most of my very long life, I have a particular reverence for our legal system. It protects the innocent, it punishes the guilty, it defends the powerless, it guards freedom, it summons the noblest instincts of the human spirit.

The rule of law protects you and it protects me from the midnight fire on our roof or the 3 a.m. knock on our door.
It challenges abuse of authority. It's a shame "Darkness at Noon" is forgotten, or "The Gulag Archipelago," but there is such a thing lurking out in the world called abuse of authority, and the rule of law is what protects you from it…

And, of course, what would any Roll of GOP Dishonor be without Republican-Citizen-Hero-and-Convicted-Felon-Number-One, Tom DeLay, weighing in via the “Bluegrass Report”
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.):

I believe that this nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law.

Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.

Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country.

Of course, to those on the Right for whom history began on January 20, 2008

this is all incomprehensible gibberish.

Never happened.


Didn't matter.

Or it was all just a joke! Can't you take a fucking joke!?

Twelve years later with power in D.C. is once again reversing poles, the Democrats are spending their waning days of agenda-control and their last few ingots of political capital fighting and winning a historic battle for civil rights, and fighting and losing other battles for core-principle causes the GOP holds far, far too dear to permit to be compromised. Causes like:
  • Denying health care to 9/11 first responders;
  • Committing national fiscal suicide at the behest of their billionaire puppet-masters;
  • Denying access to the same American Dream John Boehner can't think about without blubbering to the deserving children of illegal immigrants, and;
  • Shooting craps with global thermonuclear peace for partisan political gain.
Of course, in a civilized country run by grownups, none of these issues (and almost none of the hundreds of bills that passed the House and were killed in the Senate) would be in any way controversial and would have been passed by acclamation long ago.

But we do not live in a civilized country.

And as long as the Fox/Republican Party remains a force in American politics, we never will.


Joe said...

Dick Armey:
"But freedom, Mr. Speaker, freedom depends upon something. The rule of law. And that's why this solemn occasion is so important. For today we are here to defend the rule of law. According to the evidence presented by our fine Judiciary Committee, the president of the United States has committed serious transgressions."


Those words should be thrown in his face every time he appears in public. But our corporate media is far too polite to call out all these Republican jackasses.
Driftglass, thanks for reminding us of the history.

double nickel said...

"Wahabi Republicans". Bingo!

StringonaStick said...

Duncan Hunter said it is "our duty to carry out the constitution"; apparently he meant in a body bag.

Roket said...

And what is their current agenda?

#1 Shut down the gummit

#2 Impeach the Kenyan Usurper

Same as it ever was.

jurassicpork said...

"...because freedom works... Shit, I just got a great idea, Mr. Speaker!" Dick Armey, 1998

jurassicpork said...

Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.):

"I suggest impeachment is like beauty: apparently in the eye of the beholder. But I hold a different view. And it's not a vengeful one, it's not vindictive, and it's not craven."

And yet, just before he toddled out of office, Hyde admitted that they impeached Clinton to get back at Democrats for almost impeaching Nixon. What sanctimoniousness bullshit.

SteveUpNorth said...

I can recall drawing mustaches and glasses on pictures of Clinton that came in our gradeschool-class news letters, because hey, he was a dork and people didn't like him!
(this thought went through my 10 year old mind, at the time)

Then Middle school came about, and we elected an illiterate cowboy instead of a boring pragmatist...

Feels weird for my formulative years to have been marred by so much utter bullshit.

nycgirlupstate said...

omg, i remember and you are exactly right. the only constant that you can expect from the right is constant

Anonymous said...

Well, just remember, Republicans have oodles and oodles of what it takes to make it in politics today: Hypocrisy and duplicity.

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