A Pox on Both their Houses

by Benjamin Kuipers

President Clinton did several bad things. The nation is disgusted. He should be punished, and he will be.

However, it is obvious to all that some Republicans set out to get Bill and Hillary Clinton, with unprecedented ferocity, from the very beginning of the Clinton administration, and will not rest until he is hounded from office.

These are also bad people, even if their motive is political fanaticism rather than lust. To most of us, they are more dangerous to the country than President Clinton's lusts and lies. We oppose impeachment, not because we believe President Clinton has done nothing wrong or shouldn't be punished, but because we don't want to hand his persecutors the prize they seek.

They spent years and millions of dollars looking for something to pin on either Clinton or his wife. They transformed the office of independent counsel from independence to persecutor. Finally, they found a weakness they could exploit: like many powerful men, Clinton is a womanizer.

Even that would not have been enough. But with a careful strategy, they maneuvered President Clinton to the point where he lied. It was partly to protect himself, and partly to protect a woman who had already lied to protect him. He should have told the truth, but they had set things up so that to tell the truth would be to betray a weaker, vulnerable person. Now they had him.

No one can defend President Clinton's behavior, and no one can defend his lies. With proper behavior, he wouldn't have faced this impossible choice.

But the persecutors who choreographed this public scandal now pretend to be defenders of virtue. In fact, they have damaged the country to the point where good men who might make good presidents ask seriously whether they can subject themselves and their families to the extreme and uncivilized treatment they can expect.

We don't forgive President Clinton. But it would be unjust to punish only him, and give his persecutors exactly what they have schemed for all these years.

Censure the President. But don't give his enemies the impeachment.

Written 12/12/1998.