A Vote Against Impeachment
Jude Wanniski
October 5, 1998

 

Memo To:Trent Lott, Senate Majority Leader
From: Jude Wanniski
Re:  Punishing Clinton

I caught you yesterday morning on "This Week" with Sam&Cokie and was surprised to find you already talking about the process of selecting the right punishment for the President. I know most Republicans believe the House will vote articles of impeachment and that the Senate may have to decide on the appropriate punishment sometime in the future, but your casual assumption that there will be some sort of punishment is inappropriate at this stage of the process. I have to tell you, Trent, that while I think there is a good case to be made for Democratic wise men persuading the President to resign, there is not yet a constitutional case to be made for forcible removal. Based on what I know from reading the papers, if I were a member of House Judiciary I would vote against impeachment AT THIS MOMENT. Of course, if the inquiry developed information beyond what has been presented thusfar, I could easily see myself voting for impeachment. As Iíve written previously, the argument that he committed perjury before the federal grand jury does not hold up because he makes the case that in his own mind sexual relations means sexual intercourse. You cannot dismiss his defense out of hand. Resist all temptations to do so, given the lofty political position you have.

Iím willing to split hairs on behalf of the constitutional process, even while I tend to agree with Ross Perot that we cannot trust Clinton as much as we need to trust him if he were to ask the nation to engage in military action somewhere in the world. Perot, though, is not making his arguments on constitutional grounds. He is making a case for resignation, somewhat similar to your notion that a President could be removed for ďbad conduct.Ē Perotís inference that the President has been using drugs, perhaps cocaine, seems so incredible that we would normally dismiss it out of hand. But because Perot canít believe Clinton on the matter of sex, he now hesitates to dismiss the cocaine idea. Iíve had people I respect hypothesize that Clinton has been doing coke with his Hollywood pals and that they have seen the effects on his face. Because I donít want to believe it, I ridicule the idea and honestly believe it is untrue. But Perot has put it on the scope, and we now have to ask why the President in 1996 refused to release all his medical records, when there were suspicions that use of drugs would show up somewhere in his blood system. Following the Presidentís 1996 re-election, Iíd forgotten about all these speculations, but now they come back like ghosts.

Of all the people involved in sorting this out, you are the most important, because for the moment you have the responsibility to sit at the highest level in judgment of the President should articles of impeachment be presented to the bar of the Senate. The headline I put on this open memo to you, ďA Vote Against Impeachment,Ē is what I suggest you could honestly say at this moment if you were required to vote on the information developed thusfar. A month from now, I might vote for impeachment in my own mind, but not yet. As an old friend and admirer, I urge you to leave no public impression that you have made up your own mind and also genuinely keep your mind open to the opportunities there may be to produce the best possible outcome for the health of the nation.