A Partisan Impeachment
Jude Wanniski
November 30, 1998


Memo To:Rep. Peter King [R NY]
From:  Jude Wanniski
Re:  Dodging Responsibility

I’m surprised to find you taking the lead among House Republicans in opposing the impeachment of the President. As long as you believe the President lied under oath before a federal grand jury, you really have little choice but to join your GOP colleagues in sending the impeachment to the Senate for resolution. If they wish, House Democrats can show their partisan support for the President by voting against articles of impeachment. Because this is a political matter, having to do with constitutional standards of behavior of the chief executive and commander-in-chief, not a legal matter, your breaking ranks threatens the process by which the standard can be tested and maintained. There may, as you say, be as many as 20 Republicans who intend to follow your lead and vote with the Democrats. If so, the President will have committed a felonious act without being placed in jeopardy of trial and punishment.

As it stands, based only on what I know about the issues involved so far, I would probably vote against removing the President from office if the matter came before me in the Senate. But there are sufficient grounds for having the findings properly adjudicated in a Senate proceeding so the Senators could have that opportunity. I also tend to agree with your Republican colleague, Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who seemed prepared at one time to vote against an impeachment based on grounds of perjury -- but only if he could be sure the President was contrite enough to throw himself on the mercy of the Congress. As a result of the President’s decision to fight punishment on narrow legal and technical grounds, Mr. Graham is now properly concerned that the President must be put in jeopardy whether he likes it or not. I can assure you that I have been as sympathetic as have you to the argument the President’s behavior “does not rise to the level of impeachment.” I’ve even accepted the President’s contention that in his own mind he did not have “sexual relations” with Ms. Lewinsky because there was no intercourse -- which is why I say I would probably vote against his removal. The process must be completed, though, and it cannot if you dodge your responsibility and vote to abort it. It does not matter if there are no Democratic votes in support of the articles voted out of the Judiciary Committee. A partisan impeachment will simply alert the nation that the Republican Party insists upon a higher standard of behavior than the Democratic Party. It may also force the President to do what I’d hoped he would do and put himself in the position where he might actually be voted out of office. That and only that would persuade me of his contrition and of the maintenance of the highest of standard of presidential behavior.