By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Nonetheless, the Republicans have now plunked down their last chips on the remote possibility that they can change the public’s mind with the very case the public has already dismissed, and despite the very real probability that they will only further tax the public’s patience. It’s at such a point in the life of the gambler that loved ones intervene and pack the bankroll-blower off to Gamblers Anonymous. Gerald Ford and Bob Dole have tried to do this for congressional Republicans, suggesting they censure Clinton and let it go at that — but the congressmen, and now the senators, have paid no heed. Big Henry is rolling the dice, and they’re all down with him. Big Henry has rolled nothing but snake eyes since the game began, but that’s the beauty of it: He’s due! He’s overdue!
In recent days, though, the House managers have intimated that they may be playing another game altogether. They seek only to make their case. "Let us finish our job," Henry Hyde implored the Senate on Monday. "And when you do, however you vote, we’ll all collect our papers, bow from the waist, thank you for your courtesy . . . and go gently into the night."
Their "job," however, has been redefined: They’re not in the persuasion game anymore. The point of having witnesses is simply to humiliate Clinton all the more. Never mind that their previous attempts at humiliation — releasing the unedited Starr Report and the grand-jury testimony — engendered more public revulsion at their zeal than at the president’s conduct. It’s no longer the public they’re playing to, but a public: the hardcore right, for whom the highest task of statecraft is to drag Clinton through the mud, endlessly and for all time.
This calculated willingness to dismiss the serious concerns of the broader public (indeed, to infuriate that public) signals a dangerous development within American conservatism — dangerous chiefly to itself. For in their exasperation at failing to convince their fellow citizens to share their assessment of Clinton, conservatives are beginning to cross a line that no one has transgressed since the far left of the anti-war movement 30 years ago. In the late ’60s, frustrated with the unwillingness of the American public to shut down the Vietnam War, portions of the left demon-ized the American — or should I say, Amerikan — people. And today, stunned at the unwillingness of the public to demand Clinton’s ouster, the right is doing the same.
Thus author William Bennett sees in the public’s continuing support for Clinton clear evidence of America’s moral decline. At last weekend’s national conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington, Andrea Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition told the Washington Post that "the American people are really messed up" for refusing to see Clinton’s adultery as cause for removal. Somewhat more discreetly, but a good deal more tellingly, mainstream conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, observed that "the Founders were right to have a certain distrust of democracy."
On the extreme fringes of the right, such diatribes are nothing new: Polemicists such as Robert Bork have been railing against both American immorality and the disease of democracy for years. But the broader movement’s inability to move the American public on the Clinton Question is now pushing the entire right toward its own rampage, its own Days of Rage, against an immoral America. A corrupt people cannot be persuaded, after all; it can only be shocked. The Weathermen did it in the streets. The Republicans do it in the Senate.
Despite Henry Hyde’s promise, the right isn’t about to go gently into the night after Clinton is acquitted. Matt Drudge and the Wall Street Journal editorialists will allege new atrocities. True believers will flock to Republican candidate forums and pepper presidential candidates on l’affaire Lewinsky — still the great moral question of our time. They will flay America for its moral relativism, push their party toward a platform of purification.
And the Democratic Party need do nothing to egg the conservatives on. They can’t stop themselves. They can’t help themselves. Big Henry’s the shooter! Get that rent money down!
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