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James Rogan: Rogue Proscecutor

Photo courtesy AP/Wide World

On Monday, February 1, when Monica

Lewinsky gave her testimony to House prosecutor Ed Bryant, the Tennessee Republican assigned to depose her, the 12 other House managers involved in the prosecution of the president stayed away. Well, 11 of them stayed away. Glendale Republican James Rogan, apparently, just couldn’t restrain himself from tagging along.

It wasn’t that Rogan had anything to do at the deposition; indeed, by pre-arrangement, all the questions were to be asked by Bryant. When the deposition concluded, however, Rogan sprang into action. According to an account in the Washington Post, Rogan told Lewinsky that she was not excused and could be recalled. Her lawyers objected, arguing that she would have to be subpoenaed anew if, in addition to her deposition, they also wanted her live testimony on the Senate floor.

Republican Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, the presiding officer of the deposition, mulled over the objection. We don’t know, of course, what he was thinking. Maybe he thought that not excusing Lewinsky would look gratuitously abusive. Maybe he thought that ruling in Rogan’s favor would look like the Senate Republicans were caving again to their screwy House counterparts. Maybe he wondered just who the hell this Rogan guy thought he was, coming in at the end to add a note of controversy. In any event, DeWine ruled for the witness: Lewinsky was excused.

It had all transpired in a moment — but it was a quintessential Rogan moment. For as the Republican case against Bill Clinton has wended its way from Judiciary Committee hearings to the House floor and then to the Senate for trial, it has been Glendale’s James Rogan who time and again has emerged as the most zealous, hard-line and over-the-top of the president’s prosecutors. He is, in fact, one of only three House managers, besides Henry Hyde, whom the public has come to know in the course of the Senate trial. And where Asa Hutchinson has come across as the only manager you’d actually consider hiring as a lawyer, and the folksy Lindsey Graham ("Where I come from, if you call someone at 2:30 in the morning, you’re up to no good") has emerged as a neo-good-ol’boy with a bright political future, Jim Rogan has etched himself in the nation’s consciousness almost entirely for his bile. The soundbite sure to accompany Rogan to his grave is his response to the White House lawyers’ request last week for advance notification as to which portions of the depositions the House managers wished to air: "That’s none of your goddamned business," Rogan explained.

Herewith some further episodes from the Rogan Gallery of Clinton-Hating Excess:

•

In the internal deliberations of the House-manager team, it was Rogan who argued not just for presenting a large number of witnesses to the Senate, but for calling "Jane Does" — women who alleged sexual misconduct on the part of Bill Clinton at various points in his life. "I personally think some of the evidence can be very probative," Rogan said. There was, however, one technical problem with Rogan’s new allegations: This wasn’t the conduct for which the House had impeached the president, and was well outside the scope of the charges the Senate was considering. This proved too much even for Rogan’s otherwise zealous teammates. "We shouldn’t be going too far afield from the scope of our pres entation," Florida’s Charles Canady contended, and eventually Henry Hyde scuttled the idea.

•

When House manager Lindsey Graham of South Carolina conceded during the question-and-answer period in the Senate that "reasonable people," even if they agreed on the illegality of Clinton’s conduct, could disagree on whether that conduct merited removal from office, it was Rogan who rose to snatch back that concession. "Reasonable minds can only differ," he sternly lectured the Senate, "if those reasonable minds come to the conclusion that enforcement of the sexual-harassment laws in this country is less important than the preservation of this man in the office of the presidency."

•

In making the case to the Senate that President Clinton had committed perjury during his grand-jury testimony, Rogan took Clinton’s admission that he had been alone with Lewinsky "on certain occasions," and that he had had "occasional telephone conversations with Ms. Lewinsky that included inappropriate sexual banter," as evidence that Clinton had been "intentionally misleading" the grand jury. By Ken Starr’s count, which Rogan related, Clinton and Lewinsky had been alone in the White House at least 20 times, and had had 55 phone conversations, during the year of their relationship. According to Rogan, the adjective occasional wasn’t simply an inadequate description but a perjurious one.  

•

Rogan has been the most insistent of the managers in arguing that the Senate must call live witnesses in order to have a valid proceeding — even arguing that the Senate should haul in Lewinsky and Clinton to decide the question of who-touched-who-where. "Who is telling the truth?" Rogan thundered. "The only way to really know is to bring forth the witnesses, put them under oath and give each juror, each member of this body, the opportunity to make that determination of credibility, because the record shows that Monica Lewinsky delivered consistent and detailed testimony under oath regarding many specific encounters with the president that clearly fell within the definition of sexual relations from the Jones deposition." Not surprisingly, this was an "opportunity" the senators chose to pass up.

•

Plainly overcome by his zealotry, Rogan has railed at his jurors, Republicans no less than Democrats, for failing to appreciate the merits of the managers’ case. Arguing last week to have the Senate air the Blumenthal deposition, he scolded the solons for their lack of seriousness. "If one senator has failed to sit through this deposition and every deposition," Rogan said darkly, "that senator is not equipped to render a verdict on the impeachment trial of the president of the United States."

•

On Saturday, charged with introducing the videotaped depositions of the three witnesses, Rogan declined to let the Lewinsky of the testimony speak for herself. Instead, he all but cast her as Little Mary Sunshine, and Clinton as foul Snidely Whiplash, in a gaslight melodrama of his own devising: The Villain Still Pursued Her. Lewinsky, he began, "is an intelligent young woman who until recently held untarnished hopes for tomorrow . . . A bright lady whose life has forever been marked by the most powerful man on the earth . . . [who] impulsively began using Lewinsky for his gratification the very day he first spoke with her." And when the affair was exposed, Rogan continued, Clinton "responded not in love, not in friendship . . . [but] prepared to summarily take her life and throw it on the ash heap." Dudley Do-Right for the prosecution — but moralistic in a way that even Dudley might shun: "We seek no congressional punishment," Rogan fairly sneered, "for a man who chose to cheat on his wife."

There have been moments when Rogan has ably made his case. He called the Senate’s attention to the fact that Clinton’s famous denial of sexual relations based on the pres ent-tense-ness of the verb is pertained to the very exchange Clinton claimed he wasn’t paying attention to — attorney Bob Bennett’s pres en ta tion of Monica Lewinsky’s false affidavit. Rogan effectively brought out the absurdity of Clinton’s position: "Here is what the president says in his own defense: ‘I wasn’t paying any attention to what my lawyer was saying when he offered the false affidavit on my behalf to the judge. However, if I was paying attention, I was focusing on the very narrow definition of what the word is is and the tense in which that was presented.’"

But Rogan’s signature interventions in the impeachment trial have been those instances where he has defined the outer limits of the House Republicans’ jihad, where he has pushed even his fellow managers past a position they felt comfortable defending. And in this, there’s a considerable irony. For however unpopular the 13 House prosecutors may have become

ä nationally, they at least can be fairly sure that they retain the support of their own districts.

Well, almost all of them can be fairly sure. Only two of them come from districts that Clinton actually carried. And of those two, only one actually won fewer votes in his district in the 1996 election than Clinton did.

That one, of course, is Jim Rogan.

The most hard-line of the House

prosecutors, in fact, represents the most pro-Clinton of the House prosecutors’ districts. Clinton carried Rogan’s Glendale-Pasadena-Burbank-area district by 8 percent in each of the last two presidential elections. Rogan, by contrast, pulled down just 50 percent of the vote in each of the two elections (’96 and ’98) in which he’s stood for Congress — defeating Democrat Barry Gordon last November by a scant 3 percent after outspending Gordon by more than 2-to-1.

Indeed, a poll taken by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee two weeks ago found that Clinton’s approval rating among voters in Rogan’s district stood at 69 percent — about the same as the national figure. It also found 44 percent of district voters saying they were less likely to vote for Rogan because of his role as a House prosecutor.

 

Rogan has clung to power in his moderate district by passing himself off as a moderate kind of guy. In his pursuit of Bill Clinton, however, he’s been about as moderate as Captain Ahab, or Inspector Javert, or Stalin chasing Trotsky. When Bob Barr buckles, or Lindsey Graham concedes a point, or Charles Canady proves too much of a legal stickler, or Henry Hyde bows to the demands of his Senate colleagues, there’s always Jim Rogan — the last man still insisting that nailing Bill Clinton is the single most important object of public policy, of national life. The last man, I suspect, that the voters of Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena want representing them in Congress — today, in the election of 2000, or any time thereafter.


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