Originally created 01/19/99

Worried White House 011999 - The Augusta Chronicle



The U.S. House managers -- especially Reps. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Henry Hyde, R-Ill. -- did an outstanding job of presenting the case for removing President Clinton. Even Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., termed it "effective" and "impressive."

The White House can't be all that confident.

For instance, before the House presentation, conventional wisdom held there would be no witnesses -- just a quick rebuttal by the president's team, followed by an ouster vote he'd survive.

Thanks to the compelling case the managers made last week, the thinking is now that the Senate will allow witnesses, after all -- Bill Clinton's worst fear.

Graham persuasively argued that Clinton should not stay in office after lying and obstructing justice that would land other federal officials in jail. After all, the Senate removed federal judges for doing what Clinton is accused of.

This was a direct assault on Clinton apologists' mantra that even if he's guilty, the crimes "don't rise to the level of removal." Graham shot this notion down: The president didn't just lie about sex, he used the power of his office to undermine the rule of law, "to fix his case...(to turn) the judicial system upside down..."

Leading into the theme that Hyde would fully develop in his dramatic final summation, Graham charged that letting Clinton off the hook would send "a devastating message" to Americans already cynical about their leaders and to parents trying to teach their children right from wrong.

Just how far down the field did they move the ball? Far enough that for the first time some Democrats are nervous about the "So what?" defense. The president's lawyers have gotten word that Democrats want to hear arguments disputing the facts of the case.

They don't want to tell their constituents that they believe the president is guilty, but that the crimes of lying and obstructing justice don't merit removal from office.