Rule of Law 101 (Re: Hitchens Turns GOP stool pigeon

Peter Kilander peterk at
Sun Feb 7 14:18:53 PST 1999

Nathan, I agree with Doug that you are one of the more able defenders of Clinton on the impeachment question. You get to the heart of your argument when you said:

>Clinton has been on the side of the devil many time in his Presidency, but
>in this case he is on the side of the Constitution and rule of law, and his
>enemies - Hitchens and Starr - are establishing precedents of political
>repression that the Left will long regret.

First of all, take a look at where things stand. Clinton will not be impeached, as we shall see this week. The consensus is that Republicans will suffer electorial for the impeachment hearings. From today's NYT piece: [snip] During questioning by House prosecutors earlier this past week, Blumenthal, a senior White House communications aide, said that Clinton had described Ms. Lewinsky to him as a "stalker." But Blumenthal denied that he had repeated that description of her to reporters. Asked about the source of such characterizations in news reports, he said: "I have no idea how anything came to be attributed to a White House source."

William McDaniel, Blumenthal's lawyer, has also said that his client "didn't peddle it, he didn't urge people to write about it, he didn't tell people about it." McDaniel previously said that if journalists felt bound to protect Blumenthal's identity as a source, "they're released." [snip] Why the need to make the claim that journalists are now free to come forward? Hitchens's revelations came after this. On TV he said he would not testify in court in a case solely against Blumenthal, even if it meant contempt of court. Starr's leakings to the press are being looked into. Both sides played hardball; Monica and Willey were both subjected to it from both sides. It doesn't follow that one supports the Right's hardball moves by revealing or discussing Clinton's. If one supports Clinton's extra-legal hardball, even in so-called defense of the Constitution and Law (which sounds a lot like Hyde sanctimonious impeachment speeches), it might seem hypocritical to criticize the Republicans on these grounds. Their crime would entail just having the wrong motives. So if that's your view, fine. I wish people would just spell it out and not beat around the bush. The thing is, Clinton is not defending the Constitution and Law, he's saving his own ass and he'll sacrifice anyone to do it. There's a good precedent. And a good example for the children.

As far as precedence is concerned, the majority of the public seems to support your view. The Right doesn't care what the public thinks, and I don't think really cares about precedence either. Newt Gingrich took down Dem Majority Leader Tower with hardball tactics. Rep. Bonior took a page from Gingrich's book to help take him down. The IRS just cleared Gingrich from wrongdoing on Bonior's accusations, but no matter, the Republicans lost 5 seats in the recent election and Newt was history. Consider a thought experiment. What if Clinton had preceded Reagan as president. As Hitchens says in his recent column: "... Whereas "partisan" sounds like a single thing. The truth is, however, that the bi- represents the fusion of the two parties into one: the highest good of the consensus. Reagan was a genius at this in his day, asking for (and getting) bipartisan support on the budget, the MX missile, and Central America. When he committed a string of impeachable crimes, raising a secret budget to finance an illegal war, the Democratic leadership in both houses was considerate enough to block all discussion of impeachment. Indeed, that episode marked the birth of the "too popular" defense that now bodyguards Clinton. Without bipartisanship, too George Bush might have had to fight his Gulf War (with his old business partner Saddam Hussein) all alone. Currently, the Clintonoids are pushing their luck a little bit, by using "partisan" simply to mean "Republican." This runs the risk of giving the gave away, but then, for a while back there, it did look as if the game might be up. Now it seems the fix is in, and a return to "civility" is at hand."

>Since Monica obviously has
>decided that on balance she does not want Clinton removed or (heaven
>that he actually did not do anything wrong towards her, what business of
>Hitchens is it to intervene in this personal affair.

Blumenthal's lawyer challenged anyone to come forward who had heard Sid spread disparaging remarks about Monica and Willey. Did reporters just make up White House sources for their quotes on Monica and Willey? The House managers received a call that they should talk to Hitchens. He told him what he heard.

>The other possible victim of Clinton is Hillary who, like Monica, could
>taken Bill down without any help from Hitchens, but again for her own
>reasons decided not to. Frankly, these are the only two possible victims
>Clinton's non-crime, and neither has decided to take on that role. The
>way they have been victims is by the very grand jury and legal assault that
>has attacked them as well as Bill during this four-year search for a crime
>to fit Starr's political target.

The crime is the notion that the President can do what he wants as long as he not a Republican.

>The only answer to explain Hitchens actions is not on behalf of Monica or
>anyone else but for his own political purposes -- to join Starr in their
>joint hatred of Clinton in order to pursue by criminal law means what was
>not accomplished by political means. There is no defense of other people
>here, just the naked assault on political enemies by twisted use of grand
>jury threat and Congressional contempt threats.

What if there were laws broken and abuses of power? As long as they were in defence of the Constitution? I'm sure Nixon's supporters said similar things. Didn't Ollie North?

>This is McCarthyism and it has exactly the same qualities as many would
>against Kazin - with the exception that Kazin had at least some worries
>about his own self-preservation that make his betrayals of friends craven
>but not the complete cavilier participation in abuse of the legal process
>that Hitchens has engaged in.

Hitchens could be subjected to contempt of court charges for not taking Blumenthal down all the way. (see my post of the Meet the Press transcript) All Hitchens is saying is that Blumenthal lied, he told someone besides his family and the grand jury about Monica being a stalker and that "The point is, the president made sure, some way or another, that that story got into print."

>Clinton has been on the side of the devil many time in his Presidency, but
>in this case he is on the side of the Constitution and rule of law, and his
>enemies - Hitchens and Starr - are establishing precedents of political
>repression that the Left will long regret.

Again, the Right doesn't care about precedents and the majority of the public seems to agree with you. Have you considered Clinton has set some precendents of his own? And isn't impeachment a political matter?

[On the subject of defending the Consitution and the rule of law, please look at the article in the Nov./Dec. New Left Review by Daniel Lazare. I'd be very interested to hear what you think, Nathan.]


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