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A Deal With the Devil
The sorry spectacle of impeachment now being played out in Washington is the result of a deal made in the early 1970s between certain radical conservative Republicans, chief among them Newt Gingrich, and the Devil. In this case, the Devil was represented by "Christian" zealots -- Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, James Dobson, to name a few.
First, the Background
The period following the resignation of Richard Nixon brought a much-needed, and much-sought-after period of relative calm to the country. The "Father Knows Best" 1950s, with a place for everyone and everyone in her place, gave way to the tumult of the 1960s. Consider what happened in the 1960s:
The reaction to the turbulence of the 1960s was exactly what one would expect. On one end were those who felt that the 1960s did not go far enough. In the middle was the mass of Americans who felt that it was time to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and see where we have been and where we are headed. On the other end were those who wanted to go back -- back to "Father Knows Best." It is in the reaction of this last group that we find the origin of the mean spirited, winner-take-all, destroy-the-opponent, enemies'-list mentality that defines politics at the end of the twentieth century.
In the mid-1970s, two groups reached out to each other. On one side were the political conservatives who would eventually elect Ronald Reagan. On the other side were the "Christian" ayatollahs. The reaction of these two groups to the 1960s and their remedy for what they saw as fundamental wrongs were congruent. Their views were without room for compromise and they would not admit that other views had any validity. These are some of their fundamental views.
As the 1970s progressed, the congruence of views between the right wing of the Republican Party and the "Christian Right" led to a growing political alliance and it is this alliance that I refer to as the Deal with the Devil. The Republican Party sold its soul to the "Christian Right" and they may not be able to get it back. After all, the Devil drives a tough deal.
Newt Gingrich, the spiritual leader of the Republican right, had two goals: Elect Republican majorities to the House and Senate, and, elect a Republican President. In pursuit of these goals, he made his deal with the Christian ayatollahs: You -- Robertson, Falwell, Dobson, Bauer, Reed -- deliver to me an unassailable bloc of votes and I will enact your social agenda. The full extent of this deal was revealed in the run-up to the 1994 election when the Republican candidates for the House signed Gingrich's Contract With America.
The Contract, on the surface, seemed to embody fundamental American ideals. It pledged over 300 Republican candidates to work to enact "Freedom to . . . . . " legislation. "Freedom to Invest" legislation would have freed industry from environmental legislation. "Freedom to Bank" legislation would have absolved all banks from the requirements to invest in low-income and minority neighborhoods. As America began to read the Contract, we realized that the newly-elected majority sought to turn back every piece of social, environmental, and reform legislation that had been passed since the end of WW II, whether the majority of Americans wanted to march backward or not.
By then, however, it was too late. The Christian ayatollahs delivered the votes and the Republican right wing rejoiced at their first majorities in decades.
However, it did not work. In the first place, the Contract was not enacted in its original form. While much of the Contract appeared to pass, what emerged from the Congress was seriously watered-down versions of what Gingrich wanted. And, in every election since 1994, the Republican majority in the House has eroded, their position in the Senate has remained steady, and they have not won the White House.
Gingrich and his religious zealot allies had to do something. They could not assassinate the Democratic President but they could do the next best thing.
The Impeachment of Bill Clinton: The First American Coup-d'état
Bill Clinton embodied everything that the Republican right and the Christian ayatollahs hate:
All these combined with the fact that, while the Republicans might be able to carry local elections for House and Senate seats, they just could not win the White House. Faced with this fact, Gingrich and the Christian ayatollahs had to do something. They determined to destroy Bill Clinton.
The Attack Begins
They found their opening in two matters. (1) A fundamentally dumb land development deal into which Bill and Hillary Clinton sunk money (and lost it). (2) Groundless claims by a former Arkansas state employee that Governor Clinton had sexually harassed her.
Senator Jesse Helms, himself a troglodyte throwback who would be at home overseeing a pre-Civil War cotton plantation, brokered a deal by which Ken Starr was appointed to investigate the failed Arkansas land deal, hoping to find some sort of illegal action by the hated Bill Clinton. Starr found nothing there so he looked into the firing of the White House travel office staff. Nothing. Then he fixed on "File-gate" -- allegations that the White House was using the FBI to investigate political enemies (as did Richard Nixon). Turned out that the whole affair was the result of a dumb act by a low-level White House staffer. Faced with a whole pack of dogs who would not hunt, Ken Starr turned his attention to the Paula Jones case.
Starr ignored the fact that Ms. Jones, who was unemployed and whose husband worked part-time as an airline ticket agent, lived in posh surroundings in Southern California, drove a Mercedes, and was represented by an attorney who was funded by Clinton enemies. He plunged ahead.
It turned out that Bill Clinton had not been able to keep his pants zipped in the presence of a White House intern who was only slightly older than his own daughter. Clinton gave a deposition in the Paula Jones case, answering very carefully to narrow questions, and not revealing more than he absolutely had to. With this "evidence," the rest is sad history.
So, Now It's Done
As I typed this article, the House voted to impeach Bill Clinton. The Republican deal with the Christian ayatollahs has brought us to this point. This is not about the Constitution, it is not about perjury. It is about a naked attempt to destroy a man who is reviled by a small, vocal, well-organized and well-funded lynch mob. The impeachment of Bill Clinton is naught but an extension of the cannibalistic and useless culture wars that have engulfed us for years. Stop it.
What will save this nation is the fact that the broad mass of the American people are tolerant, compassionate, and cannot be fooled any longer. Did no one notice that over 60 percent of people polled on the question are against impeachment, against removing Clinton from office, and support Clinton? The American people will remember.
Just as Pickett's Charge on the third day at Gettysburg is remembered as the high tide of the Confederacy, so Gingrich's Charge on December 19, 1998, will be remembered as the high tide of hate.
Today is February 27, 1999. The U.S. Senate deliberated, debated, and postured then voted. Neither of the two impeachment charges brought by the House was found to be a true bill. Some Republicans had the fortitude to go against their party and vote to acquit.
Has anyone noticed that the impeachment business suddenly dropped from public sight and debate? Not a word about it 48 hours after the vote.