Monday, July 26, 2004

So we get Clinton tonight.

Garry Wills has a review of Clinton's memoir in the current New York Review of Books; for the most part it's thought-provoking, but then there's this:

What would have happened had Clinton resigned? Gore would have been given a "honeymoon" in which he could have played with a stronger hand all the initiatives Clinton had begun, unashamed of them and able to bring them fresh energy. That is what happened when Lyndon Johnson succeeded John Kennedy.

Is Wills nuts?

Look, you don't have to believe that the Republicans would have tried to impeach Gore if they'd succeeded in driving Clinton from office -- although Wills's NYRB colleague Elizabeth Drew, unlike Wills a full-time Washington reporter, insisted at the time that that was the case. You just have to look at the GOP's behavior throughout the Clinton presidency, starting long before the Republicans attained a majority in both Houses of Congress. Alan Ehrenhalt nailed it in a 1998 op-ed:

It was on Election Night 1992, not very far into the evening, that the Senate minority leader, Bob Dole, hinted at the way his party planned to conduct itself in the months ahead: it would filibuster any significant legislation the new Democratic President proposed, forcing him to obtain 60 votes for Senate passage. worked. Little that the President proposed became law in the two years that he operated with Democratic majorities. There was no health care reform, no economic stimulus package.... the procedural consequences turned out to be grave: Congressional Republicans were tempted by success into even more dangerous constitutional mischief.

In the fall of 1995, emboldened by new majorities in both the House and the Senate, they forced the closure of the Federal Government. For all the millions of words that have been written about this event then and since, the reality of it has rarely been portrayed in succinct terms. This was not a political showdown -- it was an attempted constitutional coup....

And on and on into the serial fishing expeditions that led to Clinton's impeachment.

Recall the blocked Clinton judicial appointments and battles over other appointees. Recall "wag the dog." And then recall that Republicans loudly demanded that Gore be investigated before, during, and after the Clinton impeachment period.

Clinton was always treated by the Republicans as illegitimate. Why would Gore have been treated any better?

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