The Truth, Mainly - 12/14/1998

Impeachment, like sex, is too much distraction
by Leon Satterfield

All this impeachment stuff is getting in the way of my Christmas shopping. Instead of burning my allotted mental calories thinking up nifty gifts, I've been burning them thinking up ways to keep the various branches of government from gnawing on one another's entrails.

It's going to be nasty because while the President's men admit he sinned, the theocratic wing of the GOP wants more-to humiliate the Prez by forcing him to admit he lied under oath when he said he didn't have sex with Monica.

So I've been thinking of how the President might respond. Here's an idea:

He could say that having sex made him forget he'd had sex.

Then he could cite a piece from the British medical journal, The Lancet, about two old guys, one 72 and the other 75. Their sexual activities (with their own wives!) were so vigorous they were both hospitalized an hour or two later because they'd become seriously confused and couldn't remember anything. Something about impeded blood flow to the brain. Eventually they got over the amnesia, but had no memory of the sex act itself.

That'd work, wouldn't it? The President could say he wasn't lying when he denied having sex with that woman; he just had no memory of it.

I suppose Henry Hyde could argue that the President isn't old enough for that particular senior discount, but Democrats could point out that Clinton has so many sexual miles on him he may be suffering from early-onset geezerhood.

Stuff like that's been occupying my mind when I should be making shopping lists. My wife has noticed.

"What are we going to get for whatsisname?" she says, sounding a lot like Mrs. Mitty. "Don't tell me you haven't thought about a gift for whatsisname."

And I don't think I'm alone in my distraction. Here's what some professional politicians were saying last week about impeachment:

•Connecticut Gov. John Rowland-"Did Clinton do something wrong and lie? Yes. But does impeaching the President serve any public good? The answer is absolutely not." (Translation: What can I get for my mother-in-law?)

•NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani-"The rush to impeachment…has been very harmful to us." (Translation: Where can I get one of those Tickle Me Elmo thingies?)

•NY Congressman Amo Houghton-"My top Christmas wish would be that the Monica Lewinsky affair could be erased." (Translation: What are my wife's colors again? And what the hell does that mean anyway?)

•Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson-"The voters are sick to death of partisanship. We need to move on." (Translation: My beagle will bite me if I buy him another can of those red and green puppy biscuits.)

And get this: all those critics of impeachment are Republicans.

But others in the party aren't about to let the President off the hook for having the effrontery to win two elections, lie about sex, and get 65 percent approval ratings. You can only take so much.

And many Democrats are just as frothy-mouthed about Ken Starr-who they suspect is really Eddie Haskell grown older and even more unctuous.

All that animosity is antithetical to the Season of Unconditional Love, but theocrats aren't much moved by that argument. So let me use the one the nation takes more seriously: all that animosity may keep us from shopping as early and as often as we ought to and thus it may (gulp!) hurt The Economy.

So I've been thinking of other ways out of this impeachment mess and I've come up with a plan to satisfy both parties, a plan the conception of which has considerably delayed my own holiday shopping. Here it is:

Remember last month when Queen Elizabeth opened Parliament by ceremonially reading Tony Blair's proposed legislative program? It included a proposal to unseat more than 600 hereditary peers in the House of Lords.

You know how the bewigged and costumed lords responded?

They growled.

Yes they did. According to the Washington Post, "a discernible growl of disapproval rose up from the assembled lords."

Other MPs responded by crying out "Shame!" at the growlers.

It was pretty gaudy. So why don't we do that?

Instead of impeaching Clinton, let's drag him kicking and screaming to the well of the House and humiliate him on national TV. The sergeant-at-arms can hold him down while Republicans ostracize him-by growling. Democrats will be allowed to cry out "Shame!" Then we'll do the same thing to Ken Starr: Democrats growl while Republicans cry out "Shame!"

Having vented all that savagery, we can then get on with the real business of the Republic: spending big bucks on shopping, thus insuring a robust economy.

"What a good idea," my wife tells me, rolling her eyes. I blush. Then I hum a bar of "Joy to the World," cross "Save nation" off my "to do" list for Christmas, and go on to the hard part.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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