Bring me all their heads

I ask for unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

Well, what a wonderful pageant. If it weren't for war being waged to preserve the American way of inexpensive personal transportation, I'm not sure there'd be a downside. Our drug-addicted moral beacon, Bill Bennett, isn't sure whether Bob Livingston should have resigned for as-yet unspecified marital infidelities, but he is certain that the President should be impeached.

For the second Saturday in a row, the morning cartoons have been pre-empted for business of the House of Representatives. Surely, this is an object lesson for our children; their parents' business can and will interfere with their preferred way of live, without notice.

Unlike the nominal "content" on television, these debates are not flagged "DVSL" (as the song goes, I wish somebody would tell me what diddy-wah-diddy mean!), but are instead cloaked in arcane parliamentary rules. Move to strike the last word. Yield to the gentleman. Come to order. What he said. I'm speaking from high moral dudgeon, but I'm voting with my party. And so on.

I love the fevered preacher's style coming out after time has expired, and rising to overcome the relentless hammering of the gavel. (But couldn't we have an acting Speaker with a stentorian voice, rather than a whiny, pinched one?)

One unruly Republican summarized his personal conclusion from close study of the evidence: the proven claims do not rise to impeachable offenses, and there are no claims that do rise to the standard.

Here's a lesson our children must learn to make their way in our society: standards differ, depending on the situation, and your position.

If you're a black teenager, and you think the Bill of Rights protects you from being harassed if you're behaving yourself, you are dangerously wrong. If you are leading a righteous moral crusade, your "private" acts may be subject to public scrutiny. If you find yourself called before our judicial system, you'd better hire good lawyers, and you'd better understand the rules. And if you're trying to bring down the King, you have to do more than count votes.

Yes, our President should follow the Boy (or Girl) Scout Oath.

No, s/he can not be impeached for breaking it.

Yes, prosecutors have alarming latitude in harassing witnesses and defendants.

No, the public will not stand for blatant unfairness in prosecution, if the facts are made public long enough and loudly enough.

Yes, the Military Code of Justice is strict and applies to private as well as public acts, issues of personal behavior as well as professional duty.

No, the President, even as s/he is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is not subject to this stringent standard. Perhaps s/he should be. But those aren't the rules of the game.

And so on.

And as anyone missing his or her Saturday morning cartoons can tell you, it just isn't fun playing if you don't play by the rules. The House of Republicans -oops, I mean Representatives is struggling with a game whose rules are changing even as we speak.

After Bob Livingston resigned, apparently for immoral behavior that he felt would prevent him from being an effective leader, the entire House gave a standing ovation for Gephardt's pronouncing him "an honorable man," and thundered their applause assenting to the call for him to reconsider. All this, before they knew just how egregious Livingston's cheating on his wife was, or was not. Tom DeLay was unmanned in trying to heap praise on Livingston's act of repentance. It wasn't part of the Righteous Right's plan for him to fall on his sword, and the attempt to set a good example for the President was laughable. If Clinton could be embarassed into decent behavior, he wouldn't be where he is today, now would he?

Is that fear I smell? Two Speakers hoist on their own petards, and the President still stands, weakened, I think, but nowhere ready to give in. How many of the 535 members of Congress can survive the scrutiny of their actions, without the "gentlemen's agreement" that certain shenanigans will not be examined? Some, maybe, but I'm guessing not a majority. Politics is a dirty business, that much should be clear even to the youngest member of the audience. It sounds mighty and righteous, but when all the facts come out, it's more like pigs wrestling in the mud.

As Gebhardt said, "May God have mercy on this Congress."

>>>Bring Me His Head.

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Saturday, 19-Dec-1998 09:08:00 MST