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DuPage County, Ill.; 'Background Noise' for Hyde Constituents

Impeachment Hearings

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  • By Jon Jeter
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, December 10, 1998; Page A34

    CHICAGO—Robert Barr sat on a bench outside a suburban shopping mall, soaking up the sun and jotting down his thoughts in a notebook. In the 11 months since Monica S. Lewinsky's name became synonymous with scandal, Barr has quit a lucrative but unsatisfying job, ended a relationship with a girlfriend and immersed himself in coaching a rowing team.

    What, then, does he think of the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill?

    "Oh, is that today?" Barr asked. "I thought they started that last week, to tell you the truth. It's all been background noise to me."

    Here in DuPage County, the well-off suburb represented by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Barr's indifference to the impeachment hearings seems typical. Even as lawyers, lawmakers and scholars debate constitutional questions, an unscientific survey here on the western edge of Chicago quickly reveals that high crimes and misdemeanors are nowhere near as important as finding a parking space at the crowded Oak Brook mall.

    "I just tune it all out now," said Dan Tidball, taking a break from his holiday shopping. "Just tell me what happened when it's all over."

    There are few fans of Clinton in this overwhelmingly Republican county. But most here say they never cared much about the sex-and-perjury scandal that surfaced nearly a year ago -- or lost interest a long time ago. One way or another, most said, they hope the House wraps up its inquiry soon and spares the nation another season of talk about presidential liaisons.

    "I think people are pretty tired of the whole thing," said Lori Prince, a Republican and homemaker, resting her feet for a spell after some serious shopping. "I just hope it ends soon."

    People blended anger, frustration, confusion and even embarrassment for caring so little about what is going on in Washington. Few said they are watching any of the hearings on television. But some said they are disappointed in Hyde for his handling of the inquiry.

    "Congress should quit being airheads," said Kathleen Furey, who would not say whether she is Republican or Democrat but said the perjury allegations are an important issue for the nation to resolve.

    Richard O'Brien, one of the few who has watched some of the hearings on television, wants to see Clinton impeached or at least censured.

    "Washington is what it is, and sexual misconduct is not the thing," said the 50-year-old insurance salesman. "But I think he did commit perjury, and even the president should be held accountable for that."

    Still, O'Brien has had his fill of the whole episode and wants it to end, one way or another. "I think it might be bad for the economy if this thing goes on much longer," he said.

    Many here seem unaware that the House is even weighing impeachment. In bars and coffee shops, the conversation usually revolves around the Chicago Bulls and their so far derailed regular season, the woeful Chicago Bears or the unseasonably warm weather.

    "It's just not an issue," said Mary Profita, a spokeswoman for the DuPage County Board of Commissioners. "There haven't been any calls about it in quite awhile."

    © Copyright The Washington Post Company

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