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Kornheiser: The Clinton Show

Impeachment Hearings

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  • By Tony Kornheiser
    Sunday, December 13, 1998; Page F01

    In defense of Bill Clinton the Democrats deny nothing. They eagerly confirm that the president is a weasel and a liar, that what he did with Monica Lewinsky was "sinful" and "morally reprehensible." Whenever Clinton's name is mentioned, Democrats get a pinched expression and sniff the air nervously, like somebody broke wind.

    But of course they wouldn't vote to impeach Clinton. Like Clinton – who's so sorry he should consider changing his name to Brenda Lee – they prefer the option of censure. At this point the president would gladly wear his underpants on his head and run around the Rose Garden if the Republicans would only call this off.

    The Democrats say they don't want to put the people through "the horror of what will follow." Impeachment, they warn us, will paralyze the country.

    I'll tell you what will paralyze the country: Another day of looking at Henry Hyde. Where does he get his suits, Sunny's Surplus? His jackets are so bulky, it looks like if you pulled a string they'd inflate.

    What a cast of characters on the Judiciary Committee. Democrat Robert Wexler shouts like a hyena. His district is in South Florida – Heaven's waiting room – and Wexler probably won because he was the only candidate people could understand without a hearing aid. Republican Mary Bono has the lights on, but nobody's home. She makes her late husband, Sonny, seem like Alistair Cooke.

    Have you ever heard anything more stultifying than these hearings? It's like being trapped in an elevator with the Japanese cast of "Cats." Republican counsel David Schippers lectured for two hours and 45 minutes straight. When he was done, the run toward the House bathroom resembled the Oklahoma Land Rush. If that's the way politics is conducted, how could you blame Clinton for taking a "Monica break" now and again?

    What's with all the Watergate crawlbacks? It's like somebody set up a Monsters of Impeachment Reunion Tour. Did you get a load of Robert Drinan? He looked like the Creature From the Black Lagoon.

    Jack Kevorkian, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

    The hearings have been a terrible letdown. All hat, no cattle. It's like the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings – but without the Coke can.

    (Another letdown last week: the Frank Sinatra files released by the FBI. They spend 40 years stalking Frank, and they can't come up with a single piece of credible evidence to prove what everyone knows: That Frank personally ordered the murders of Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore and Secretariat. Kitty Kelley had more on Frank in 40 pages than the FBI had in 1,275. What was J. Edgar Hoover doing all this time, trying on bustiers? And someone dares to call Henry Hyde the chairman? Francis Albert Sinatra was the Chairman of the Board, baby, and don't you forget it.)

    Yet as horrifying as these impeachment hearings were, I don't want to see it stop now.

    I want exactly what the Republicans want. I want to subvert the will of the people and make a joke out of the national interest by putting the president of the United States on trial for the high crimes and misdemeanors of his ding-a-ling. (Then I want to put Bob Inglis on trial for that smirk of his.)

    Look, I didn't sit through all these months of "Geraldo Live" to see it end here – with the last word going to some pompous law professor lecturing me on what the Founding Fathers meant when they allowed for impeachment in the Constitution. (As if this is possible. The Constitution was written 220 years ago. I only saw one witness all week old enough to know what they were thinking: Elizabeth Holtzman.)

    I don't want impeachis interruptis.

    I want a trial in the Senate that lasts for months. And I want to see Strom Thurmond try to stay awake through all of it.

    I want Linda Tripp questioned about what she does to collect a $90,000 check at the Pentagon – besides talk all day about bikini waxing with Monica. I want to see Lewinsky's big can on the witness stand. I want to hear her talk about the sex in glorious, graphic Larry Flyntesque detail – so I can be insanely jealous.

    Chairman Hyde says, "It's not about sex." Of course it is – that's why we were all riveted to our TVs back in January. When it became about perjury and the law, like this week, we switched the channel to "Sunset Beach."

    The president's lawyer said people don't want any more "salacious muck."

    Which people has he talked to?

    I say: Gimme muck.

    I for one am unafraid of the "horror that will follow."

    After watching Bob Barr, the Stone Age Republican from Georgia, how could it be worse than the horror that preceded it?

    (Seriously, when you see the people we've elected to actually represent us, don't you long for a dictator? A fat guy wearing epaulets and a slew of silly medals on his chest would be so much less embarrassing than, say, Maxine "Muddy" Waters or George "The Geek" Gekas.)

    I want to hear from expert sex witnesses. Let's bring in Dick Morris and see him grilled about how he talked poll results with the president, and let his "escort" listen in on White House calls. I yearn to hear Senate witnesses described as "forensic hookers."

    As a nation, we need to process the Clinton "sins" so we can get on with the process of healing. But we shouldn't do it hastily. Certainly not before a series of televised re-enactments.

    The fact is this country needs an impeachment trial. Without it, the cable TV industry as we know it will collapse. Chris Matthews will end up standing at the entrance to the Metro, holding a sign that says: "Will Hector Anyone for Food."

    Put it on during sweeps week, and it'll crush. I'm talking better numbers than the Super Bowl: a 30 rating and a 65 share.

    Impeachment could be so big that if the House didn't vote it, Aaron Spelling would have to invent it.


    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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