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Direct Access: Arianna Huffington

Wednesday, December 16, 1998

Besides being a national conservative columnist and political commentator for Comedy Central, Arianna Huffington runs the Web site Resignation.com, which calls for President Clinton to resign. She is also circulating a petition against poll data called "Partnership for a Poll-Free America." She joined us today to talk with our users. The transcript follows.

washingtonpost.com: Welcome to the first in a day-long series of online impeachment discussions. Our guest this morning is Arianna Huffington, who joins us now.

To start things off, Arianna: What are your thoughts on the new Washington Post poll which indicated that most Americans don't support impeachment, but would support Clinton's resignation if he were impeached. (Just to hit on two of your favorite topics...)

Huffington: I think that's very significant. For a few months now I have been saying that resignation is the best option for the nation. I started a Web site at http://www.resignation.com where people can go and put their names on a petition calling on the president to resign, and they can participate in a contest for the best resignation speech. The first prize is a trip to the island of Elba, which is where Napoleon went.

And the second contest is for the resignation speech that most resembles the one the president ends up giving. In the last few days, the numbers of people signing up and participating have gone up astronomically. The prize for the second contest is a trip to San Clemente, where President Nixon went.

And the third and final contest is predicting the time and place when he resigns, and the winner gets to go where he goes.

It's very interesting how the numbers are changing -- there's really a majority of people who want to see him go. It's a little bit like saying, "Enough is enough."


Nashville, Tenn.: It is my understanding, from looking over the information on your site, that you do not so much dispute the accuracy of national opinion polls as much as you hold that elected politicians should not pay attention to them when forming opinions and making decisions.

If legitimate polling information is ignored by politicians, who is left to supply that kind of data?

Please tell me who (other than close associates, financial contributors, organized political action groups and those private citizens motivated to communicate directly) will inform the representative of the public's opinions and will?

Huffington: Well, actually, I have another Web site that deals with the polling issue, and that's http://www.ariannaonline.com. And on that Web site there is a section called partnership for a poll free America, and there I have about six or seven columns that I have written that point out that polls are not at all as scientifically beyond question as pollsters would like us to believe.

In the last election, not a single poll, national or statewide, predicted Jesse Ventura's win in Minnesota. The dirty little secret of pollsters is that their response rate in many cases is down to 34 percent, which means that over 60 percent of Americans are not responding to pollsters.


Woodland Hills, Calif.: What's the best argument for resignation of the president?

Huffington: The best argument for resignation is that it's what's best for the national interests. Our goal is not overturning an election, Gore would be president, he would continue the identical policies as the president. I think it would be a seamless transition. We have t-shirts for sale on our site that say "Gore '98". It's not in the interests of Republicans, clearly, to run against an incumbent in 2000. But it is in the best interests of the nation. On our site we have historic resignation documents going back to Winston Churchill. Most resignations show an element of selflessness and of putting the national interests above the personal interests. So there's something kind of heroic about resignation.


Washington, D.C.: Given the widespread resistance to an impeachment, how are the Republicans serving the country by going ahead with this divisive process? If, as the pundits claim, this vote can't pass the Senate, what (besides idle posturing) is the point of a forced impeachment vote in the House?

Huffington: First of all, it's not a forced impeachment vote. The vote is not being whipped -- members can vote their conscience. Even if the president does not go to trial in the Senate, even if there's a plea bargain, being impeached by the full House is a very significant step that has only happened once before in history, in the case of Andrew Johnson.


Grand Rapids, Mich.: There is a lot of speculation that there are not enough votes in the Senate to remove Clinton from office. However, I haven't heard of any senators who have said in advance how they would vote. What do you think the chances are that the Senate will indeed vote to remove Clinton?

Huffington: The chances are very remote, but Sen. Liebermann said yesterday that he would not announce how he would vote until the end of the trial. So unexpected things can happen.


Madison, Wis.: With impeachment now a strong possibility, will you support impeachment and a trial by the Senate, rather than resignation?

Huffington: No. I would definitely support resignation rather than a trial by the Senate. I feel there are many major social problems that are being overlooked, both foreign and domestic, and I really think there would be no greater gift to the nation than starting 1999 as a Monica-free zone.


washingtonpost.com: That was the last question for Arianna Huffington, who is running to her next television engagement. Thanks very much for joining us and to our guest. Please join us this afternoon for more impeachment talk.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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