President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton head to a rally with House Democratic members on Dec. 19, 1998, after the House voted to impeach the president. Following the Clintons are Vice President Al Gore, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. (GREG GIBSON/AP)

Regarding the May 22 news article “Calls for impeachment of Trump intensify in House, dividing Democrats”:

As the Democrats battle over impeachment hearings, many political analysts and commentators point to the Clinton impeachment for comparison, particularly on the political consequences. President Bill Clinton fared well in polling and the Republicans did not, a difference reflected in the midterm elections of 1998 (as the scandal was building toward impeachment), and Democrats picked up seats in 2000. This, the argument goes, could happen for President Trump if Democrats pursue impeachment now.

This cautionary proposition misunderstands the context of the Clinton impeachment. As reprehensible as was Mr. Clinton’s conduct, primarily the sordid sexual fling with an intern in the White House, the public never believed that lying about an affair rose to a level of graveness warranting impeachment. The public saw through the Republicans’ sham sanctimony and knew what was really going on: a vicious, hellbent, hyperpartisan political assassination.

The situation today, as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report and numerous other things make clear, is vastly different from the Clinton impeachment. Already, some polls show nearly half the public supports impeachment, and that’s without a single witness testifying before a House investigatory committee (excluding Attorney General William P. Barr). As the Clinton impeachment shows, the public isn’t stupid.

Further investigation to fill in gaps in the facts, illuminate the story and gain more public support seems sensible. Whatever is decided, the Clinton impeachment comparison should be properly understood.

Bill Conrad, Alexandria