Online, Off the Fence
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 16, 1998; Page D1
On his House Majority Whip Web site, the man charged with the solemn responsibility of considering the impeachment of the president doesn't pule, mewl or mince words.
"Clinton Must Resign" shouts the home page of Rep. Tom DeLay. Headlines crawling up the right side of the screen blare out "Clinton Should Resign for the Good of the Country" and "DeLay: 'No Censure for Clinton.' "
Rather than using the page to solicit opinions, DeLay lays it on the line online. The Republican from Texas gives you his speeches, positions and his proposals straight.
This is not about the will of the people, but the will-o'-the-whip's. Deal with it.
Despite DeLay's insistence on using the medium the old-fashioned way -- to drive a point home -- other impeachment sites, pro and con, attempt to give people a way to express themselves. No matter how many opinion polls and open-line talk shows there are, many Americans still seem to feel they are not being heard. So they are turning to the Internet.
Censure and Move On, a Web site created Sept. 22 by a few friends in Berkeley, Calif., urges people to sign an online petition calling on Congress to censure the president and end the proceedings. And it allows visitors to make a comment or two. "Let it rest. We don't care," wrote Rebecca Price. "We want him and all of us to concentrate on more important things."
This morning the group, in conjunction with People for the American Way, is hoping to present its petition with 300,000 names to every member of Congress at the Rayburn House Office Building at 11. Though she couldn't vouch for the legitimacy of every name, the site's founder, Joan Blades, said her group represents "a majority of Americans who oppose impeachment and believe that censure is a compromise, a middle ground."
Asked if there was any evidence that her efforts have swayed a single member, she replied, "We did hear that a couple of Democrats had been bolstered."
Indeed, there is scant evidence the Web has swung a single vote. But that hasn't kept people from slinging around the electrons.
Dana Hunter, 34, a San Francisco Web page designer, is using the new technology to link together folks who seek salvation for the president. On her Campaign to Free Bill Clinton Web site, she writes, "Through this Web page, I hope to bring together ordinary citizens who are in favor of demanding that our Congressional representatives represent US, the American people. The time for partisanship is over. It's up to the Congress. And us."
Monday morning Hunter woke up to more than 500 e-mails from Clinton sympathizers and 18 Web sites applying to join her Save Bill Clinton Web Ring, a chain of linked Web sites. "Individual people who have little or no Web savvy are going in and slapping up pages," Hunter said. Folks just want to hitch their sites to other pro-Clinton pages.
At last count, the ring had nearly three dozen sites. But interest in the past seven days has become so intense, Hunter said, "I'm working long hours and living on Diet Coke."
One of the ring sites, Enough Is Enough, urges the citizenry to sign a petition calling for "an end to the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation." The shrill Save Bill site implores: "Stop being such hypocrites and support this precious man."
On the other end of the spectrum, a pro-impeachment site called Free Republic is a hurricane of online activity. It offers a message board for habitues, known as FReepers. Special boards such as "Calls for Clinton's Resignation!" and "Support Linda Tripp" have been set up.
Here's a sample message: "Fellow FReepers, I don't know how the rest of you felt when you saw the vote being taken today but I got tears in my eyes. I hope to God the damage this man has done can be repaired. -- ladyjane"
Free Republic has been named in a copyright infringement suit filed by The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The newspapers hope to prevent the Web site from duplicating and distributing copies of their stories.
There's also an anti-Clinton Web ring called Resign Now! that pulls together a few sites.
Some members of Congress do wrestle with the issue on their Web sites. The site of Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), for example, features a survey that asks, "What are your feelings about the inquiry into President Clinton's conduct while in office?"
The Democrats who broach the subject treat it gingerly.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has set aside a special section on impeachment. Here you can read the congressman's official statement on the issue and nearly two dozen constituent responses.
Rep. Karen Thurman (D-Fla.) advertises a hot line on her Web site. Constituents are invited to call a special message line on which they can vent their feelings about the Clinton investigation.
On both sides of the aisle, many sites don't mention the proceedings at all.
If you are determined to contact DeLay, by the way, you can go to his regular old House of Representatives page, which supplies an e-mail link.
The whip site, however, is for whipping.
GETTING THERE: Majority Whip at http://majoritywhip.house.gov; Censure and Move On at http://www.moveon.org; Campaign to Free Bill Clinton at http://www.webgal.com/billclinton; Enough Is Enough at http://www.enoughisenough.org; Save Bill at http://www.savebill.com; Free Republic at http://www.freerepublic.com; Resign Now! at http://www.geocities.com/ Heartland/Acres/7735/resign.html; Nick Smith at http://www.house.gov/nicksmith; Earl Blumenauer at http://www.house.gov/blumenauer; Karen Thurman at http://www.house.gov/thurman and Rep. Tom DeLay at http://tomdelay.house.gov.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company