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Aftermath: The Clinton Impeachment and the Presidency in the Age of Political Spectacle

Leonard V. Kaplan
Beverly I. Moran
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 296
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    Book Description:

    With the specter of prosecution after his term is over and the possibility of disbarment in Arkansas hanging over President Clinton, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and the events that have followed it show no sign of abating. The question has become what to do, and how to think, about those eight months. Did the President lie or was it plausible that he had truthfully testified to no sexual relationship? Was the job search for Monica just help for a friend or a sinister means of obtaining silence? Even if all the charges were true, did impeachment follow or was censure enough? And what are the lasting repercussions on the office of the Presidency?

    Aftermath: The Clinton Impeachment and the Presidency in the Age of Political Spectacle takes a multi-disciplinary approach to analyze the Clinton impeachment from political perspectives across the spectrum. The authors attempt to tease out the meanings of the scandal from the vantage point of law, religion, public opinion, and politics, both public and personal. Further, the impeachment itself is situated broadly within the contemporary American liberal state and mined for the contradictory possibilities for reconciliation it reveals in our culture.

    Contributors: David T. Canon, John Cooper, Drucilla Cornell, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Robert W. Gordon, Lawrence Joseph, Leonard V. Kaplan, David Kennedy, Kenneth R. Mayer, Beverly I. Moran, Father Richard John Neuhaus, David Novak, Linda Denise Oakley, Elizabeth Rapaport, Lawrence Rosen, Eric Rothstein, Aviam Soifer, Lawrence M. Solan, Cass R. Sunstein, Stephen Toulmin, Leon Trakman, Frank Tuerkheimer, Mark V. Tushnet, Andrew D. Weiner, Robin L. West.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6350-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Beverly I. Moran

    At the time, it seemed that 1998 would never end. On January 21, when most of us were still keeping our New Year’s resolutions, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr announced an investigation of President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. The Counsel’s suspicions stemmed from a pending action by Paula Jones, a former State of Arkansas employee, charging the then Governor of Arkansas with sexual harassment. In December 1997, as part of that suit, Jones’s lawyers issued a subpoena to Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern and sometime FOB (Friend of Bill). That subpoena was based on knowledge obtained...

  5. PART I Politics

    • Chapter 1 A Case Study in Group Polarization (with Warnings for the Future)
      (pp. 11-21)
      Cass R. Sunstein

      Why did the overwhelming majority of Republicans, representatives and citizens alike, support the impeachment of President Clinton? Why did the overwhelming majority of Democrats, inside and outside Congress, oppose impeachment?

      Consider some remarkable numbers. In the House of Representatives, 223 of 228 Republicans, or 98 percent, voted for impeachment on at least one count, whereas 5 of 206 Democrats, or 2 percent, voted for impeachment on at least one count. In the Senate, 51 of 55 Republicans, or 93 percent, voted to remove the President from office, whereas 0 of 45 Democrats, or 0 percent, voted to remove the President...

    • Chapter 2 Sex and Politics at the Close of the Twentieth Century: A Feminist Looks Back at the Clinton Impeachment and the Thomas Confirmation Hearings
      (pp. 22-33)
      Elizabeth Rapaport

      When the Lewinsky scandal was fresh, when we were all still wondering how far the press would go, and whether this bimbo eruption would have political legs, the reaction of feminists to the President’s Predicament was eagerly anticipated. In time it became clear that feminism had found its place in the Democratic Party, and would defend the party and the President. Not surprisingly, feminists were criticized for abandoning principle and putting the past and potential achievements of the movement at risk.

      While the feminist defense of Clinton is tenable, the case on the record has weaknesses that render it susceptible...

    • Chapter 3 Public, Private, and the Gender Division of Emotional Labor
      (pp. 34-46)
      Jean Bethke Elshtain

      For a full year and more, the United States found itself in the throes of an often acrimonious round of debates concerning what is public and what is private in light of the nature of the impeachment charges brought against President Bill Clinton by the U.S. House of Representatives. Nothing was resolved definitively as a result of this crisis; indeed, a moment of decisive resolution of questions pertaining to public and private will never arrive. Why is that? Because public and private are terms of discourse that help to structure political life and thought and, as well, to create and...

    • Chapter 4 Everything You Thought You Knew about Impeachment Is Wrong
      (pp. 47-62)
      David T. Canon and Kenneth R. Mayer

      If we had to describe, in two or three sentences, the surpassing oddness of Clinton’s impeachment, it would go something like this: A Democratic president, by any reasonable definition of the term, had “sex” with a twenty-two-year-old White House intern and repeatedly lied about it, both publicly and under oath. So of course it makes perfect sense that the main consequence was that two Republican Speakers of the House lost their jobs.

      One of the most interesting features of the impeachment episode is that virtually all the predictions about what would happen or what impeachment would mean—from both elected...

    • Chapter 5 Pierre Elliot Trudeau: A Canadian Scandal?
      (pp. 63-80)
      Leon E. Trakman

      The attack on the personal morality of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, one-time flamboyant Prime Minister of Canada, is comparable only in some respects to the scandal surrounding Bill Clinton.¹ Trudeau’s “crimes” were grounded in his politics and only secondarily in his lifestyle. His perceived public harm lay in his federalist loyalties and his distributive agenda. His “crimes” were an unqualified hostility toward Canadian separatists and his left-leaning economic and social agenda. The excuse for undressing him publicly was provided by moral outrage at his audacious personality and grandiloquent lifestyle.

      What Bill Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau had most...

  6. PART II Law

    • Chapter 6 Comparing the Independent Counsel to Other Prosecutors: Privilege and Other Issues
      (pp. 83-96)
      Frank Tuerkheimer

      The turnover of tape recordings was pivotal in the crisis that led to the resignation of President Nixon. Litigation over questions of privilege concerning tapes subpoenaed by the grand jury led to the October 20, 1973 Saturday Night Massacre,theevent that put impeachment of the President on the national agenda. Litigation leading to the turnover of tapes to the petit jury resulted in the divulgence of the “smoking gun” tape: the June 23, 1972 tape recording proving irrefutably that the President had assented to using the CIA as a false pretext to halt an FBI investigation getting too close...

    • Chapter 7 Legalizing Outrage
      (pp. 97-112)
      Robert W. Gordon

      In the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal’s early stages the makers of public opinion analyzed the affair in moral terms. They disagreed on exactly what was wrong with Clinton’s conduct. Some condemned him for adultery, some for betraying the implicit compact with his wife and the people that had once elected him President that he would avoid new sexual entanglements. Others thought Clinton’s sex life was nobody’s business but his own and Hillary’s; but were troubled by a powerful man’s exploitation of a vulnerable younger woman in his workplace, or by his disregard for the dignity of his office. Clinton supplied fresh reasons...

    • Chapter 8 The Gold Standard and Guilt-Edged Insecurities: The Impeachment Crucible as Tragic Farce
      (pp. 113-128)
      Aviam Soifer

      At least one prize glittered. Moments after the formal acquittal of William Jefferson Clinton ended his impeachment trial, the Senate leaders of both parties presented Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist with a plaque featuring a golden gavel. Usually, majority leader Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi explained, with minority leader Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota smiling at his side, one must preside over the Senate for a hundred hours to be awarded the golden gavel. But the Chief Justice’s duty in presiding over the impeachment trial apparently was close enough for government work. Rehnquist, wearing his now-famous gold-striped robe, took...

    • Chapter 9 Sex, Harm, and Impeachment
      (pp. 129-149)
      Robin West

      Conservative and liberal legal commentators on the Clinton impeachment agreed on very little, but they agreed emphatically on the characterization of the various sexual behaviors which triggered the scandal. They all agreed that the President’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, although indecorous, indiscreet, disloyal, ill-advised, kinky, revolting, juvenile, thoughtless, immoral, and reckless, was nevertheless consensual, and therefore not criminal, and that it was welcome, and therefore not sexual harassment. They all concluded, then, and reiterated mantra-style that although it might have been a breach of private morality, this noncriminal and nontortious and non–civil rights-violating private sex should not be...

    • Chapter 10 Impeachment: A (Civil) Religious Perspective
      (pp. 150-161)
      John Milton Cooper Jr.

      Impeachment is one area of politics and government which inescapably impinges on America’s civil religion—Constitutionalism. If anything separates American democracy from the way that it is practiced elsewhere in the world it is this quasi-religious reverence for the Constitution. This attitude is an object of some wonder and sometimes derision among foreigners and many American students of law and politics, especially those on the left side of the spectrum. The reverence for the Constitution carries with it a belief in a higher law and something above ordinary matters of politics. The term “ordinary” is not meant to be demeaning....

    • Chapter 11 The Constitutional Politics of the Clinton Impeachment
      (pp. 162-176)
      Mark V. Tushnet

      The U.S. Constitution is incomplete. Even when read in light of their original understanding, its express terms do not define precisely the ways in which many functions of a modern state are to be carried out. Sometimes we fill in the Constitution’s meaning by asking the Supreme Court to interpret it. Sometimes, however, we fill in the meaning by having the political branches—Congress and the president—develop what political scientist Keith Whittington callsconstitutional constructions.¹ These constructions differ from the ordinary policy matters Congress and the president routinely address because they deal with fundamental questions of government organization rather...

  7. PART III Shaping Public Opinion

    • Chapter 12 Ontology in the Clinton Era
      (pp. 179-185)
      Andrew D. Weiner

      Even though I’m not writing a book about cynicism, but only a response to the memory of things past, I find this quotation from Louis Menand’s essay an even better epigraph, for the cynicism that interests me here is the cynicism of the press and, even more, the news media that most of us tend to turn to in moments of perceived national crisis. One of the most interesting developments in the whole impeachment process was the casualness with which precision in language became something to be mocked, to be dismissed as a cynical attempt to manipulate not reality but...

    • Chapter 13 All We Had to Do Was Rationalize the Sex
      (pp. 186-198)
      Linda Denise Oakley

      Yes, President Clinton lied, but he lied about sex—consensual sex. For those who opposed impeachment, the fact that the President lied was never more than half the story. The other half, the important half, was the lie itself. For the supporters of impeachment, just the opposite was true. No matter what the President had lied about, the indisputable fact was that he had lied under oath. The fact that his lies were about sex had no bearing on their case. Their gigantic impeachment case against the President had been designed to rivet public attention to one fact in evidence:...

    • Chapter 14 Perjury and Impeachment: The Rule of Law or the Rule of Lawyers?
      (pp. 199-211)
      Lawrence M. Solan

      It was a bad year for the Rule of Law.¹ In fact, the 1990s was a bad decade for the Rule of Law. Through Court TV, the world saw legal gamesmanship relegate to a back seat the question of whether O. J. Simpson really killed his former wife and her friend. Then, beginning with the sensational disclosure of the Monica Lewinsky story in January 1998, and ending with President Clinton’s acquittal before the Senate in February 1999, we were treated to a year in which the following three themes recurred on an almost daily basis:

      First, a mendacious President sought...

    • Chapter 15 Impeachment and Enchanting Arts
      (pp. 212-225)
      Eric Rothstein

      Why revisit the “Clinton Scandal,” wading waist-deep in the yellow confetti of previous punditry? Well, free from calls for clairvoyance or for calming jitters about The System’s death rattle, one might inquire what we gained from Impeachment besides another slam-bang episode in a Punch-and-Judy show. And gain we did. To doubt it is to embrace the Hack’s dictum in Swift’sTale of a Tub, that true felicity lies in being well deceived. We gained hostile caution about politicians, journalists, and other chattering classes. Americans also gained, I’d say, insofar as their disenchantment went beyond simply being fed up. That is,...

    • Chapter 16 A Year after the Acquittal in the Impeachment Trial
      (pp. 226-234)
      Lawrence Joseph

      The President’s more reflective side emerges late in the day. For example recently, at a fund-raiser at the Waldorf-Astoria, while Luther Vandross was singingEvergreenfor him, the President whispered loudly to those at his table that this was, he thought, the greatest love song of the last twenty-five years. Yes, members of a remote country Pentecostal church in Alexandria, Louisiana, were told after a performance of Handel’sMessiah(a portrayal of the life and death of Jesus, during which, Mr. Clinton said, he cried continuously), yes there was, there was a period of time, a day or two at...

  8. PART IV Religion

    • Chapter 17 An Un-Christian Pursuit
      (pp. 237-242)
      Stephen Toulmin

      Few episodes in recent American history have polarized opinion as sharply as the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. On the one side, a self-conscious, self-righteously Christian fraction of the electorate banded together to condemn the President for his escapades with Ms. Lewinsky, and for his attempts to conceal, misrepresent, or even deny them. On the other, a less ostentatiously “religious” fraction found many details of President Clinton’s behavior more distasteful and perjurious than sleazy, but they were turned off even more by the manner in which Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, Linda Tripp, and their allies pursued their investigation. It struck them as disproportionate,...

    • Chapter 18 Abuse of Power as a Cultural Construct
      (pp. 243-252)
      Lawrence Rosen

      Politicians and pundits alike were mystified by the public support that President Clinton maintained throughout the impeachment process. With favorable job ratings at near record highs and no popular outcry for the President’s removal ensuing from their own jeremiads or analyses, commentors frequently characterized the American electorate as puritanical or cynical (with varying degrees of hypocrisy attendant on either state), or simply more offended by the Special Prosecutor’s actions than by those of the President.¹

      But there is at least one other explanation that may account for the President’s support, one that draws together many of the emphases that pervade...

    • Chapter 19 Bill Clinton and the American Character
      (pp. 253-266)
      Richard John Neuhaus

      That the country would be better off stuck with him rather than having removed him from office was, many thought, the clinching argument of Dale Bumpers, former Senator from Arkansas, during the Senate trial. “If you have difficulty because of an intense dislike of the President, and that’s understandable, rise above it,” Bumpers exhorted the Senators. “He is not the issue. He will be gone. You won’t. So don’t leave a precedent from which we may never recover and almost surely will regret…. After all, he’s only got two years left.”¹ That the impeached President was not the issue in...

    • Chapter 20 The Clinton Scandal: Law and Morals
      (pp. 267-276)
      David Novak

      The Clinton scandal is supposed to have been an event that shows the essential difference between conservatives and liberals in the United States, especially their different views of the relation between law and morals. All conservatives are supposed to have been in favor of the impeachment of President Clinton because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and his subsequent lying about it under official interrogation. For them, it seems Bill Clinton’s conduct constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor,” calling for nothing less than removal from office by law (and further prosecution as a private citizen). Liberals, conversely, are supposed to...

  9. PART V The Political Is Personal

    • Chapter 21 The Spectacle and the Libertine
      (pp. 279-296)
      David Kennedy

      What was going on last year anyway?¹ Monica, Clinton, the Republicans: some kind of freight train through our collective life, massive, unavoidable, by turns exciting, gripping, and then gone, as suddenly as it had come. A year ago an interdisciplinary Monica festival like this would surely have convened a full house, and look at us now. The incandescent spotlight cast then on the chattering classes has been switched off, the cud chewers of the academy have returned to pasture.

      I must say I’ve had a hard time figuring out just what cud to chew, chastened that our ephemeral pop-cultural phenomena...

    • Chapter 22 The Political Is Personal
      (pp. 297-311)
      Beverly I. Moran

      My introduction to Bill Clinton was through the 1992 Democratic primaries. The field was filled with second stringers as the heavy hitters—Al Gore, for example—sat out the season thinking George Bush unbeatable. The traveling road show filling my television left me convinced that all Bill Clinton wanted was the presidency. That is, despite his reputation as a policy wonk, it wasn’t about policy, stupid, it was about winning.

      My insight began with healthcare. At first, healthcare was not on Bill Clinton’s radar screen. But when Bob Kerry began gaining ground, Bill Clinton appropriated the issue. Of course, that...

    • Chapter 23 Dropped Drawers: A Viewpoint
      (pp. 312-320)
      Drucilla Cornell

      At first I was a bit troubled by being asked to write a response to the Clinton impeachment process. I watched as little as possible of the impeachment proceeding on television, and I completely avoided the Monica Lewinsky interviews. Why go there when you can watchMoonstruckfor the 9,782nd time? For those who know the movie, this might give you some sense of my sexual and romantic tastes. And as for public purposes, that’s all I want you to know. I followed the “politics of sleaze,” as it was often referred to in the media, only enough to reach...

  10. Conclusion: The Penultimate: The Meaning of Impeachment and Liberal Governance
    (pp. 321-351)
    Leonard V. Kaplan

    “Where are we now?”¹ This is not merely a question of place but of spirit. The recent impeachment and trial of William Jefferson Clinton provides an instructive point of departure for analysis because it captures the interaction between our law and our morality. The Clinton impeachment defines political, cultural, and legal limits to liberal toleration in a very concrete situation, with an explicit concern with sex, lies, and the manipulation of media and state power. And with a cast of living players. Around this event we may become anthropologists and see the tensions, if not the contradictions, in the liberal...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 352-357)
  12. Index
    (pp. 358-370)