Can the Congress Investigate the Clinton Administration Fairly?
May 19, 1998
in this forum:
Has politics tainted the investigation process? Is this anything new? Is there any way to conduct an investigation in a truly non-partisan way? Could the investigation backfire on the republicans next election? With the Republicans having such a slim House majority, how can there be a house committee with a two-thirds Republican majority for the Speaker to move the immunity question to? Has there been a decline in the quality of reporting on political scandal? Greg Daries asks: It is my perception that although the President may well be guilty of philandering and lying about it under oath, the republican methods of petty attack are far more repugnant to behold. Is there also a sense of this generally in the electorate, and could it backfire on the republicans next election?
John Pitney, Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, responds:
Chairman Burton's use of a vulgarity to describe the President was indeed repugnant, and his handling of the Hubbell affair has prompted legitimate questions about his competence. But if congressional Republicans have much to answer for, so do the Democrats. Rep. Tom Lantos (D- CA) has thrown some of the lowest pitches. In 1996, he said to White House aide Craig Livingstone: "With an infinitely more distinguished public record than yours, Admiral Boorda committed suicide when he may have committed a minor mistake." In 1997, he attacked the independent counsel in the Espy investigation for failing to disclose his GOP ties. "You remind me of the late and unlamented secretary-general of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, who also had a lapse in memory," said Lantos. "He conveniently forgot several years when he was a Nazi."
In any case, the name-calling on Capitol Hill is trivial compared with the substance of the investigations. Filegate raises the specter of abuse of the FBI. The Lewinsky case may involve perjury, subornation of perjury, and obstruction of justice. Most disturbing of all, the Chinese money trail might lead back to a devastating breach of national security. If hard evidence indicates that foreign contributions affected U.S. policy, the political consequences will be overwhelming.