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.
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