(Dec. 19) Twenty-five years ago today, the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton. It was the first presidential impeachment in 130 years, and it ushered in a quarter-century of toxic politics.

I still believe what I wrote then: Clinton definitely merited impeachment, but House Republicans badly hurt themselves and the country with how they went about impeaching him. They made the same mistake Republicans are making now against President Joe Biden, which is that they come across as if sating a vicious bloodlust rather than soberly and sorrowfully doing an unwanted but necessary duty.

It was the appearance of bloodlust that led to the poor House race results in 1998 that cost Newt Gingrich his job as speaker. Even before that, it was the appearance of Republican bloodlust that turned off the vast middle of the electorate. Polls originally showed that if accusations about Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky proved true and he committed perjury about it, Clinton should leave office; but within months, two-thirds of the public were unwilling to say perjury should end his presidency.

“I will never again, as long as I am speaker, make a speech without commenting on this topic,” Gingrich said in April of that year. Well, the public wanted its lawmakers to focus on their needs, not to mono-focus obsessively on a politicized takedown.

Today, there is technically enough evidence to open an impeachment inquiry into Biden but far from enough to assume that the House actually should impeach. That’s what investigations are for: to take reasonably founded suspicions backed by already known facts and, with an open mind, to see if additional facts merit punishment. Yet not a single prominent member of the GOP House majority has made that distinction clearly, nor has anybody clearly explained how an impeachment of Biden would actually serve the public weal in 2024….. [The full columns is at this link.]


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