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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly Analysis CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Analysis - 'Toons

Analysis: Searching for an appropriate punishment

By Craig Staats/AllPolitics

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 14) -- President Bill Clinton doesn't know it yet, but unless he tells his lawyers, David Kendall and Charles Ruff, to stop peddling Clinton's ridiculous "sex-is-what-I-say-it-is" defense, his presidency is over. It will end with impeachment, resignation or permanent public ridicule as the nation's First Liar.


On Sunday, Kendall and Ruff were out on the TV talk-show circuit, continuing to press an argument that should insult all Americans' intelligence -- that with the definition of sex Clinton was given in the Paula Jones case, he did not commit perjury when he denied sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Republicans and even some Democrats who want Clinton to stop the legal gyrations are right; it demeans him and his legal team to offer nonsense like that.

Already there is a talk of a plea bargain of sorts, even before the House Judiciary Committee members and staff get through the additional 2,600 pages of supporting documents that Independent Counsel Ken Starr sent to Congress last week.

There is discussion of censure, which a clear majority of the public supports, though some Republicans in Congress think that would be letting him off too easy.

Some leading Democratic staffers are debating a middle ground that, as one told CNN's John King, "doesn't impeach him for lying about sex but doesn't condone perjury either."

One possibility -- not necessarily being debated by Democrats -- might be to follow the example the House used with Speaker Newt Gingrich in his ethics case: Censure Clinton, but also fine him for the costs of Starr's investigation since January, when Clinton could have told the truth and saved the country some money.

At an estimated $1 million a month, that would be $7 million to $8 million that taxpayers could recoup once Clinton leaves office and writes his memoirs or, like that rumor of a few months ago, gets some cushy Hollywood job.

Presumably Clinton's recollections of these strange events would sell well, even if his book turns out to be psycho-babble. Maybe he will try to explain what drove him to get involved with Monica Lewinsky and why he took such a risk even while a pit-bull adversary like Starr was after him.

After 445 pages of Starr's charges and two White House rebuttals totaling about 120 pages, we're still not much closer to answering that question.


White House plans anti-impeachment strategy (9-14-98)


Monday, September 14, 1998

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