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 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

Engineer, stop this train

By Richard Lacayo

TIME magazine

A maxim in Washington, as elsewhere, is to be careful of what you wish for, since the gods may grant it. For Republicans who sought a full-blown impeachment process, the problem is figuring out how to retreat now that voters have made clear how unpopular that crusade is. The post-Gingrich turmoil in the G.O.P. House leadership has created a vacuum on the issue. For Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde, who wants to bring things to the fastest possible conclusion, that represents an opportunity to act with a minimum of interference from diehards who still want Clinton's head. There was no dissent even from the right wing last week when Hyde announced a streamlined hearings schedule with just one major witness: independent counsel Kenneth Starr, on Nov. 19. That's what the Democrats had wished for, though they too may want to be careful: Starr might come across as the arrogant inquisitor many Democrats view him as, but then again, he might not.

Hyde meanwhile sent the White House a list of 81 questions, asking that the President confirm or deny specific findings in Starr's report. Some of the "requests for admission" ask whether he lied in his deposition in the Paula Jones case or in his testimony before Starr's grand jury. White House lawyers say they are working on quick replies, but don't expect them to send any that admit to outright perjury or obstruction of justice. The Republican strategy, cooked up before the election, seemed to be that eliciting denials from the White House on some issues would justify further hearings into these matters. That's another wish that may prove problematic. "We're like Wyle E. Coyote," said a conservative Republican staff member. "We've strapped on the rockets, and now we're headed straight into a wall."


Cover Date: November 16, 1998

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