The Sound-Byte

For our society to survive, we must have nonpartisan support for the Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Senators like Robert Byrd (D-WV) talk the good talk, agreeing that William Jefferson Clinton is guilty of multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. But the lock-step (goose-step?) actions of the Democratic senators speak louder than words. Their actions proclaim that any attempt at nonpartisanship within this Congress is as futile as Neville Chamberlain's attempts to appease Hitter.

The Details

In his opening remarks before the Senate, Representative Henry Hyde eloquently described the evolution of our Constitution as a contract between the American people and their government. It is the fundamental agreement which establishes our society. Bipartisan acceptance of the fundamental importance of our United States Constitution is absolutely required for the operation of American society.

Our entire Rule of Law is built upon the foundation of the Constitution. The Constitution controls how the laws of our society are created in the Congress and implemented by the Office of the President.

Nowhere in the Constitution or the Federalist Papers is there any suggestion that legislators or the executive branch must all hold the same bipartisan view of the issues of the day. On the contrary, our system of government is designed to allow the adversarial interplay of different points of view.

At first blush, it is attractive to wish that "everyone would just get along," but further consideration reveals the danger of a single party system. What American wants to see our system of government remodeled after a single-party system such as was found in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or a monarchy? No. Far better to have multiple parties each espousing their own point of view, vying for the hearts and minds of the American public.

But only adherence to a shared set of ground-rules can allow such public interchange. That set of ground-rules is embodied in our Constitution, and the lesser laws which flow from it. The alternative to this common framework is either the despotism of a dictatorship or the anarchy of mob rule.

In the case of a trial of impeachment, Alexander Hamilton points out in Federalist Paper 65, Paragraph (3) that

The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other ...

Some have interpreted this passage to allow the Senate Court of Impeachment to render a "political judgment." in the trial of William Jefferson Clinton, based on public opinion polls and concerns regarding the political fallout of their votes.

On the contrary, here the impartial Rule of Law must prevail -- impartial justice, not some bipartisan agreement to find a face-saving compromise which represents the political low-ground between opposing viewpoints. And here we must carefully distinguish between the bipartisanship so loudly hawked by apologists for Mr. Clinton and true nonpartisanship wherein statesmen set aside the parochial interests of their parties and address the interests of the nation.

Alexander Hamilton stresses this when he continues in Federalist Paper 65, Paragraph (7) [emphasis added]

Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in its own situation, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accusers?

But while Hamilton stresses the need for impartiality on the part of the Court of Impeachment, he also points out in Federalist Paper 65, Paragraph (8) the need that the Court have

... the degree of credit and authority, which might, on certain occasions, be indispensable towards reconciling the people to a decision that should happen to clash with an accusation brought by their immediate representatives. A deficiency in the first, would be fatal to the accused; in the last, dangerous to the public tranquillity.

There is grave danger to the Republic if any significant portion of the people perceive that the trial of William Jefferson Clinton was short-circuited by some back-room deal, that either the House of Representatives' presentation of the charges or Mr. Clinton's defense was not allowed full consideration, or that the "fix was in" for some rush to a politically expedient judgment.

There is a considerable difference between a bipartisan agreement in which opposing parties each horse-trade concessions to their own benefit, and the nonpartisan, impartial justice, that the Framers of the Constitution expected that the Senate would exercise.

It appears that partisan considerations of polls and political objectives, rather than full and impartial justice, were the governing factors in this Senate's rush to judgment without allowing the House of Representatives to present testimony and cross-examination before the Senate Court of Impeachment and the American people. Such dereliction of sworn duty can only render the court's verdict unconvincing, further dividing the public.

It would have been in the best interest of the Office of the President and the American Public for ALL the American people to be brought to the conclusion that the Senate allowed in good faith for ALL the evidence to be presented, fully-considered, and rebutted. Unfortunately, the Senate's course does not promise any such healing conclusion.

The mantra which is echoed in the media daily, that the people's business requires bipartisan attention, rings hollow. Bipartisanship is nothing more than a code-word for surrender to the demands of the Democratic minority. When push comes to shove, Senate Democrats have demonstrated that if the yellow dog in the White House is a Democrat, nothing else matters. There can be no compromise or trustworthy agreement with such a party. Nor can poll-reading Republicans be trusted to do what is best for the people they claim to represent.

It is time for the country to grow up, and to realize that when partisan Democrats say "it's gonna be WAAAR" that they mean it. Seeking some bipartisan peace is as useless as Neville Chamberlain's attempts to achieve "peace in our day" by appeasing Hitler. No reading of public opinion polls can invalidate that lesson from history.

When one side is intent on war, and the other side intent on peace, you can rest assured that peace will only be achieved after the side seeking peace has compromised itself into annihilation. Such is the way of bipartisanship. Where have all the Statesmen gone, seeking the nonpartisan good of the country? It seems that our current crop of Democratic and Republican politicians will never learn.

Copyright © 1999 Daniel Weyrich.

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Last updated: May 11, 2000; Version: 1.5