How I'd Throttle the G.O.P.

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So now it's finally over. After five years and nigh on $50 million of phony, partisan investigations and more than a year of media hysteria and round-the-clock cable coverage, the scandal has finally come to a close. The Senate vote will mark an end to this ugly chapter, and congressional Democrats and Republicans will make peace and begin solving the problems of the next millennium.

Yeah, right. Before everyone goes riding off into the sunset, I'm here to tell you that in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it ain't over till it's over. And in the not-so-immortal words of James Carville, it'll never be over. I want to see our elected representatives get back to the business of the American people as much as the next guy, but first there are a few scores to settle. Democrats don't just have a chance to win elections by reminding folks what the Republicans have been up to--we have an obligation to do it. Because if certain people aren't held accountable, I can guarantee you that this festering culture of investigation will haunt us for years to come.

The politics of personal destruction that engulfed Washington wasn't an accident. Even before they won control of Congress, the Republicans dreamed up a government by investigation designed to cripple the Clinton Administration and sweep their party back into the White House. In October 1994, Newt Gingrich envisioned a Republican Congress that would have at least 20 task forces and subcommittees investigating the White House. (Hey, give him credit for keeping his word--the G.O.P. Congress eventually featured 31 separate inquiries into the Clinton White House.)

Within two years, the G.O.P. had its investigative machine up and running, and Congressmen like Bob Barr were clamoring for impeachment. Speaker Gingrich told members of his party in June 1996 that the upcoming presidential election would be "all about" the three Cs: "corruption, cronies and cover-up." Unfortunately for Newt, the President was overwhelmingly re-elected.

Undeterred, the Republicans continued their cockamamie inquiries. From Filegate to Travelgate to Chinagate, they spent more time concocting investigations than they did creating policy, a fact that wasn't lost on the American people come election time. And when the President's indefensible liaison with Monica Lewinsky became known to Kenneth Starr, you can just imagine the excitement for the G.O.P.'s scandalmongers. Starr and his minions turned inappropriate fondling into a constitutional crisis. G.O.P. leaders, confident that their smear strategy had finally succeeded, emerged from their glass houses and surged onto the cable talk shows, bragging about picking up 30 to 40 seats in the House.

Only thing is, it didn't happen. The public expressed itself in 1998 with a resounding cry of "Enough is enough." Yet the G.O.P. once again disregarded the people's will and went traipsing down Impeachment Lane. With this trial, the G.O.P. tried to overturn two elections by ignoring a third. That's three strikes and you're out.

The Republicans have exposed their contempt for the American people. This nasty scandal won't really come to a close until each and every Republican who mounted this six-year war on Bill Clinton has been removed from office--not by sham investigations and phony inquiries but by the ballot box. That's why some friends and I are forming a political action committee to target the right-wingers who didn't listen to the people of their districts during impeachment. We're going to mount a vigorous attack. We'll give money and support to candidates who oppose these smear operators. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. If the people don't rise up one more time and rid Congress of these characters, the next millennium will see no end to the politics of attack and investigation.