So what was Lott thinking? A careful reading of Clinton's still-stellar polls has the majority leader trying to get out in front of public sentiment, says TIME's Jef McAllister. "The public is sick and tired of the whole Lewinsky thing, and this helps Trent Lott distinguish himself from the other Republicans."
On the other hand, you don't want distinguish yourself too much, especially when the other members of the party are eager to keep a low profile in the case. "Republicans do not want to conduct impeachment proceedings unless they are absolutely sure," says McAllister. "The message this is sending to Ken Starr is that you better come up with some really good stuff before you turn this over to the House."