Censure Sensibility

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WASHINGTON: Could Congress find a neat conclusion to the Lewinsky mess -- by giving Bill Clinton a 164-year-old slap on the wrist? Congressional censure of the President: It hasn't been used since Andrew Jackson, has absolutely no legal ramifications, and 55 percent of people say they want the President to get one. "Impeachment is the nuclear option," says TIME Washington correspondent Jay Branegan. "It's not proportional to the crime. Censure is, and it's very much a possibility. There are current precedents, too: Newt Gingrich got censured, and that didn't diminish his stature."

Special Report Trent Lott has been bandying the idea about since March -- but with Clinton's speech proving less than satisfying for both sides, censure is gaining support in the President's own party. "Democrats like this," reports Branegan. "They see it as a way out, a show of bipartisanship that would put their disapproval on the record." And then, so the script goes, Clinton can make some more contrite comments and the country can move on. There's just one problem: Those in the GOP who are already calling for Clinton's resignation might simply ignore the censure -- and move ahead with impeachment anyway. Not everyone likes a Hollywood ending.