Clinton Inquiry: Panel Says Yes

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WASHINGTON: So it'll all be over by Christmas? The House Judiciary Committee voted ahead of schedule Monday night to recommend an impeachment inquiry into the Lewinsky affair. It was a show worth watching, if only for the bitterly partisan barbs traded behind made-for-TV smiles. The vote itself was a foregone conclusion -- the GOP majority got the open-ended inquiry it always wanted.

But now that Republicans and Democrats alike are starting to realize that the public is sick of the whole sorry spectacle, the greatest wrangling may come over who can wrap it up fastest. "It is my hope and prayer we could finish by New Year's," announced GOP Judiciary chair Henry Hyde Sunday. "New Year's resolutions sometimes get broken," shot back minority leader Dick Gephardt. The Democrats are going one better -- they want hearings done and dusted by Thanksgiving.

Special Report Despite all the one-upmanship, not a single congressman seems to have a clear idea of how to bring President Clinton to account quickly and cleanly. Former president Gerald Ford's proposal, outlined in the New York Times Sunday, was to stick Clinton in the well of the House, allow representatives to publicly rebuke him, and send him back down Pennsylvania Avenue in shame. That got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the White House -- a sign of increasing desperation in the Clinton camp -- but the GOP leadership has quietly and respectfully swept Ford's plan under the carpet. As Gingrich et al are well aware, Bill Clinton could easily make such a wrist-slapping look good on TV.