Hyde Hearings: Who's Listening?

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WASHINGTON: For the outside world, impeachment is a non-issue -– yawned out of existence in last week’s election by voters with a laundry list of more important concerns. But for the House Judiciary Committee, it’s still the most pressing matter in America -– as Monday’s strange parade of legal scholars and historians bore witness to. And what did luminaries such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Watergate veteran Rev. Robert Drinan largely agree on? That you can’t, or shouldn’t, censure the President. It’s impeachment or nothing. And that puts the rabidly pro-impeachment GOP majority on the committee on a crash course with public opinion.

37 Angry Congressmen Acutely aware of the unpopularity of its task, the committee opened its hearings into the historical basis for impeachment with video snippets of Peter Rodino’s much-praised House Committee, which performed the same task with President Nixon 24 years ago. This is highly ironic, since Rodino himself has recently declared that President Clinton’s actions do not meet the criteria of high crimes and misdemeanors. Republican disgust and frustration was everywhere. South Carolina firebrand Bob Inglis accused his guest Schlesinger –- perhaps the most respected historian in America –- of having "a great deal of sophistication but very little common sense." Cold comfort for committee chair Henry Hyde, then, that Monday’s Supreme Court ruling would allow him to call Clinton confidant Bruce Lindsey. Hyde said he despaired for "the rule of law". It was a comment on Slick Willie’s slipperiness; it might equally describe how Hyde's own committee is falling apart.