Impeachment or Nothing at All

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WASHINGTON: It looks as though impeachment -- if the full House does indeed vote for it this month -- is an offer the Senate wonít be able to refuse. The rules of Congressís more august body are quite specific about what to do with articles of impeachment, right down to the trialís starting time (1 p.m.), the lead prosecutor (Henry Hyde -- wouldnít that be kind of fun?) and how much yapping for the cameras the Senators-of-the-jury are allowed to do (none at all -- Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist would do all the talking). Unsurprisingly, the prospect of the first impeachment trial since 1868 has Senators from both parties squirming.

Special Report As the publicís distaste for the House inquiry has become apparent, even such Republicans as Trent Lott have preferred to talk about saving Social Security and cutting taxes rather than the I-word. "We're not making any plans or preparations [for impeachment] at this time," Lott said Thursday. But heíd better get ready. If the House forwards articles of impeachment, there are only two ways the Senate can get out of it -- a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules, or a motion to end trial by a Senate juror, decided by simple majority. Both are considered too proactive - or too craven, depending on your view -- to be viable options. So attention, jaded American public: Write a letter. Take a poll. The next two weeks are your last chance to save the spring.