Hyde: Bring On the Lawyers

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WASHINGTON: Henry Hyde sounded positively bored Monday as he steeled himself for two 15-hour days of the presidential defense. The Judiciary Committee chairman wearily demanded a little more than "sound and fury" from Bill Clinton's lawyers on Tuesday and Wednesday, and he's likely to be disappointed. But it's not Henry Hyde -- or the rest of his committee -- that the president's attorneys, Charles Ruff and Greg Craig, are trying to convince. "Judiciary members are far beyond being swayed at this point," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty. "Clinton's lawyers are playing to the House floor."

Special Report That battle for hearts and minds will be waged on three fronts: First, a group of lawyers will discuss historical precedents and constitutional standards for impeachment, concluding of course that they do not apply here. Next comes the political front, in which three Rodino-committee Democrats will invoke the ghost of Nixon and plead with their counterparts, pol to pol. Then, more lawyers: A third panel takes a long (and presumably critical) look at the facts of Starr's case. And Wednesday? You guessed it -- still more lawyers, followed by closing statements that should last well into the evening.

No one, least of all Hyde, is expecting anything new. But if 30 hours of sound and fury can win the White House a few votes in the so far evenly divided House, the next two days could be the most significant in a long while.