"Democrats realize that impeachment is a done deal," says TIME congressional correspondent James Carney. "But now they see the opportunity to make the Republicans look bad." This latest twist is a bonus that comes on top of arguing what many Democrats earnestly believe to be also a matter of principle: Stand behind the President in times of foreign conflict. Republicans, meanwhile, are hobbled by the calendar, says Carney. They don't want to impeach Clinton Christmas week or New Year's week, and they don't want the impeachment vote to slip over into the new Congress next month. Washington is now playing the endgame of a chess match in which either side could suddenly declare checkmate.
Democratic protests notwithstanding, House Republicans are set to begin debating the impeachment of President Clinton on Friday morning. Republicans turned a deaf ear to Democratic entreaties that it would be inappropriate -- and possibly harmful to U.S. interests and personnel -- to debate the removal of the President in the midst of a military conflict. And that, surprisingly, may have given Democrats an opening to score valuable political points.