The Impeachment: Error and Trial

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President Clinton's impeachment has provided a useful education on the internecine workings of Washington. But one revelation transcends politics and touches on a truth even more depressing than partisan squabbling: Our elected officials and their staffs are illiterate.

One need look no further than the cover of Friday's New York Times, where a photo shows Rep. Asa Hutchinson pointing to a chart of the chronology of the Lewinsky affair labeled "Calender of Job Search Activity." Those who know that the correct spelling is "calendar" might be justified in wondering whether the impeachment of a president isn't important enough to warrant some quality control. Nor is the sloppiness confined to one side of the aisle: The cover of the President's defense brief, circulated by his team, carried his name on its own line -- there it was, William Jefferson Cinton. Haven't these people ever heard of spell check -- or has orthography become the Masonic handshake of the dreaded "cultural elite"? But the most sadly ironic gaffe turned up on the ceremonial pens that the senators used to sign in at the trial's commencement. Along the side ran the portentous words "The Untied States of America." Maybe the devaluation of language is the real warning we should be taking from all this.