Where Did the Managers Go Wrong?

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON: Henry Hyde and his House henchmen now have a week's vacation to pour Ken Starr a beer and ask the big question: Why does everyone hate us so much? One reason is Bill Clinton's genius for popularity; the other is that from the start, almost nobody except Judiciary Republicans (and maybe Tom DeLay) thought that Clinton's sins had wounded Americans or their Constitution. Impeachment was doomed from the start, and the first big p.r. blunder Hyde & Co. made was to let it get out of committee. Then they got scared.

Special Report "It might have helped if they had called witnesses, if they had done more investigating themselves instead of punting to the Senate and then complaining about not being able to present their case," says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson. "But given the climate at the time, that was awfully hard to do." TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan thinks that a House censure was the managers' last chance to get out with their images intact. "That was the crucial decision, because then they were stuck." The managers told moderates that impeachment didn't necessarily mean removal, and then they had to go tell the Senate that it surely did. Says Branegan: "They got strangled with their own logic."

It was clear after Saturday's multimedia Monica show that the managers had made their case -- the easy part of it, anyway: Bill Clinton has been a very bad boy, and we all knew it. According to a CNN poll, three quarters of Americans now think Clinton committed perjury, and half think he obstructed justice. In the Senate, the numbers are probably higher than that. But high crimes? President Gore? It just didn't sound right, and all of Hyde's righteous indignation only made it sound worse. They tried mightily, and lost wretchedly. Now? They might take a cue from a Republican elder who kept trying to talk them out of this -- Bob Dole -- and start doing Visa commercials. Now there's a lovable loser.

Click here to share your opinions about the trial>>