Wednesday, December 09, 1998

Scarlet letters

Switzerland's new federal president (admittedly, a mostly figurehead post) is a two-fer, a woman and a Jew. Ms. Dreifuss would not have been able to vote in Switzerland until she was 31.

British home secretary Jack Straw did not, as I expected, let Pinochet go home today. The dictator's Tory supporters have uncovered a scandal: one of the Law Lords who ruled that he did not have sovereign immunity is connected with a charity connected with Amnesty International. Imagine that being considered a bad thing. He doesn't get shipped off to Spain soon, so he'll be condemned to many more teas with Mrs Thatcher, which is certainly punishment enough.

Haven't heard so much about Chechnya since they started kidnapping every journalist that set foot in the country. The Chechen government made a moderately successful attempt to rescue four British hostages, aid workers, this week. By moderately successful I mean that they did at least get the heads back.

The New York Times explains the election as president of Venezuela of the leader of a failed coup attempt by noting that the coup "forged his credentials as the undeniable outsider." I can't tell if that was intended to be ironic or not.

Bill McCullom, who has no sense of irony, said that impeachment is "the ultimate scarlet letter". I've watched large parts of the last two days of impeachment hearings because I've been too sick to do anything else and it helps me sleep. Yesterday's session made more sense than today's, but my temperature was 3 degrees higher. There must be a black hole under Henry Hyde's chair, because the laws of time and space were clearly breaking down. The defense came before any charges to defend against were enunciated, while the bill of impeachment was written before the whole defense was even heard. This morning the D's asked if they might be allowed to see the charges sometime before they had to make speeches about them. Stensenberner (or whatever his name is) asked whether in turn the R's could see the censure resolution. Barney Frank shot back, "I'll trade you a copy for a vote on the floor."

Clinton is getting desperate. He offered to pay an (unconstitutional) fine, and was willing to say that he would not pardon himself or accept a pardon from his successor (how can you reject a pardon?). I wonder how much he's paying his lawyers to call him "reprehensible" over and over. As for the committee, a group of 35 lawyers complaining about legalisms is a bit rich. You wonder how most of them got through law school. Yesterday, at the end of the questioning of witnesses, after slogging through 36 other Congresscritters asking questions that didn't get answered because their time expired, Mary Bono was a sort of dessert (as I would have said in my e-mail last night, had I been a bit more alert, it is better to speak in tortuous legalisms and be thought a fool, than to speak in plain English and remove all doubt), but today she kept deferring her time to other R's, including at the end to allow Lindsey Graham a 15-minute rave about the smear campaign against poor Monica, which had to be heard to be believed. So what is all this talk about an impeachment trial taking 6 months or a year? Remember, if this all gets past the House, the plea bargaining stops. The House could settle on fines, censures, whatever, the Senate can only remove him from office.

The articles of impeachment, when they came, were a bit of a surprise. They included some of the weakest charges, like making frivolous privilege claims, and lying to his Cabinet. And they want to ban him from office forever, which has evidently only been done to two people in all of US history (I assume some newspaper will tell me who those were, but I'm betting Aaron Burr was one).

Ruff fairly effectively demolished some of the charges today. It makes no sense that Clinton obstructed justice by demanding his gifts to Monica back 10 minutes after he gave her more gifts. Starr evidently relied on a truncated Washington Post report of Clinton allegedly denying knowing that his lawyers were asserting privilege, which he didn't. Etc etc.

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