GOP Still Whistlin' Dixie
New York Daily News
From: News and Views | Opinion |
Saturday, January 23, 1999
The text and the context of the impeachment trial
of President Clinton are fairly obvious. The House Republican
prosecutors presented their case for Clinton's removal, and his
defense team argued for his political survival. But what came
into stark relief this week was the subtext of this extraordinary
There is a culture war, one with a racial tint,
being fought on the floor of the U.S. Senate. To see the battle
lines, one need look no further than the riveting presentation
Wednesday by deputy White House counsel Cheryl Mills.
Mills' presence in the trial as the only
woman, as the only African-American was a contrast to the
13 prosecutors, aka the GOP White Men's Chorus. Mills focused
her legal guns on the obstruction-of-justice article, but she
nailed the opposition with her personal assault on the GOP claim
that Clinton's actions undermine America's civil rights laws.
"Bill Clinton's grandfather owned a store," Mills
said in soft tones. "His store catered primarily to African-Americans.
Apparently, his grandfather was one of only four white people
in town who would do business with African-Americans, and he taught
his grandson that the African-Americans who came into his store
were good people, and they worked hard, and they deserved a better
deal in life."
The choice of Mills and that little story were
no accident. It was clever political staging, designed as a compassionate
counterpoint to remarks made by GOP prosecutor Lindsey Graham.
In a curious aside drawn from his South Carolina boyhood, Graham
blundered into a telling historical thicket: "My father and mother
owned a restaurant . . . I can remember that if you were black,
you came and you had to buy the beer and you had to go because
you couldn't drink it there," Graham said. "My dad and mom were
good people, but that is just the way it was."
Between Clinton or Graham, the choice is easy:
America has a President who is popular for good reasons. That
he is extraordinarily popular among black Americans is not incidental
to Mills' point. Nor should it be incidental to whites. That blacks
so support this President offers hope that America really can
move toward one society, under God, indivisible.
Indeed, the across-the-board support for Clinton
a 76% approval rating in one poll is nothing short
of astounding. His flaws notwithstanding, his optimism and his
genuine enthusiasm for solving social problems make the GOP scalp-hunters
seem a pinched, sour bunch by comparison. The contrast is sharper
given that two GOP Congressmen have had ties to the racist Council
of Conservative Citizens.
That is why Mills told the Senate she is ". .
. not worried about civil rights, because the President's record
on civil rights, on women's rights, on all of our rights, is unimpeachable."
Or, as a letter to another newspaper said, ". . . Bill Clinton
seems to have a sin for each of us to identify with. We like people
who tell us we are doing good. When was the last time any right-wing
ideologue said we were doing good?"
The Republicans refuse to listen. At their party's
peril. Not just because they are harming Bill Clinton, but because
they are harming what he represents to millions of Americans.
He is a symbol of them. Of us.
© Copyright 1999 Daily News, L.P.