GOP's Lost Patrol
Mark Shields, Syndicated Columnist
Washington Post, Saturday, January 30, 1999, page A19
© Copyright 1999 Creators Syndicate Inc.
well over a week now, the House Republican prosecutors managing
the impeachment case in the Senate against President Clinton have
reminded me of Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi of the Japanese Imperial Army.
in case you might have forgotten, Yokoi was that tired warrior
who, seized by guilt for having failed his emperor, surrendered
on Guam to a civilian traffic cop. That happened in early
1972, more than a quarter-century after Hirohito had lost his
divinity and Japan had lost World War II. For more than
26 years, without so much as a payday or an encouraging word from
headquarters, Yokoi survived and persevered.
just what the House managers have been trying to do long after
Senate Republicans have thrown in both the sponge and the towel,
and turned their energies toward locating, for themselves, a politically
riskless "exit strategy." As for Reps. Hutchinson,
Graham, Rogan and Hyde, the GOP Senate has abandoned them somewhere
for such a harsh judgment bursts from the Senate Republican majority's
decision to summon only three witnesses for depositions in the
impeachment trial: Monica Lewinsky, presidential confidante Vernon
E. Jordan Jr. and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal. This
means that Betty Currie, President Clinton's personal secretary
- whose testimony in the Paula Corbin Jones deposition the president
appeared to seek to influence and who was the Clinton White House
contact with both Lewinsky and Jordan - will not testify.
Senate Republicans were, to put it bluntly, scared stiff.
They were terrified that as an almost exclusively male and exclusively
white brotherhood of blue suits and red ties, they might be seen
in public badgering or bullying an African American woman.
words haunt the GOP Senate in 1999: "Anita Hill." It
was her serious charges against Supreme Court nominee Clarence
Thomas (and the rigorous questioning she received from skeptical
and hostile GOP senators) that produced a political firestorm
fully felt in 1992, when Democratic women won both Senate seats
in California, as well as a Senate seat in Illinois and Washington.
Republicans lived in dread of a televised browbeating of Betty
Currie, providing Democratic candidates with their Joan of Arc
for the next campaign.
is not merely an idle concern for Republicans, some on whom are
still trying to explain why Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
of Mississippi and one of the House impeachment managers, Rep.
Bob Barr (R-Ga.), were making regular appearances before and offering
testimonials to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-rights
group that was banned from the ideologically intense Conservative
Political Action Conference. CPAC president David Keene
told The Washington Post, "We kicked them out of CPAC because
they are racists."
to this the whispered anxiety among Republicans that former Ku
Klux Klan leader David Duke could win a special Louisiana House
race to fill the seat soon to be vacated by the retirement of
Rep. Bob Livingston. Put all these pieces together and nervous
Republicans, on the question of Senate witnesses, prefer the sham
of "a good fake effort."
of this ought to be read as a brief for Senate Democrats, who
managed to sit on the floor in their seats - without blushing
or giggling - while the President's lawyers explained that Clinton's
"I was never alone with Monica, right?" and "You
could see and hear everything, right?" statements to Betty
Currie the day after his deposition were not intended in any way
to influence Currie and instead were just the conscientious chief
executive's jogging of his own memory.
make no mistake about one thing. Senate Republicans deliberately
did not summon Betty Currie as a witness exclusively because of
her race and gender. What ahppened to all that high-flown
GOP rhetoric about terminating affirmative action because it perniciously
"classified an individual by race and by gender?" If
hypocrisy were a felony, more than a few Senate trial participants
would be doing hard time.