Of Geraldo, Polls, and the U.S. Senate
One evening last fall, Geraldo Rivera folded his hands in prayer, looked straight into the camera, and pleaded: "censure, censure, censure!" The U.S. House of Representatives decided otherwise, but the U.S. Senate is reported to be of the mind to make Geraldo's America a reality. It is assumed that a "finding of fact" (euphemism for censure), although leaving him in office, will adequately shame the president.
How do you shame someone who rents out the Lincoln bedroom like a motel operator? How do you shame someone who uses the Oval Office as an amusement park? But it does not matter. The whole process should be over and done. That's what "The American People" want.
The Center for the American Founding conducted its own poll. The questions were not about the president. The questions were about the Constitution. We asked a total of sixty-or-so schools in and around the nation's capital whether they had the founding documents displayed on classroom walls.
Then we asked whether they had the founding documents included in the curriculum.
Five (5) per cent did.
Did they (the five per cent) actually teach them?
Has anyone asked what proportion of those who want the president to stay in office had grown up without the slightest knowledge of the U.S. Constitution?
And are the persons polled ever asked proper follow-up questions?
The other day, I was on an airplane. My neighbor was one of those Midwesterners who used to be typical of America before pony tails, shabby clothes and body piercing. He felt like talking. After a while, I asked whether he had any political interests. Apparently, not a great deal. Did he have any views on the impeachment trial? Yeah. It should be finished quickly and they should leave him alone.
Well, I thought, I am sitting next to the famous seventy per cent. In the flesh.
But something must have bothered him, because he picked up the conversation after a few minutes.
Of course, my neighbor said, it should be made clear that he had committed all those crimes of which he stands accused.
That was my cue.
How did he figure that the president should stay in office if he has committed a felony or two? And violated his oath of office to boot?
Slowly it came out that, because my neighbor's job relates to the automobile industry, he fears Al Gore who is known for his rabid hatred of automobiles. (Except for the ones he rides.) Other than that, my neighbor would fervently wish for Mr. Clinton to leave office.
How does this square with his response to my first question? He smiled, I smiled, and we agreed that I might write about our meeting. It is just possible, we both thought, that an actual conversation with a majority of the seventy per cent would end in a similar admission.
It is my hope that the president's trial will culminate in an undiluted up-or-down vote. History must record the individual decisions of the one hundred persons who wear a mantle of such immense power.
Each of them ought to decide and place on the record the continued willingness to take this president at his word, were he to declare, for example, that we are going to bomb Taiwan because "it has become a threat to its neighbors."
Well, the senators will say, we would of course have verification from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Would this be the same Madeleine Albright who flew to the microphone to affirm her unconditional belief in the president's denials?
And each senator ought to decide and place on the record the continued willingness to take this president at his word, were he to proclaim a state of emergency for the United States of America because of "threats to our internal security."
Well, the senators will say, we would of course have verification from Attorney General Janet Reno.
Would this be the same Janet Reno who has shoved under the carpet case after case involving possible treason and bribery at the highest levels of government?
A few hours after the articles of impeachment had been passed, the president served notice on national television about staying in the White House, no matter what the outcome of the constitutional process.
Therefore, each senator ought to decide and place on the record the willingness to wait and see whether this president will respect the Constitution on January 20, 2001, any more than he has done to date-for it is the Constitution alone that prescribes an end to a presidential term.
It is the same Constitution which the senators themselves are about to affirm or ignore.
And if ever "the American People had a right to know," it is the vote each and every senator will have decided to cast on the questions of their honor, their decency, their oath of office.