Strange, how the world works! President Clinton, under severe duress from the House of Representatives and faced with a vote on his impeachment, decided to immediately authorize cruise missile and B-52 bomber strikes on Iraq. In the nick of time, Saddam Hussein was prevented from employing weapons of mass destruction against the enemies of Iraq. Wrapping himself securely in the American flag, our president presented his heroic, valorous side as leader of the free world and instrument of United Nations policy. Of the other four members of the Security Council, Great Britain's Tony Blair backed him up, though Russia, China, and France did not. By coincidence, White House aides pointed out it was not seemly for the Congress to discuss and vote on Mr. Clinton's impeachment while men and women from our armed services were in harm's way. Patriotism, they advised, required delaying that discussion and vote until a later date, perhaps until the Congress reconvened after the Christmas holiday.

In looking at the Chinese fire drill masquerading as national politics, it is clear President Clinton finally has the Republicans just where he wants them. All it took was a series of rather morbid, semi-sexual contacts with a dippy, ambitious, amoral White House intern, a number of carefully worded responses under oath about them, and a precipitous order to fire cruise missiles and send bombers into Iraq to bring down two Republican Speakers of the House and to drop public approval of the GOP into the thirty percent range. Well done! Bravo! Huzzah! As a political strategist, he is a pure genius. And Mr. Clinton fully intends to draw every breath to which he is entitled in the Oval Office, since political pragmatists across the aisle will surely deal him a censure to avoid the turmoil of a lengthy senate trial. To further his personal triumph, his wife, caught up in some Faustian bargain, just told a Democratic caucus she loves her husband. The fact he was impeached last weekend for this successful enterprise matters little in comparison to the magnitude of his achievements.

Our country now faces the formidable problem of a highly polarized legislature where Republicans and Democrats have isolated themselves into partisan camps that plainly dislike each other. On the one side, those who impeached the president are called fanatics unwilling to obey the will of the people. On the other, his defenders are called apologists who will not defend the rule of law, or at least not apply it to Mr. Clinton. It is a sorry mess.

Personalizing my own feelings, I am annoyed by the labeling of the people who either accuse or defend Mr. Clinton. Right or wrong, I consider myself an independent who is both a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Believing strongly as I do that perjury while testifying before a grand jury is impermissible and cannot be tolerated, I neither accept being called a fanatic of the Religious Right nor, while I am sympathetic to the president's predicament, can I swallow the whining rationalization that perjury about a sexual matter is excusable. Should Kenneth Starr have been permitted to delve into the salacious and reprehensible details of Mr. Clinton's relationship with the young White House intern? No! Should President Clinton have been forced to testify under oath about his sexual behavior? No! But the former received legal permission to do so from Janet Reno, Mr. Clinton's nominee for Attorney General. And the president could have, and decided against, taking the fifth amendment, as was his legal and constitutional right.

The lubricant along the slippery path to impeachment stemmed from a once-considered wild and laughable claim by Paula Jones that most Americans now believe to be gospel. She maintained the then-governor of Arkansas behaved so wretchedly and repulsively toward her that it beggars the imagination. I wouldn't vote for such a man to pick up stray dogs and cats for the Humane Society. But as trashy as such behavior may have been, it is not grounds for impeachment. Perjury is.

Divorcing things from politics, as hard as that may be to do: should a man capable of such conduct, no matter how competent, intelligent, and compassionate he may be at other times, be elected leader of a civilized nation? Some may answer yes, and some may answer no. But Mr. Clinton was so elected. Nothing legally disqualified him from serving in that capacity until he broke the law, if indeed he is found guilty of the accusations of perjury, obstruction of justice, and subornation of witnesses. It seems to me, and I am trying to be impartial and reasonable, that there was sufficient evidence to bring him to trial on those charges. Impeachment is simply an indictment that will require the Senate to try him.

It was not a witch hunt. It was not a lynch mob. The special prosecutor's group headed by Kenneth Starr was doggedly persistent in ferreting out the truth and would not let the president off the hook. People defending Mr. Clinton blame Mr. Starr for revealing all the gross details that testify to the president's perjury, and they will not forgive him. One of the insidious defenses White House aides raised was that the public did not want to see Mr. Clinton impeached. That particular objection is difficult for me to stomach. America was conceived as a constitutional republic that votes for presidential electors, not a democracy in which the man who wins the popular vote wins the office. Our Founding Fathers did not set up this country to be run by direct polls. Leaders were elected to use their own best judgment, subject to subsequent votes by their constituents to determine if they remained in office. Consequently, it does not matter to me that a majority of Americans, perhaps the same ones who believe it is acceptable to lie about their grade-point averages and educational degrees, to inflate their salary histories, and to list unearned job titles and responsibilities on employment applications, think Mr. Clinton should not be impeached. As J.C. Watts said in his speech at the impeachment hearing, "Neither the ten commandments nor the question of slavery before the Civil War would have passed a public opinion poll."

After long and fruitless thought about it, my only take on the matter is that perhaps God's plan is to show America how badly moral imperatives are needed by allowing our country to witness a living example of moral relativism in Bill Clinton's life and deeds.

Man, as old as I get, there are still new things to learn every day.

Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)