Welcome to Mind Over Matters, Verbosity's experimental new editorial column. In essence, one of our editors will take up this space with his own rantings about any give topic. If you'd like to debunk our opinions, suggest a topic, or generally communicate with us, mail us.
The Political Witch Hunt
As I examine the media today, I notice a common thread running through the political news. There seems to be a massive desire by the American people to corner and crucify our leaders. Just take a glance at your local newspaper -- there are so many "-gates" in the news today that Richard Nixon is turning in his grave and Microsoft's stock has gone up ten points. What leads us to attempt to search out these supposed "evils" of our governing bodies? It's clearly a search for justice in the political world. The question is: Is bringing lawsuits against major players in your political system entirely conducive to the governing of the state? My response would be a hearty, "No!"
I'd like to start out by talking about the fiasco surrounding Speaker Newt Gingrich over the last few months. Extreme fines have been brought against the verbose Republican totaling $300,000 for his usage of tax-deductible donations to fund his college courses. The charges were that he used these funds to spread his personal political propaganda in his "Renewing American Civilization" class. Gingrich claimed the charges were just the latest in a series of Democratic attacks on his character. When the dust settled, the $300,000 fine had been instated.
As far as I'm concerned, this is a sketchy matter. Gingrich's lawyers claimed that his usage of the funds was perfectly legal -- perhaps unwise, but legal. Meanwhile, Democrats continued the attack, hoping to break solidarity in the GOP ranks. If the question is whether or not one is pushing his own views in the teaching of the course, the charges are outrageous. In teaching political science, it is virtually impossible for an educator not to let a degree of his or her own views work their ways into the lectures and discussions. Also, a $300,000 fine seems to be a little excessive in any case. However, the entire Gingrich affair was more of a matter of governmental factions going after one another -- certainly nothing new in the poltical arena. What truly disturbs me is the American people's desire to lynch President Bill Clinton.
Ever since he came to office, President Clinton has been the target of many attacks. The 1992 election was plagued with Gennifer Flowers affair. Then, he was lambasted after Hillary's health-care reforms failed to get off the ground. Now, moving into his second term, the President is faced with a few more worries. He and the First Lady are tied up the in Whitewater Scandal, which some claim the injustices of which may extend as far as murder, and now the attacks over his acceptance of Asian political contributions during the 1996 campaign. Now, America is crying for the president to go on trial for his misdeeds. In my opinion, that should be the one thing in the world we, as Americans, shouldn't desire.
Perhaps Clinton's past is clouded. Perhaps some of his present is clouded. Getting elected with illegally-obtained funds, as the "Indogate" scandal suggests he did, is certainly a blemish on the public service record. However, we can't afford to put the President of the United States on trial -- at least not during his administration. Why not? I cite three specific reasons.
First, the office of the presidency is not a part-time job. Our Chief Executive does not need to be spending his time in a courtroom when he should be running the government. It's totally senseless to think that anyone could possibly perform their job effectively when Court TV is covering their every move -- particularly if that job happens to be leader of the free world. Now that the O. J. civil trial is wrapping up, America will need something to which to pay attention.
Secondly, there's the fact of the precedence that bringing suit against the president would set. The Indogate affair is justified in being investigated; it deals with Clinton's role as president. However, Whitewater certainly has no place being discussed until he leaves office. It has practically no bearing on the current administration. If a trend is set for private individuals or corporations pressing charges against the president while in office, our future Commanders in Chief will never leave the courtroom.
Lastly, there's the honor and respect of the position of President of the United States to take into account. America is just finishing its recovery from the tarnishing Richard Nixon laid to the office. Now, it seems that it is on its way back downhill. In order for our republic to function, the people must be behind their chief executive. That doesn't mean we have to agree with his every decision, but we certainly shouldn't be "out to get him."
Basically, the point I'm trying to get across is that we shouldn't go chasing after politicians for every little transgression they may make. Newt Gingrich probably did break the law in funding his class. Was it necessary, however, for rival factions to attempt to destroy his future credibility by blowing it beyond its proportions? I don't think so. Is Clinton a pillar of morality? I'll be the first to admit that he is not -- like all men, he is fallen. However, I think it's simply ludicrous to attempt to undermine his administration at every turn. Perhaps Indogate does need to be looked into further. Whitewater, on the other hand, can wait until the millenium to decide. Impeachment is a strong word and it's certainly one the United States should hope it never has to apply again.