Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias How could Richard Nixon know?

How could he know that, approximately 25 years ago, he would write a nearly perfect ending to the tragic play known as Watergate?

Nixon, in his very crafty way, fashioned a somewhat painless conclusion to his dying presidency. After putting the nation through a lot of heartache and suffering, he finally did the right thing. He put his country first. He resigned.

President Bill Clinton should do the same thing.

I know, I know . . . the spin doctors have been spewing forth since the release of Starr's report last week that Clinton's alleged misdeeds aren't as serious as those of Nixon's.

But in Starr's initial report to Congress and the nation, it is alleged that Clinton perjured himself before a grand jury, lied to the American people, attempted to tamper with witnesses, and abused the powers of his office.

All of that, let alone the extra-curricular activities he had with Monica.

This made me recall reading a news account about the daily operations of the Reagan presidency. Here was a man that had such respect for the Oval Office that he never entered it without wearing a suit and tie. What a contrast to the man who we have working in that office today, who apparently had no problem dropping his pants there on several occasions.

Clinton certainly looked and sounded convincing when he finally asked for forgiveness Friday morning. He finally accepted the medicine that political spin doctors have been prescribing for months and gave up the excuses and churlishness that have marked this entire sordid episode.

But as much as I want to be convinced that Clinton was sincere when, at the White House prayer breakfast, he admitted that he had sinned, how can we know that it wasn't Clinton just being Clinton?

Brush aside the positive news about the economy and the reports that the polls have generally shown that Clinton remains popular. Shake off the moral numbness that seems to have overtaken this country, and take a good, hard look at the man.

Bill Clinton has built his entire career on political betrayal. Why be surprised when the man who hired Dick Morris,

who let Lani Guinier twist in the wind, who dumped Peter Edelman in the face of Senate opposition, who ran away from pledge after pledge he had made to his less powerful and wealthy constituents, would fail to take into account the faith and sacrifice of others before doing what he thought was best for himself?

He is a man that, after his convincing performance at the White House prayer breakfast Friday, is now acting like a man who is not sorry for what he has done.

It seems that he is only sorry that he got caught.

Our president is in a complicated dilemma. As long as he is in legal jeopardy, either from Congress or the independent counsel, his lawyers will resist any acknowledgement that he lied under oath.

But that very defense may hinder efforts to find a compromise short of impeachment, particularly before the November mid-term elections.

Clinton may truly be sorry for his most recent acts of personal indiscretions, and the effect they have had on both his family and his nation.

But is he truly sorry? I'm convinced that only the good Lord knows.

Clinton has consistently degraded himself and his office, with cheating and lying, and cheating and lying some more, despite the enormity of the stakes — despite the fact that his philanderings with Gennifer Flowers had nearly cost him the presidency once before.

And a news report that aired Tuesday indicated that the White House is contemplating using a "scorched earth" policy towards Congress as House members begin contemplating the sum and substance of the Starr report.

Under the scenario of a scorched earth policy, the White House, it was reported, is threatening to delve into the personal lives of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The Executive Branch would then threaten to expose facts about members of Congress that would be highly personal and embarrassing, should those House members show that they are inclined to see impeachment proceedings begin.

If this is true, Clinton is evidently of the impression that what's sauce for the president is sauce for members of Congress.

It's a plan of action that certainly doesn't demonstrate that Clinton is sorry for his actions. For both Clinton's and the nation's sake, I hope he was sincere when he asked for forgiveness. The ability of our Creator to accept all who have faith, to promise that we are saved from sin through repentance and grace, is the greatest gift ever bestowed upon man.

Forgiveness and repentance will set Clinton straight spiritually, but it doesn't get him off the hook in a nation and world where one is expected to obey not only God's laws, but man's laws. According to reports from Washington Tuesday, a vote to open a formal impeachment inquiry in the House is appearing increasingly likely now that lawmakers have had time to digest Starr's report.

House Judiciary Committee Henry Hyde said Tuesday that as part of any impeachment inquiry, the committee might probe other allegations Starr has been investigating, including Whitewater and the improper acquisition by the White House of FBI files on hundreds of Republicans.

That's why it's time for Clinton to begin reviewing recent American history, and begin putting into action a plan for him to step down and pass the presidential torch to Al Gore.

Judging by the charges swirling around Clinton, Gore may even have to pardon him, just as Ford did Nixon.

Clinton has lost the ability to lead. He must leave.

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