Letter to the NYTimes
Jude Wanniski
December 21, 1998


Memo To: Letters Editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Censure in the House

For several weeks the Times advanced the idea that instead of impeaching the President, the House should censure him for the lies he told under oath. In retrospect, it should be clear that while this option is available to the Senate, it was never open to the House. Once the House decides the President has committed a crime, it absolutely must refer it to the Senate for adjudication. The Constitution is crystal clear that the House cannot both accuse and adjudicate.

Because the presidential impeachment process is so rare, it is understandable that the Times could be misled on this point, but the error goes a long way in explaining why the vote was along partisan lines. In the belief Republicans were being "unfair" by denying a censure remedy, Democrats rallied in their own partisan fashion. In that sense, it is "unfair" of the Times to accuse Republicans of "partisan vengeance" in the way they managed the process. Republicans had no other choice, especially when the President's lawyers never seriously contested the facts.

On the Times current line of reasoning, the Senate will have no choice but to convict the President and remove him from office. Lying under oath a felony the Times acknowledges the President committed is a crime no President has ever been accused of. Unless a Senate trial can show he did not perjure himself, the Senate will have no choice but to convict. If the Times wishes the President to continue in office, it must rethink its own conviction that Mr. Clinton lied under oath.