Keep on Hammering, Mr. DeLay
Jude Wanniski
December 28, 1998


Memo To: House Majority Whip Tom DeLay [R-TX]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The New York Times

I see your advice to United States Senators to have an impeachment trial of President Clinton before they decide to punish him with a censure has drawn the wrath of the Times editorial page. In its Friday editorial, "Mr. DeLay Goes Out of Bounds," the newspaper asserts: "Just as the move to censure President Clinton is gaining momentum in the Senate, the House Republicans' chief hatchet man has arrogantly tried to block its progress. Tom DeLay, the majority whip, is inviting senators who oppose a lengthy trial over removing Mr. Clinton from office to view some mysterious evidence against the President that has not been made public or disclosed to the White House but is available only to House members."

It is the Times, I think, that is out of bounds. The President continues to insist that he did not lie under oath and that he deserves neither expulsion nor the kind of censure some Senators are discussing. The Times, on the other hand, has emphatically declared over and over these past several weeks that Mr. Clinton has in fact lied under oath to a federal grand jury, but that a felonious perjury does not rise to a level of impeachment. Having convicted him in its own editorial verdict, the Times is now savagely denouncing you as an arrogant "hatchet man" for asking the Senate to suspend judgement and look at all available evidence before it renders a verdict and pronounces punishment. You of course are not a "hatchet man" at all, but merely the Hammer who has been consistent in wishing to see justice done. You have done nothing remotely at the level of the President's several hatchet men, who were prepared to destroy the lives of several ladies upon whose frames the President's eyes and hands had fallen. They also seem prepared to use their friends at Salon and Hustler to slash and burn any member of the Senate who does not vote in friendly fashion. The Times has not yet said anything about these hatchet folk, I notice, who really do slander.

Now I agree you are a tough cookie, Tom, and we have had our share of disagreements, even face-to-face. But I don't think anyone has ever accused you of doing anything in the political realm you would be ashamed of if your mother knew about it. As a member of the House, you voted officially to impeach the President on the probable cause that he committed crimes against society that warrant a Senate trial, a possible expulsion. The Times likes its readers to think you whipped the moderates into line against the President, but the members themselves say no such thing happened. They simply came to believe, as did the Times itself believes, that the President perjured himself. Based on the hearings, I agreed with you and would have voted that way if I also were a House member.

If I were as sure as the Times that the President lied under oath, I would of course vote to convict him of actions at least as great as "high crimes and misdemeanors." A man who lies under oath to a federal grand jury while President of the United States does not belong in office and it baffles me how the Times could lower its standards to gutter level by blithely pronouncing it okay for a known felon to occupy the Oval Office by day and the Lincoln bedroom by night. If the President perjured himself, he should be removed from office without pension, and the White House should be scrubbed out with Lysol and fumigated.

I'm as greatly concerned as you that the United States Senate will decide to lower the standard for presidential behavior to permit felonious perjury and can appreciate why you spoke out. I'm not at all impressed with the conduct of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. who has already announced for censure without a trial. As is well known in political circles, Moynihan has many times distanced himself rhetorically from the NYTimes, but when it comes time to vote, he is always back in the newspaper's lap. Thirty years ago, remember, it was Moynihan who predicted that the liberal welfare state would destroy the black family, yet his voting record on behalf of the liberal welfare state was everything the Times asked of him. You do what you have to do if you want to maintain the good wishes of Manhattan's liberal intellectuals. It does not matter that he will not run for re-election again. This is his circle.

Matt Drudge, who remembers things other journalists forget, reminds us that in an interview published on January 27th in the NY Post, Moynihan was asked if Clinton could weather acknowledging an affair with Lewinsky. "I should think not. If it's so, it represents a disorder," he said. Back then he said Clinton couldn't survive the scandal if it turned out that he did have sex with Lewinsky — whether or not he asked her to lie! "We are not talking of Czar Alexander. We have a system of government in which persons move in and out of government... It's not a constitutional crisis. The Constitution provides for this."

Drudge also reminds us that on September 6, 1998 on ABC's "This Week," Moynihan was asked by George Will, "[I]s perjury in a civil case by the chief executive officer of the United States an impeachable offense?" To which Moynihan answered "Yes." And Will asks: "Is perjury, therefore, I assume in a grand jury — before a grand jury, would be an impeachable offense?" And the Senator answers: "Yes.." Now that it comes time to vote, Moynihan tells the NYTimes: "We are an indispensable nation and we have to protect the presidency as an institution...There has to be a commander in chief. You could very readily destabilize the presidency, move to a randomness. That's an institution that has to be stable, not in dispute. Absent that, do not doubt that you could degrade the republic quickly." So much for principle. If I were Moynihan, I would announce that I was too confused to participate in the impeachment process and would watch on television.

As far as President Clinton is concerned, I am reserving judgement on whether he perjured himself— as long as he maintains his innocence and the trial is ahead of us, not behind us. When a jury of his peers exonerated O. J. Simpson, I accepted the verdict because there was still reasonable doubt. If our system asks us to do this in a murder trial, I'm certainly willing to give the President the benefit of any reasonable doubts when the accusations against him by the House involve only serial lies. I'm ever willing to acquit him on technicalities, if there are any. Meanwhile, Hammer, keep on pounding.