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1 February 1999

Smile-a-while: Math problem

Synopsis: A pair of scribes at USA Today were struggling with a new bit of math.

GOP proposal to end impeachment trial stumbles
Wendy Koch and Tom Squitieri, USA Today, 2/1/99

Commentary by Brit Hume
Fox News Sunday, Fox, 1/31/99


We’ve noticed a good deal of press corps resistance to the logic of last week’s dismissal vote, in which 44 Democrats gave the word that there will be no conviction and removal. Even if House managers prove the facts they allege, the Dems said, they won’t vote to convict President Clinton.

A number of pundits have wrestled with dismissal, pretending not to understand basic concepts. On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume railed at the dishonor displayed by those Dems:

HUME: After this pledge to be impartial jurors, without a single witness being heard you had all the Democrats except one voting to dismiss the case! This is not the work of an impartial jury. [Hume’s emphasis]

Hume pretended not to get it. Obviously, you don’t need any witnesses to vote to dismiss, if the alleged conduct doesn’t rise to the level of a constitutional “high crime or misdemeanor.”

On Friday, in the Washington Times, three opinion writers, all on page A19, feigned various states of confusion. Pretending not to understand that the constitution prescribes removal for high crimes alone, they railed at the thought that the Senate would leave mere criminal prosecution to others. Go ahead. Read ’em and weep:

CAL THOMAS: As has been pointed out by the House impeachment managers and many others, there are people now doing time in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice, the very things for which the president has been impeached.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: If Mr. Clinton remains in office, the precedent will be established that the president is above the law in some circumstances.

The pundits pretended they just didn’t know that some crimes are just not impeachable.

Needless to say, Sam Donaldson had his weekly bout of incomprehension concerning impeachment this Sunday. Again he said that jailed perjurers would surely feel abused if the president were not removed. But jailed perjurers, of course, were convicted of crimes, not convicted of high crimes as president. But this will remain a weekly performance until the impeachment is done.

But no one else has had the problem we met in USA Today:

KOCH AND SQUITIERI: The 44 votes cast for dismissal of the case Jan. 26 (all by Democrats) suggested the articles of impeachment were far from reaching the 67 votes needed to convict Clinton.

We struggled with the scribes’ considered view that they’d discerned a “suggestion” in the voting. Only 56 senators now believe the managers have alleged a removable offense. We’d have to say the vote did more than “suggest” Clinton won’t be convicted.

Maybe the story has just been too good, and scribes are locked in major denial. But then, the Senate itself can’t seem to face facts. The trial continues, though the verdict’s been rendered.

Visit our incomparable archives: Two weeks ago, we reviewed Sam’s confusion. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/18/99.