Senate can rise above obscenities of House

The process that impeached President Clinton in early December demonstrated the intensely partisan nature of a situation which led to deplorable conduct in the House of Representatives. The lack of clarity in the charges against the president, the refusal to allow discussion of censure and the timing of House Speaker Bob Livingston’s resignation all illustrated the disturbing nature of the vote to impeach Clinton.
The charges brought against Clinton were never fully explicated. In a court of law, when a person is indicted for perjury it is necessary that the person who brings the charge identify the exact sentences which were perjurus. Should a president facing impeachment be accorded any less?
Apparently Rep. Henry Hyde and his judicial committee cohorts believed so, as they failed to make any clear indication of when precisely Clinton committed perjury. Since what precisely they are defending against remains unclear, Clinton and his defense team are unable to thoroughly prepare for the Senate trial.
Moreover, the absolute refusal of the Republican majority to consider a vote on censure indicated a desire not to consider fairly the momentous charges against the president, but rather a desire to force an historical blemish on the Clinton presidency. While it is not clear that censure would have passed in the House, there is no reason representatives should not have debated and considered it. Instead, representatives who were on the fence about Clinton were given a Hobson’s choice: They could either vote to impeach on charges that were unclear and seemed excessive, or they could vote not to impeach and feel that they were condoning Clinton’s behavior.
Finally, Livingston’s decision to resign as speaker of the House was one of the most blatantly political stunts in our country’s history. After being elected as a representative, serving multiple terms, running for speaker of the House and then winning the position, Livingston decided his past infidelity was so immoral he needed to resign from the House, his crisis of conscience conveniently coinciding with the impeachment hearings. The fact that the immorality of his affair did not bother him for years and only hit home at the very moment it would do Clinton the most damage is very troubling, demonstrating just how far Republican leaders are willing to go.
Clinton certainly should not be proud of his conduct in the Lewinsky affair, and there is no one who would argue it was entirely proper. However, none of his actions constituted the level necessary to impeach an elected president. Simply, the House has behaved obscenely.
Thankfully, the Senate appears to be approaching the impeachment trial much more reasonably and with a great deal less partisanship. Censure will likely receive a fair chance, and Clinton will likely be offered a genuine opportunity to refute well-stated charges against him.
The ability to impeach and remove a president from office is quite literally one of the most serious powers of the U.S. Congress. Members of the House have demonstrated they do not understand the importance of this responsibility. We must hope senators prove to be their moral and political superiors.