The Washington Post, December 17, 1998 (Issue-ad)
It’s the Nation’s Soul, Stupid!

By Ralph Sheffield

CORRUPT Roman rulers tried to prolong their reign with public bribes of panem et circenses (bread and circuses). Sounds familiar? For ‘bread’ read “The Economy, Stupid.” For ‘circuses’ read Lady Liberty’s Dance of Death as adultery, homosexuality, fornication, self-serving marriage, frivolous divorce, abortion, career-worship, farming-out children, depraved entertainment, epidemic lying, gambling and vice encircle her throat. Dazzling debauchcitizens morallybanalized and bought offas the nation’s soul is pandered off and evening news resembles an R-rated flick moving X-ward. This deadly societal shift from principle to prurience was a worst fear of James Madison: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.” A generation of youth despoiled of innocence, tainted before our eyes: If removal doesn’t occur, après lui le deluge—a tide of civil corruption will ensue. Already, a major political party has jettisoned honor rather than dishonorable leadership, propounding an outrageous national lie that everybody lies, and worse, raising immorality from anathema to immaterial to save face. For these evils they may pay with their souls, and (if America is still good) with declining power. Beyond debasing the public (especially those trying to be decent, but who now may say, “if everybody does it why shouldn’t we?) these ploys reveal how morally crass and hedonistic they have become, that there is manifestly no depth to which they will not sink for power. Having shamed away shame, degenerate initiatives arise with no more guilt than moves at chess. Ben Franklin was prescient: “This Constitution could end in despotism if the people become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” Also eerily relevant was Samuel Adams: “He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is...void of all regard of his country...The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” Thus, while not expecting the perfection of Jesus—we must sustain the best and shun the worst, especially those who seek flaws in others to justify their own degredationas flies, oblivious to the myriad fragrances of a garden, flit in frenzy for the merest speck of dung.

Our Founders would glare in anger to see: Defense technology-as-campaign trough skulking treason and bribery are treason andbribery still (for person or party), and worse for slimy intrigue and catastrophic consequences. (If Justice lacks integrity and Congress nerve, get Rooster Cogburn.) Perjury-as-peccadillo lavishly confessing the immoral side (adultery, disgrace, etc.) yet slyly avoiding or ‘hair-splitting’ the unlawful side (perjury, obstruction, etc.), until the country sickens; meanwhile, the unlawful side, by neglect (plus the ugliness of the other side) is made to seem less flagrant, less ‘unclean’ than it is—whereas, it is infinitely damning. This is classic ‘bait-and-switch.’ But it won’t work, since the American people, though patient, aren’t stupid; and the decoy-apology relies on a shallow reading of Article II §4 which actually makes significant criminal and moral turpitude equally impeachable. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” (from English parliamentary practice governing criminal and moral offenses) is not cryptic, but laconic. Terseness was a Judeo-Christian virtue the sturdy colonists prized—the Constitution is celebrated for the magnificent government it institutes in relatively few words. Thus, “high crimes and misdemeanors” literally means “high crimes” and “highmisdemeanors,” as the phrase “high walls and fences are hard to climb” means “high walls and high fences” etc., but to avoid prolix, the reader is required to infer the redundant adjective. And the word, “misdemeanor,” meant ‘misbehavior’ or ‘evil conduct’ (without reference to criminal law) in 18th century English and American usage. Accordingly, the Founders, brilliant and devout, set a lofty standard for the newly created presidency by requiring impeachment for significant transgressions of law or decency. Thus, in today’s terms, high crimes” would include perjury, not parking tickets. And “high misdemeanors” would include lechery, not levity—though both violate good conduct, one is highly immoral, the other but a lapse of manners. Therefore, it is impeachable that our most august office”the one-man distillation of the American people”has been so enormously defiled by conduct termed “reprehensible,” “immoral,” “disgusting,” by leaders of both parties. Endless chicanery repeated distracting tricks. When justice comes knocking, duck-out-as-diplomat; when news is embarrassing, ‘manufacture’ news elsewhere, even playing at war—a billion or two bucks a-whack adds up, in many ways, to the actual losing of a warexhausting revenue and resources at home and reputation abroad. (Anyone capable of this will start a real war-of-diversion if shame gets too close.) Relentless lying to country, courts, family, friends; nothing is sacred, no one sparedyet it is written, “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.” Thimble-rigged evidence mistress-gifts and file boxes disappear and reappear as with a magician’s wand (and statute-of-limitations); government officers bullied from gathering evidence and securing the scene of an investigation. Abuse of office—government employees as lying squads; executive privilege as deus ex machina. Disingenuous apology forensics-forced, predictably insincere, more sanctimonious than sorryas other criminals caught red-handed, vilifying police instead of their own evil choices (until convicted, thence, at sentencing time, a mysterious ‘transformation’ takes placethey become as full of ‘remorse’ as they were of recrimination, as ‘sorrowful’ as they were slanderous). Will we be treated to more lip-biting performances by those practiced in dissimulation, or will the war on truth and the nation’s soul be waged with ongoing vehemenceor both? Witness-suborn-or-smear tremble tamely or be “trailer-trash.” White House-as-motel-as-brothel—Politics-as-desecration: the White House and its rents [rents?? and $50,000 a-room??] belong to the people, not to party coffers. Infidelity-as-sacrilege: contrast this with a former president who felt reluctant to remove his jacket in the oval office out of respect for where he was. Douceurs-for-silence costly Webs of non-cooperation. Race-baiting-as-voter-turnout—If Dr. King were here, such manipulations would be discerned and denounced. Demagoguery-as-democracy—Cajoling citizens to think they think what they want them to think, aided by a willing number in media of unmitigated bias in slanted interviewing, editing, and comments—casting one side as ‘conservative,’ ‘religious right,’ etc., but seldom their antagonists as ‘liberal,’ ‘irreligious left.’ Polls-for-principles Edmund Burke said, “Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Those to whom poll numbers and their political skins mean more than truth or their country or their eternal souls, should take warning from scripture: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” Fund-raising for those judging impeachment—this too must fail because their oath of office requires them to absent themselves in conflict-of-interest. Clinging to office more than honor—To those who would prescribe for the “cancer growing on the presidency” a placebo-salve of censure or aspirin of after-term prosecution, a course in oncology is suggested—for only by chemotherapy of resignation or surgery of removal from office will the American presidency, as we know it, survive. Even Mr. Nixon out-shines in this for refusing to relinquish his soul in distressing the land with covetous grasp on an office he finally realized was not his own, but the country’s.

So, for the first time in history we have what could be called a Constitutional ‘quadruple play,’that is,’out on all four bases’ of impeachment—treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. Does Congress have the sense to convict?—Judge Ito will not preside, nor his jury decide, nor Johnnie misguide; and good guys could rhyme this time, “If you’ve been tricked, you must convict.” Yet both parties are fixated, one with voter-flimflam, the other with voter-phobia. But it’s about the rule of law. The sacredness of an oath. The goodness and futurity of a people. Once, people risked all for God and country, their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor—but votes? and vanity? Can’t risk the big stuff, right? Comparing these ethical bantam-weights to the selfless and intrepid Founders, whose extraordinary travail of worship, work, and war created the United States and its Government—we are compelled to acknowledge “there were giants in the earth in those days,” spiritual, intellectual giants of character, who solved ‘unsolvable’ problems, yet left some for us to solve. The presidency is living progeny of the American Revolution, the personification of law and liberties that are the envy of the world. It is foolish in the extreme to instigate a problem more disastrous than any before: the legitimization of presidential criminality. This will lead inevitably to an ultimate nightmare-presidency, ensuring the rule of tyranny and death of American liberty.

Reprinted from advertisments in:
The Washington Post, December 17, 1998
The Washington Times, December 19, 1998