ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of December 27, 1998
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR CRIME
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Article I, Section 2, US Constitution.
No amount of hair-splitting, weasel-wording or spin-doctoring can obscure the clarity of the above citation from the United States Constitution. In a case of impeachment, the Senate is forbidden from issuing any form of punishment other than removal from office and disqualification to hold other offices. The Senate is explicitly prohibited from substituting another form of punishment, such as censure or fines. They are empowered to convict or acquit the president on each article of impeachment—nothing more and nothing less. This is their constitutional responsibility.
If the Senate acquits Clinton of each article of impeachment, there is nothing in the Constitution that forbids the Senate from then passing a resolution censuring the president. But what would be the logic for doing so? If the Senate, through acquittal, declares the president innocent of the charges, then for what would he be censured? There would be no basis for censure in such a case.
Those calling for censure of Clinton are clearly attempting to circumvent the Constitution, making them complicit in the very lawlessness with which Clinton has been charged.
The cry for censure is nothing more than a plea for special, preferential treatment of the president, for a kind of affirmative action applied to criminal behavior. It is a call for the establishment of a double standard: one set of rules for the president (and, by implication, all state officials) and another set of rules for you, an ordinary citizen. It is a declaration that all men are not equal in the eyes of the law, that, to paraphrase Orwell, some men are more "equal" than others. It means statist rulers, and their henchmen, are to receive preferential treatment in the event of a violation of the law: they either receive no punishment or they receive a lesser punishment, while mere mortals must suffer the full punishment of the law.
If America eventually succumbs to totalitarianism—and that is our current destination—it will come after the precedent has been established that the president and his minions are not bound by the law, that they are exempt from the law, while you must obey it.
Before a totalitarian state can be created, those in charge of the state must be free from the restraint of the laws they enforce. These rulers must be able to subjugate others to their rule by means of laws, regulations and decrees but must be unconstrained by their own dictates, leaving them free to utilize any means to maintain their power. If they are above the law, they can and will act with impunity, fearing nothing except an enemy more ruthless than themselves. They will know that they can get away with anything—and once they get to that point, they will.
Censure will lay the foundation for unequal justice, a contradiction in terms. Once this precedent is established, the rule of law will gradually come unraveled. It will open the floodgates for the disintegration of law and pave the way for the rise of a dictator in the years ahead.
For decades, statist politicians have been promoting the politics of preferential treatment and unequal "justice." For years, they have sought to mandate one set of rules for one group or another and another set for you. Now they wish to have a special set of rules for themselves. They wish to be above the law.
For this entire century, statist politicians have sought to divide and herd individuals into groups, pitting one against the other. Those voices calling for censure are seeking to divide men into that final grouping of most importance to statists: rulers and the ruled. The law will bind the ruled. The rulers will be under no such restraint.
The Senate’s upcoming action regarding the articles of impeachment is going to be a test of American character and culture. America, much more so than Clinton, will be on trial before the court of reality. The outcome will provide, for better or for worse, an indication of America’s future direction. The Senate’s impending actions will produce a verdict that will be carried out by the inexorable logic of the precedent established. If that precedent is censure, the logic of such an action will roll forward into the future to ravage the rule of law with the double standard thus established. And the climax of that disintegration of law will be a totalitarian state.
December 27, 1998
© Copyright 1998 Fulton Huxtable