Last week brought the end to the soap opera that has been the highlight of national politics for more than a year. The Senate acquitted President Clinton on the two articles of impeachment the House of Representatives brought against him.
The second impeachment trial in the nation’s 210-year history came to an anti-climactic end. Officials and citizens knew the final decision for weeks – the only lingering mystery was what the vote tallies would be. Scholars and pundits will discuss the Clinton impeachment saga for years, but one thing is clear – the constitutional process worked the way the founding fathers intended. That is probably the only positive result of the whole mess.
The Clinton scandal provided late-night comics with a host of jokes, untold numbers of talking heads with fodder for their gabfests and citizens with a firsthand view of how the constitutional process works. Names such as Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, Kenneth Starr, Sidney Blumenthal and Betty Currie have become common household words, and are emblazoned on history, for better or worse.
Americans were treated to respected news anchorpersons’ descriptions of the intimate goings-on between Clinton and Lewinsky. The media became obsessed with “all Monica, all the time.” The reputations of people involved in the scandal were tarnished and will remain that way for some time. But the ultimate paradox is Clinton himself. He remains in office with incredible job approval ratings and abysmal personal behavior ratings.
The nation can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief that the national soap opera is over. Americans are ready to move on to more pressing issues. Elected officials and the media should follow suit. Our national trek through the muck of personal indiscretion and poor judgment has come to a long-overdue end. But at least the system worked.