No Middle Way
11:00 PM, Feb 21, 1999 • By JOHN O'SULLIVAN
What will happen if the people are left to ponder their uneasiness in this way? No one can be sure. They might compensate for Clinton's escape by punishing Gore and the Gephardt Democrats in the next election. Or -- and this would be a much more nineties reaction -- they might punish the Republicans for forcing them to confront their own moral complicity in the Clintonian mess.
We will, however, learn a great deal that is important from the choice that the American voter makes. And if we are living in a society in which sexual infidelity and promiscuity are not only justifiable in themselves but also justify other sins such as lying and character assassination -- a society in which the only real sins are sexual hypocrisy and judgmentalism -- maybe we should be aware of the fact. We will be better able to mount persuasive moral and political arguments if we understand the scale of the problem and the sensibility of the people.
Opposing censure is, however, a high-risk policy for the GOP. And the above considerations suggest that the Republicans should avoid voting for it rather than filibustering to prevent the Democrats from voting for it. As Pat Buchanan has argued, let the GOP make it a party matter by allowing a motion of censure to be proposed by the Democrats but then abstaining from it en masse. That would at least establish which party had a guilty conscience.
John O'Sullivan is editor at large of National Review.