ON JANUARY 8, 1999, the United States Senate, in all its dignity, solemnly swore . . . And talk about great TV! Especially when Trent Lott got tongue-bungled and said that the chief justice "will now administer the oaf." Anyway, the United States Senate, in all its dignity . . . If we don't count Sen. Barbara Boxer who was wearing a brown pants suit perfect for Breakfast Bingo at Wal-Mart. And what's with Rehnquist's robe? Adidas stripes on the sleeves, big old zipper down the front -- it looks like a novelty beach wrap for vacationing gospel choirs. Nevertheless, on January 8, the United States Senate . . . got free souvenir "Oath Book" ball-point pens with "United States" misprinted as "United States." Mmmmm. Senators Bunning and Mikulski tried to return theirs. They are good-government types, unwilling to receive the smallest perquisite at public expense. Either that or they can spell. However, as I was saying, on January 8, the United States Senate solemnly swore to render an impartial verdict in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, and now I fear they actually might do it.
Senators, don't! Please fall into vicious partisan bickering instead. Mix drain cleaner into the coatroom jar of toupee glue if that's what it takes to bring tempers to a boil. Make the bar at the Palm restaurant a state and elect James Carville to your chamber. Hide Sen. Thurmond's Viagra. Force Sen. Kennedy to skip lunch. Give Sen. Byrd's history of the Senate to Michiko Kakutani for a snide review in the New York Times. Call witnesses, call an endless list of witnesses. Call Mick Jagger, he's slept with everybody. Call Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She knows Bill's type. Call me. In 1992, in Little Rock, Arkansas, I saw Gov. Clinton consume a jumbo order of fries in less than a minute, and I will testify under oath to his voracious appetites. But please don't stop the fun.
The Clinton impeachment is a thing of manifold splendor, and what's most bright and shining is that it has no downside.
If 67 senators say so, we are rid of a half-cracked slab of sophomoricism, a moral midden heap, ethical slop jar and backed-up policy toilet, a blabby, overreaching nooky-mooch and masher. The dirty, selfish pest will be removed from office.
If the president is only censured, we are spared a busy, silly lickspittle puffed with all the bad ideas available at Harvard. That self-serious poop Al Gore will not be chief executive.
If the Republicans are spanked in the voting booth for prosecuting Bill, they'll be getting the hair-brush for the wrong offense. But they deserve a wallop on general principles -- or, rather, lack thereof. What a feckless, timid, time-serving revolution that was in 1994, as if the sans-culottes had stormed the Bastille just to get themselves jobs as prison guards.
If the Democrats are scorned for pitiful cynicism in rallying to a man who treats their principles of liberalism like he treats his bonds of matrimony, even better. Those who go toad-eating at the table of Gallup deserve heartburn.
And if it's the American people who are ultimately punished -- well, have you checked the American people lately? Listened to popular music? Watched prime time TV? Been to the mall? Seen the hoi-polloi supersizing it at drive-thru windows in their carport-safari SUVs? Observed the masses waddling into airports, business offices, and churches dressed in drooping sweats or fuchsia warm-up suits or mainsail-sized Bermuda shorts, each with a mobile phone in one ear and a Walkman in the other and sucking Diet Pepsi through a straw? They could use a time-out.
Why should we rush to discover what the conclusion of impeachment will be when every possible outcome is so grand? Let's have another year of great expectations. Maybe two.
Alas, there are those who think differently. They decry the expense of the special prosecutor's investigations. But when has the federal government spent millions in such an entertaining fashion? Certainly not by funding PBS. True, there was the shuttle launch when NASA shot an aging politician into space. But then NASA decided to bring him back.
Some critics of impeachment claim that the office of president will be diminished to a mere custodial role. Yes! George W. Bush report to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and sign for your mop and broom.
Other naysayers argue that America's most talented politicians will be scared away from careers in public service. But the private sector will no doubt be able to put America's most talented politicians to use -- making unsolicited dinnertime telemarketing calls.
It's said that the press has been discredited. This is a blind item planted by Jerry Springer because Ted Koppel has been swiping the more depraved guests.
It's said that the impeachment is spreading hypocrisy through the nation. Would this were so. Hypocrisy depends upon a clear-cut knowledge of the distinction between right and wrong. Recent poll numbers indicate that the public has no such knowledge.
It's said that we're entering an era of sexual McCarthyism. I can hardly wait for the congressional hearings. "Sharon Stone, are you now, or have you ever been, showing your boobs for purposes without redeeming social importance?"
And some earnest souls have gone so far as to aver that impeachment has distracted President Clinton from . . . from raising taxes, destroying health care, appointing 1960s bakeheads to high political office, soliciting felonious campaign contributions, hanging friends out to dry for Arkansas real estate frauds, giving missile secrets to the Chinese, taking credit for the benefits of a free market about which he knows little and cares less, using U.S. military forces as fig leaves for domestic scandals and au pairs for the U.N., leading foreign policy back into the flea circus of Jimmy Carterism, having phone sex, groping patronage seekers, and snapping the elastic on the underpants of psychologically disturbed school-age White House interns entrusted with the task of delivering high-level government pizza.
Plus there are the other benefits we've derived from this imbroglio. Feminism has been revitalized as Mack Daddy Clinton forced the tired jades of Ms. magazine to get back out on the media street corner in fishnet stockings and tube tops. The true agenda of the Movement Left has been revealed, albeit thirty years late: They want to get entree to the nation's highest political office -- and play with themselves in it. The New Democrats have discovered their core constituency: Larry Flynt. Wild GOP sex lives have been revealed. The very thought of naked Republicans should go a long way to curing America's obsession with the lewd.
Practically everyone involved in the impeachment has come up a winner. Paula Jones got a nose job. Monica Lewinsky got a Vanity Fair makeover. Gennifer Flowers got an I-told-you-so big enough to fill the Mall. And a number of sycophants and dupes on the White House staff won a chance to prove their fealty with legal bills at least that large. Susan McDougal had her jailhouse lipstick privileges restored. Lucianne Goldberg obtained copious PR, and her skills as a literary agent have already attracted many important authors who saw Vince Foster beamed up by a UFO. Vernon Jordan also secured free advertising, and everything that slithers on its belly in Washington is on the way to his law office. Linda Tripp got a reason to stick to that diet. Newt Gingrich gets to spend more time with his family. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden received the air strikes from infidels that they needed to make their own pollsters happy. Ken Starr's lecture fees have soared on the skinny sideburn and big belt buckle gun nut and conspiracy buff circuit. And the Washington press corps has been given a permanent form of amusement called torturing Sidney Blumenthal. Sid will be returning to the journalism camp soon, and doubtless he'll get lots of laughs from the hot-foots, short-sheets, frogs in the oatmeal, and "kick me" signs pinned to the seat of his Jos. A. Bank casual khakis. Furthermore, think of the blessing to millions of future U.S. high school students trapped in the dreary confines of American history class. Finally, a chapter that boogies.
But what if Bill Clinton is a winner, too? What if he skates? What if this sleaze Houdini once again manages to fall into excrement and come up smelling like . . . smelling like the Rose Law Firm, probably . . . but unscathed and reckless as ever? What if he isn't even censured but, at the end of the Senate trial, is declared innocent by acclamation, receives standing ovations in both houses of Congress, is awarded a Freedom Medal, serves out his term with 100 percent job approval, and then goes on to a position of even greater prestige and power such as guest-hosting Larry King Live? Who cares? As Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus lamented:
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed In one self place; for where we are is hell, And where hell is there we must ever be.
Or, to put it in terms that a man from Hope will understand: No matter what, Bill, your girlfriend's ugly, your wife hates you, and your dog can't hunt.
P. J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.