December 15, 1998 was certainly a bad day for President Clinton. On this day in 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary released a highly critical 265-page report recommending the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Angry House Republican leaders responded by passing Resolution No. 611 on the same day. The resolution began the impeachment process for high crimes and misdemeanors, including perjury and obstruction of justice. The House report accused the President of concealing evidence, giving misleading testimony and influencing witnesses. The majority of the House of Representatives felt that Clinton had “undermined the integrity of his office.” Democrats were also incensed by the President’s behavior but would have preferred to censure Mr. Clinton.
The eventual impeachment and trial in the Senate was the culmination of years of accusations of improper behavior and criminal activity against the President, First Lady Hillary Clinton and several close friends and associates of the Clintons.
Among the accusations against the First Family were arranging improper real-estate deals, fundraising violations and cronyism in the firing of White House travel agents. Clinton was also accused of extra-marital affairs and sexual harassment. One sexual harassment case involving Paula Jones was deemed serious enough to require the appointment of an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr. The investigation led to Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern who later admitted having an affair with the President, including one lewd romp in the Oval Office.
Clinton did little to help himself in the case, invoking Executive Privilege and boldly refusing to answer a House Subpoena in August of 1998. Eventually a full impeachment trial was held in the United States Senate and Clinton was acquitted on February 18, 1999. Impeachment requires a two-thirds majority for a conviction, but only 50 senators voted guilty on the obstruction charge and 45 on the perjury charge. The Democratic party leaders managed to keep their party members in line, with every single one of the 45 Democratic Senators voting for acquittal.
While the situation is entirely different, we are hearing calls for the impeachment of President Obama from Conservative leaders and several outspoken Republican Congressmen. However, unlike Clinton who was accused of immoral behavior and Perjury, the complaints against Obama involve his use of Executive Orders and his policies. While Clinton behaved in a manner that disgraced his office, detractors of the current President have accused Mr. Obama of betraying his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States.
Unlike Clinton, who actually faced a trial in the Senate, there is absolutely no real possibility that President Obama will ever be impeached. When Presidents pass laws that are unpopular, they are removed at the ballot box and the American people seem to be quite happy to have Obama as their President. Clinton, for his part, emerged largely unscathed and has become the elder spokesman and leader of his party.