Obama's core political advisors were circling the wagons:
Even though Mr. Obama had no known personal involvement, the Clinton veterans understood that was only part of the issue. They had Mr. Obama publicly declare he had never spoken with Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich about the Senate appointment. They imposed a cone of silence on colleagues so they would not make a remark that could come back to haunt them. And they ordered an internal inquiry to document any contacts with the governor’s advisers.
Republicans were ready to pounce, rushing out statements linking Mr. Obama to Mr. Blagojevich within an hour or so after the governor’s arrest was reported. They too knew the script and that any opening must be exploited. Politics in this hyperpartisan age, after all, is the ultimate contact sport.
So we have Republicans making baseless attacks. And the media reporting those baseless attacks. What does this mean?
Indeed, except for brief interludes, Washington in the last decade has been governed by a climate of anger and animosity, a modern-day tribalism pitting faction against faction that some trace to the days of the impeachment.
Right. While the current president has routinely flouted the law, treated Congress with contempt, refused to comply with subpoenas all with the support of bloc voting Republicans, we can be sure that both sides are to blame.
Indeed. Our usual NY Times expert on partisan Democrats speaks out:
It definitely poisoned the well on both sides,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, one of the few Republicans to vote against impeachment. “Without getting into the merits of anything, there’s no doubt there were Democrats waiting from the day George Bush took office to even the score for Bill Clinton. And Republicans are the same today with Barack Obama and the Rod Blagojevich scandal.”
Right. We'rre talking about the Democrats who took impeachment off the table, the Democrats who caved on major policy decisions ranging from the botched invasion and occupation of Iraq to providing immunity to telecommunications companies that violated the law and the Constitution with a domestic spying operation..
And now, Obama is apparently contributing to this poisoned environment by having the termerity to suggest that the baseless charages are, well, baseless.
Of course, the baseless impeachment, unpopular and fruitless--conviction was impossible--poisoned the political environment, but didn't do much damage to Clinton.
In some ways, Mr. Clinton emerged better off than his foes. He remains on the world stage and, with Hillary Rodham Clinton about to become secretary of state, is opening a new chapter. Most of those who pursued the charges have retreated from public life.
Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston and Tom DeLay, the House Republican leaders at the time, all eventually resigned under pressure for various reasons. Only 3 of the 13 House Republican “managers” who prosecuted Mr. Clinton in the Senate trial will still be in Congress when Mr. Obama is inaugurated.
Imagine. The two former speakers who, having been sexually involved with a staffer, pursued impeachment because the president was sexually involved with a staffer. And this didn't work out well for them. The other guy, Tom Delay, crowed about his crookedness, and is on his way to hoosegow.
Of course, Republicans acted from high-minded principle when they impeached Clinton, just before picking the staffer shtupping Livingston:
But those managers still believe they did the right thing holding a president to account for breaking the law. “It was a high-stakes battle over historic American values, the rule of law and the Constitution,” former Representative Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said in an interview this year. “I hope that will be the first line of history — it was a battle over values of extreme importance. Having said that, I think the second line will be that partisan differences meant that they were unable to find a bipartisan solution.”
The bipartisan solution, of course would have been to skip the baseless and doomed impeachment effort.
But the impeachment represented the triumph of partisanship on both sides of the aisle, a partisanship that remains today. Democrats made a calculated decision to stick by a president of their party no matter his transgressions and to promote partisan division in the Congressional proceedings so they could discredit the other side. Republicans were so intent on turning out Mr. Clinton that they turned away from opportunities for a bipartisan solution.
(emphasis mine). That Baker can write this speaks volumes about the Clinton rules, or, as the Blago angle keeps being pursued, the Democratic rules. It's not like Baker is unaware of Bush's transgressions.
The result has been a distaste for impeachment but little appetite for consensus. Liberal Democrats agitated to impeach Mr. Bush in connection with the Iraq war, warrantless surveillance and interrogation policies, but party leaders had no interest in going down that road again. “Although there are powerful arguments that President Bush has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, there are questions about whether it is prudent to do so,” said Bruce Ackerman, a Yale Law School professor.
So the dirty fucking hippies believed, as Patrick Fitzgerald said last week, nobody is above the law. The supposedly hyperpartisan atmosphere in Washington made it "imprudent" to impeach the president. Those sternly worded letters from Henry Waxman were pretty much equivalent to the unending, baseless political accusations aimed at Clinton. Sternly worded letters are pretty much the equivalent of accusations of murder and an endless fishing expedition by a special prosecutor.
So now's the time to chime in with the next key Republican talking point--that impeaching Bush for breaking the law would impeachment over "policy differences."
Mr. Bush’s defenders would strenuously disagree. In their minds, the very talk of impeachment over policy differences represents the real cost of the Clinton clash. Mr. Bush, after all, campaigned for office promising to sweep out the toxic atmosphere in Washington, only to find that his disputed election had further polarized the capital and the nation. As he prepares to take leave eight years later, he calls his inability to change the political climate one of his regrets.
Of course, what Bush did when he took office was to do all he could to promote that toxic atmosphere, by making appointments and adopting policies that were more consistent with a landslide than a popular vote defeat. And the effect of the Clinton impeachment was to so politicize the act that even when we had a president who would have been, and should have been, justly impeached, he was allowed to flout the law and behave in the most authoririan of ways. There have now been two impeachments in American history, both for political purposes, which has stripped the nation of its power to remove a corrupt, authoritarian president from office.
It is, in the end, worth noting that when historians do look back, wondering what happened to Congress in this time period, they will spend their time trying to understand why the Republicans chose this president over their country, their constitution, and, for many, their seats. There are many dirty hippies angry at Nancy Pelosi's inaction after a clear message from voters in 2006. But the real culprits were the Republicans, who have become so partisan, so polarized that there is no Howard Baker, no Bill Cohen in the party any longer.
They are going to need wankers like Peter Baker if they are to be anything other than a dwindling regional party of modern Know-Nothings.
Media Matters expands on this.