What a difference a decade makes. In the fall of 1998, President Bill Clinton faced impeachment for obstruction of justice and perjury in giving false and misleading testimony under oath regarding his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Congressional impeachment proceedings, while focused on the issue of testimony under oath, were against the backdrop of wide-ranging controversies regarding the Clintons’ (that’s Bill and Hillary) use of the Lincoln bedroom, the While House travel office, and other perquisites of executive power to reward campaign contributors.
While acknowledging Clinton’s guilt of a criminal offense, the NY Times Editors argued against impeachment, in favor of an impeachment “plea bargain” that would permit Clinton to remain in office:
This page advocates a negotiated settlement that would allow Mr. Clinton to remain in office in exchange for a censure based on his admission of lying under oath….The public is ready for a deal built around a cluster of principles that include electoral continuity, condemnation of Mr. Clinton’s personal behavior and recognition of his responsibility for breaking the law and misleading the American people.
Fast forward to 2008. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has not been convicted of, or admitted to, any crimes. The impeachment proceeding, at the request of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, will not touch upon any of the alleged criminal conduct which is the subject of federal investigation.
Nonetheless, the NY Times Editors have called for Blagojevich to resign, or alternatively, to be thrown quickly from office through the impeachment process because Blagojevich used his office to garner political campaign contributions:
If Mr. Blagojevich were less narcissistic, he would leave public service forthwith so constituents might get beyond the embarrassment of his administration….The impeachment inquiry by the Legislature has been denied full details of the criminal charges. But constitutional issues of government frozen by scandal are at stake. The hearings so far have managed to summarize the one extraordinary achievement of the Blagojevich administration — the accumulation of $58 million in political contributions across the last eight years. Media accounts have detailed a pervasive pay-for-play culture….There’s no reason the governor’s bombastic court posturing should hogtie Illinois. If impeachment is the only antidote, the Legislature should have the courage to show taxpayers some mercy.
Why the difference in treatment? Why not give Blagojevich the same presumption of innocence given President Clinton? Both Clinton and Blagojevich were accused of using executive power to garner campaign contributions, both were accused but not yet convicted of crimes while in office, and both presided over a government impeded by the scandals surrounding their offices.
Just a guess. In the Clinton case, the NY Times was protecting Clinton, so Clinton could not be thrown overboard. In the Blagojevich case, the NY Times is protecting Obama, so Blagojevich should go quickly and quietly.