Election 2020

Remember When 115 Newspapers Called on Bill Clinton to Resign?

(AP Photo/APTV)

Amidst the flap over Roy Moore in Alabama, this trip down memory lane:

Jane R. Eisner, the editorial page editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, knew the jagged contours of the debate before it started. Long before the release of Kenneth W. Starr’s report, it was clear that some colleagues believed, passionately, that President Clinton’s deceit made him unfit to remain in office. An equal number felt just as passionately that his resignation now would weaken the nation’s most cherished institutions.

But Ms. Eisner said she was not expecting the feelings of profound exhaustion and ”nausea” she experienced when finally, after two and a half hours of anguished arguments, Chris Satullo, the deputy editorial page editor, went to write the Sunday editorial that began with the words ”Bill Clinton should resign.”

By yesterday, The Inquirer, once a staunch supporter of the President, was one of at least 115 daily newspapers in the country — out of more than 1,500 — to make the same plea to Mr. Clinton.

It didn’t matter, of course. Clinton never had the slightest intention of resigning, and his supporters never wanted him to. Indeed, they reveled in his defiance and laughed at the old-fashioned, moralist editors who wanted him to do the right thing. Further, the nation’s most influential papers stayed out of the fray:

Among the nation’s largest newspapers, USA Today has called for Mr. Clinton’s resignation but The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have not. ”As a general practice, we don’t discuss the details of editorial board deliberations,” said Howell Raines, the editorial page editor of The New York Times. ”But we have a position that we’ve defined in a series of editorials.

And so Clinton survived. As Dick Morris, the architect of Clinton’s survival plan, wrote:

In January 1998, right after The Washington Post revealed President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica, I spoke with him about his predicament. Shell-shocked and stunned at the calls for his impeachment, he knew he was facing the fight of his life. At first, he was vintage Bill Clinton: maudlin, sad and full of self-pity. But as we talked, he gradually changed his tone. Admitting that he was not innocent, but recognizing his diminishing support, he then told me defiantly: “Well, we’ll just have to win.”

Several years later, I was surprised to read in Sidney Blumenthal’s memoirs that then-first lady Hillary Clinton had used the exact same words on the exact same day in a conversation with the White House aide. “We’ll just have to win.”

That’s how the Clintons think — no matter what, they have to win. Winning is everything, and how you do it is not determined by any inner sense of values or ethics, but by a resolve to do whatever needs to be done, no more and certainly no less.

Should Moore adopt the Democrats’ habitual response to any charges of turpitude or malfeasance — “Come and get me, copper!” — he’s likely to survive as well. To this we’ve come.