Don't paralyze government

Impeachment trial: Senate should take the time needed, and not delay State of the Union address.

January 05, 1999

PRESIDENT Clinton should deliver the State of the Union address to Congress on time Jan. 19. If members are too embarrassed to invite Mr. Clinton to the Capitol, he can send it on paper as did 19th century presidents. Then there's nothing to stop him from addressing the American public on television.

The worst idea yet came from senators of both parties who said Mr. Clinton should delay his speech, so as not to mingle with them while under impeachment.

Nonsense. President Clinton has been good about carrying out duties while under a cloud. The address is a constitutional mandate for the president to give and for Congress to receive.

So far, government has not been paralyzed. And it should not be now to feed senators' sense of self-importance while they dither on what procedures to adopt.

The Senate can hold a short proceeding, along the lines floated by Majority Leader Trent Lott, to decide whether the House charges against the president, if true, require his removal from office. That would mean House presentation of the case and a White House response. If the Senate decides that the charges are insufficient, it should adjourn the trial. Then it could think about censure.

But if a majority of the Senate concludes that the charges - if true - merit removal, it should hold a lengthy trial, with witnesses and cross-examination, to seek the required two-thirds vote needed for conviction.

The notion that the senators already know the facts is fatuous. A prosecutor's compilation of evidence might be sufficient in ``Alice in Wonderland,'' but not in the United States of America.

Since the House adopted two impeachment articles that appear to go beyond what it can prove, there is no hope the White House will stipulate anything. Each article needs to be proven.

The idea of sparing the American public the sordid details is disingenuous. The people were fed details from one side when it was inappropriate. They need not be denied a fairer presentation by both sides when it isI appropriate.

Quick disposition would chastise the House for trivializing impeachment. But if a lengthy trial is ordained, the business of the nation should go forward at the same time. That begins with the budget and State of the Union message.

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