As I wend my way through my veritable library of Clinton Scandals Past (column to follow), I have happened across two good reasons to say Good Riddance to longtime Republican Senator from Mississippi Trent Lott, who announced his retirement from the Senate at the end of November.
Good Riddance #1 comes from Sell-Out: The Inside Story of President Clinton's Impeachment by David Schippers, the chief cousel to the 13 House Managers, led by the late Henry Hyde. After the historic vote in the House of Representatives to impeach President Clinton in December of 1998, Mr. Schippers writes of a meeting he attended with the House Managers, a few others, and then-Senate Majority Leader Lott and then-Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania Republican) to discuss the Senate trial to come.
Right away we were pumped up, not yet knowing we were living in a fool's paradise. We figured, okay, here's our chance to tell the Senate Republican leader what we need to conduct the impeachment trial and make all the evidence available, not just to the Senate, but to the American people as a whole....
Lott leaned back in his chair with a power lean that said, "I'm in charge." I'll never forget the first words out of his mouth: "Henry, you're not going to dump this garbage on us."
"Huh?" came the bewildered reply from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, Republican of Illinois.
"You're not going to dump this garbage on us."
...Stupid me, I guess I thought everything was on the legit, too. But no, it was clear right off the bat that things were not all legit. The Republican leadership wanted to sink us.
And, of course, the Senate Republican leadership did exactly that.
Good Riddance #2 comes from Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justic Department by David Limbaugh. In the run-up to the 1996 investigation led by then-Sen. Fred Thompson (Tennessee Republican) into the extensive, dirty, ugly Clinton campaign finance scandals then coming to public attention--and NEVER, EVER fully reckoned with (hint of column to come)--Senate Republicans (led by Trent Lott) capitulated to Democratic demands that the investigation be broadened (neutered) to include the general need for campaign finance reform. This meant that the hearings wouldn't focus on criminal violations by the Clinton White House, which, of course, meant that the hearings wouldn't focus, period. That was bad enough.
But here's where Sen. Lott really shined (not):
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott then acquiesced to another Democratic demand and imposed a December 31,1997, deadline on the investigation. Thompson warned that the deadline would give the White House an incentive to stonewall and to withhold requested documents. Thompson's prediection was born out. His committee's postinvestigation report made this observation: "The imposition of the ... deadline virtually invited witnesses to engage in obstructive tactics, perhaps none more than the DNC and the White House. This obstruction, combined with the sheer complexity of the investigation, made this deadline the single greatest obstacle faced by the Committee's inquiry."
Thanks for everything, Trent!
Remind me not to attend your testimonial dinner.