A Rock and a Hard Place

  In Webster's dictionary, "quandary" is defined as a "perplexing situation or position; [a] dilemma.” If I've ever seen a classic example of "quandary" it is what the nation faces today. Eighty percent of the American people think President Clinton lied under oath. Yet two-thirds don't want him thrown out of office. He's immensely popular because the economy is strong, and people just don't want to rock the boat. At the same time large numbers of people think that justice has to be done—unpopular though that may be. Americans still believe in the rule of law—and thank God they do. So what does a senator do? Most of the senators—just like the people they represent—think the president has broken the law. Millions believe that if the Senate refuses to convict it will amount to jury nullification—that they will be ignoring the clear guilt of the president. Yet, they know the people don't want him removed from office. Well there may be a way out of the quandary, one that was first proposed by South Carolina Congressman Lindsey Graham, and is now being floated by some Republican senators. It was discussed Monday night on “Larry King Live,” where journalist Bob Schieffer of CBS summed it up. The Senate, he said, could have two votes—one that would decide if the president were guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, and a second vote on whether or not to remove him from office. This view is being actively promoted by a Chicago law professor named Joseph Isenbergh. Isenbergh has done a scholarly analysis showing that several times in our nation's history we have had two votes on impeachment—one deciding guilt or innocence, the second on whether to remove the person from office. It appears to be an ambiguous question, open to debate constitutionally. But at least there is an argument for considering this option—and it's a good one, in my opinion. In fact it could be a Solomonic solution. Both Democratic and Republican senators can vote their consciences. And many Democrats, remember, want to vote for censure. This is how they could do it. The public will be satisfied that there has been a fair up and down vote on guilt or innocence. Clearly, the president would not be removed from office on the second vote, but there would be a sense that justice has been done. The rule of law, a Christian contribution to our form of government, would otherwise be wrenched, as it would be if a verdict were rendered that allowed someone most believed to be guilty to get away scot-free. And this is a solution that will get the trial over with in a matter of days, something most Americans surely want. It could be the healthiest thing for the country. How could the president or anyone else really object? If you agree with me then this is something you may want to urge your senator to support. The proposal is for two votes, quick and judicious. It would preserve what we cherish most—the idea a that ours is a government of laws, not of men, and that no one is above the law. And then, after the votes are cast, I would suggest that Americans get rid of any sense of recrimination—that we stop finger pointing and start healing the wounds. We need to pray for the president, for the Congress, and for the country. There is a time to sow and time to reap. There's a time to do justice—and a time to put acrimony behind us.


Chuck Colson



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