Impeachment of the President of the USA

In the hallways of the Smithsonian, two moralists are debating the impeachment of the President of the United States of America, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton. One is clearly Anti-Clinton (AC) the other, a Democrat (DC), is not so much for him as he is for the rational and pragmatic application of moral principles.

AC (expectedly): "The President should be impeached".

DC (no less expectedly) ; "But, surely, even you are not trying to imply that he has committed high crimes and misdemeanours, as the Constitution demands as grounds for the impeachment of a sitting President !"

AC : "But I do. Perjury is such a high crime because it undermines the very fabric of trust between fellow citizens and between the citizen and the system of justice, the courts."

DC : "A person is innocent until proven guilty. No sound proof of perjurious conduct on behalf of the President has been provided as yet. Perjurious statements have to be deliberate and material. Even if the President deliberately lied under oath - his lies were not material to a case, which was later dismissed on the grounds of a lack of legal merit. Legal hairsplitting and jousting are an integral part of the defence in most court cases, civil and criminal. It is a legitimate - and legal - component of any legal battle, especially one involving interpretations, ambiguous terminology and the substantiation of intentions. The President should not be denied the procedural and substantive rights available to all the other citizens of his country. Nor should he be subjected to a pre-judgment of his presumed guilt."

AC : "This, precisely, is why an impeachment trial by the Senate is called for. It is only there that the President can credibly and rigorously establish his innocence. All I am saying is that IF the President is found by the Senate to have committed perjury - he should be impeached. Wherever legal hairsplitting and jousting is permissible as a legal tactic - it should and will be made available to the President. As to the pre-judgment by the Press - I agree with you, there is no place for it but, then, in this the President has been treated no differently than others. The pertinent fact is that perjury is a high misdemeanour, in the least, that is, an impeachable offence."

DC : "It was clearly not the intention of the Fathers of our Constitution to include perjury in the list of impeachable offences. Treason is more like it. Moreover, to say that the President will receive a fair trial from the hands of his peers in the Senate - is to lie. The Senate and its committees is a political body, heavily tilted, currently, against the President. No justice can be had where politics rears its ugly head. Bias and prejudice will rule this mock trial."

AC : "Man is a political animal, said the Greek philosophers of antiquity. Where can you find an assembly of people free of politics ? What is this discourse that we are having if not a political one ? Is not the Supreme Court of the land a politically appointed entity ? The Senate is no better and no worse, it is but a mirror, a reflection of the combined will of the people. Moreover, in pursuing the procedures of impeachment - the Senate will have proved its non-political mettle in this case. The nation, in all opinion polls, wants this matter dropped. If it is not - it is a proof of foresight and civil courage, of leadership and refusal to succumb to passing fads."

DC : "And what about my first argument - that perjury, even once proven, was not considered by the authors of the Constitution to have been an impeachable offence ?"

AC : "The rules of the land - even the Constitution - are nothing but an agreement between those who subscribe to it and for as long as they do. It is a social contract, a pact. Men - even the authors of the Constitution - being mortal, relegated the right to amend it and to interpret it to future generations. The Constitution is a vessel, each generation fills it as it sees fit. It is up to us to say what current meaning this document harbours. We are not to