Seinfeldian Justice

Thanks to the House Judiciary Committee, Bill Clinton now stands accused of an entirely new crime: misprision of a felony. When David Schippers–Henry Hyde’s Sancho Panza as he tilts with impeachment–delivered Monday’s bill of indictment, the Chicago attorney charged that the president knowingly stood mute as Monica Lewinsky filed a false affidavit in the Paula Jones case. As Chatterbox savored that mellifluous word “misprision” like he would a good cigar, he kept thinking that the concept sounded so familiar.

Who else was recently charged with standing by passively as a major crime was committed? Chatterbox admits that he has a memory as faulty as any Whitewater witness, but he knew that the answer was rattling around in there somewhere. If only Chatterbox had just said no to drugs during the ‘60s.

Finally, he got it. The remorseless “Seinfeld Gang” (remember them?) were sentenced to a year in jail for a similar offense in the overhyped final episode of the sitcom. (Okay, to be technical, they violated the Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law by gleefully filming a robbery with their camcorder. But as far as Chatterbox is concerned, the concept is close enough for government work).

Maybe the Seinfeld formula could replace congressional censure as the less draconian alternative to impeachment. The Senate would convene just as it would for an impeachment trial with Clinton sitting in the dock. But instead of more Monica Mania, the Republicans would bring on a roster of character witnesses from Clinton’s past. We would, of course, hear from the Three Furies–Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Kathleen Willey. But their tawdry sexual evidence would augmented by other witnesses like the surviving members of the president’s draft board; Arkansas arch-enemy Cliff Jackson; the attorney for the Rickey Ray Rector, the brain-damaged killer whom Clinton allowed to be executed in 1992; Billy Dale and his cohorts from the White House travel office; along with assorted other Clinton victims like Lani Guinier and Joycelyn Elders.

Nah, on second thought, it wouldn’t work. This black comedy version of This Is Your Life, Bill Clinton would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishments.” Especially, if the president ended up locked in the same cell with Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer.

Walter Shapiro