Silence Is Golden

Chatterbox is impressed that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is now saying, according to today’s New York Times, that Democrats should keep their big yaps shut when Ken Starr is called before the Judiciary Committee, and not pester the prosecutor about leaks and other improper behavior. Chatterbox believes there’s much that Democrats could expose if they wanted to. But he is also convinced that doing so would give the impeachment process new life, since (let’s face it) Republicans could get mad all over again about the probable perjury and possible obstruction of justice that this investigation is, at heart, all about.

Chatterbox’s complex view is that a.) Clinton should have resigned last summer; b.) he didn’t and won’t; c.) it’s a tossup whether his crimes were impeachable offenses; d.) he’s brought long-term harm on the Democratic Party; but e.) in light of the election returns, which look to Chatterbox like a rejection of the impeachment option, and in view of the fact that the damage to the Democratic Party is already done, and in the general interest of sanity, the Monica Era should be brought to a close. (At least as a matter for serious public debate; gossip columns like Chatterbox should continue to mine the scandal when really good stuff turns up.) Chatterbox suspects Gephardt’s views on this matter are not dissimilar, except maybe on c.). “We don’t have time now to do what we were supposed to do, much less go off on another wild goose chase,” Gephardt told the Times.

Still, the question remains: Are Democratic members of Congress, a notoriously loquacious breed, really capable of saying, “I have no questions for this witness, Mr. Chairman” over and over and over again? Chatterbox, who still hasn’t recovered from the get-me-out-of-here posturing and speechifying in the Senate caucus room on the last night of the Anita Hill hearings, has serious doubts. True, Joe Biden won’t be there this time. That will help. But still. Anyway, Chatterbox stands ready to award a Golden Zipper to the Democratic Judiciary Committee member who manages to utter the fewest number of words when Starr testifies. There won’t be a statuette, or even a cash prize, but the winner will receive praise in this space and the thanks of a grateful nation.

–Timothy Noah