We Shall Overcome

On the occasion of Martin Luther King’s birthday (or rather, the Monday that’s closest to Martin Luther King’s birthday), Chatterbox invites his readers to consider Dr. King’s most urgent message to America: Impeach Bill Clinton!

Of course, Chatterbox is kidding. Martin Luther King never even heard of Bill Clinton, and were he alive today it’s hard to say what he would make of his impeachment. It’s a good guess, though, that he would be annoyed by the shameless way Republicans who are out to get Clinton have been slinging the phrase “civil rights.” Paula Jones’ lawsuit against Bill Clinton was indeed a “civil rights” case, but its “civil rights” nature has absolutely nothing to do with the issue now before the Senate, which is mainly whether Clinton committed perjury before a grand jury in an entirely different proceeding. To the extent the impeachment charges relate to Clinton’s possible obstruction in the Jones proceeding, the fact that that it was a “civil rights” case is irrelevant. Besides, the “civil rights” suit has now been settled to the plaintiff’s satisfaction. (If she weren’t satisfied she wouldn’t have accepted Clinton’s $850,000.) Sister Jones’ feet may be tired, but her soul is presumably rested.

Anyway, Chatterbox decided it was time to keep score: How many times did the House impeachment managers invoke the phrase “civil rights” in their presentation to the Senate? Checking in on the House Judiciary Committee’s web page, Chatterbox finds that the phrase “civil rights” has come up 75 times! And that’s just on the Senate floor! Here’s the breakdown:

Rep. Steven Buyer*: 11

Rep. Lindsey Graham**: 8

Rep. Charles Canady: 0

Rep. Henry Hyde: 0

Rep. Bill McCollum: 1

Rep. George Gekas: 0

Rep. Steve Chabot: 0

Rep. Chris Cannon: 3

Rep. Bob Barr***: 4

Rep. James Sensenbrenner: 17

Rep. Ed Bryant: 0

Rep. Asa Hutchinson****: 23

Rep. James Rogan: 8

* Buyer’s shamelessness deserves special mention: “Which of our civil rights laws will fall next? Will we soon decide that the evidence gathering process is unimportant with respect to vindicating the rights of the disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act? Will the evidence gathering process become unimportant with respect to vindicating the voting rights of those discriminated against based on race and national origin?”

** “My father and mother owned a restaurant, a beer joint I guess is what we’d say in South Carolina. I can remember that if you were black you came and you had to buy the beer and you had to go because you couldn’t drink it there. That’s just the way it was, is what my dad said. I always never quite understood that. But my dad and mom were good people. But that’s just the way it was. Well, that’s not the way it is now and we’re better off for that.”

*** Council of Conservative Citizens, take note.

**** Profound respect for civil rights or obsessive-compulsive disorder? You be the judge.

Timothy Noah and David Plotz