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Impeachment Generates Anger, Apathy

December 12, 1998

America greeted the news that its president was one step closer to impeachment Saturday with complaints about partisan politics, cheers for a congressional job well done, and wishes that the whole thing would disappear.

``They’ve already made up their minds that they want to impeach him,″ griped Kenneth Scott, an Oklahoma farmer, after three articles of impeachment were approved against President Clinton. The House Judiciary Committee considered a fourth article on Saturday.

``The people spoke at election time and (the Congress) didn’t listen,″ continued Scott, who complained that the process has degenerated into a totally partisan issue. The vote on the first three articles split almost completely along party lines.

Willie Williams of Phenix City, Ala., who was vacationing in California, echoed Scott’s feelings.

``It’s a political thing, that’s what this is all about,″ Williams said. ``It’s not about Clinton, it’s about Republicans vs. Democrats.″

But others saw the committee vote as inevitable, with Clinton’s improper behavior finally catching up with him.

``At the Christmas party we went to last night, everyone was saying the Teflon president is not going to be able to let this one slip off,″ said Rhea Adams, a 37-year-old Georgia constituent of Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Iowa teacher Michael Feiss, walking along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, said there was a pattern in Clinton’s life ``of cutting corners. It’s a kind of arrogance that he has.″

In Delaware, gun shop worker Ronnie Walker hailed the Friday vote accusing Clinton of perjury before a grand jury, perjury in the Paula Jones civil lawsuit and obstruction of justice.

``He committed perjury,″ Walker said bluntly. ``Last I heard, that’s a felony. Just because he’s president doesn’t mean he’s above the law.″

Linda Busick, a retired Baltimore County police officer, agreed. ``It’s a matter of his integrity,″ she said. ``If he had any integrity at all, he would resign.″

Denice Williams, 37, of Phoenix, a Salvation Army volunteer, said the president was living on borrowed time.

``He should have already been impeached,″ she said. ``As a leader, he shouldn’t have done what he did. Whatever happens to him, he deserves it.″

John Henley, in Clinton’s hometown of Hope, Ark., took a more benevolent view of the president.

``It doesn’t matter whether he’s been good or bad,″ said Henley, while working at the Hope Western Auto store. ``He’s been good for Hope.″

The impeachment proceedings did little to sway the opinions of Clinton’s supporters and detractors.

Clinton backer Sharon Billman, taking a cigarette break from a day of shopping at a Milwaukee mall, said the process had gone too far.

``I am a Democrat, so my view may be a little biased,″ Billman said. ``But, when I look at the situation objectively, what happened has not jeopardized the country.″

Unlike the 1974 Nixon impeachment, which riveted the nation’s attention, the effort to remove Clinton from office was greeted with yawns from some Americans.

``I am bored with it and want them to get it over with,″ said Libby Scrivner, a county employee in Mobile, Ala.

Darlene McElwee, 34, of St. Louis, echoed those sentiments.

``I’ve tuned it out because I’m tired of it,″ said McElwee, who lives in Democratic Rep. Dick Gephardt’s district. ``I don’t think they’ll impeach him. That’s not what the people want.″

Pro-Clinton or anti-Clinton, most everybody agreed on one thing: the president had lied. The only question was whether impeachment was too harsh a penalty.

``Once a liar, always a liar,″ said retiree Leon Eisenman of President, Pa. ``He has lost my trust. I cannot trust that man to negotiate a treaty for us now.″