I spent the night before my American Government final watching the impeachment of Donald Trump from the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library (H-L) basement, an impeachment that I had anticipated since the transcript of his phone call with Ukrainian President Zalensky had been released a few months earlier. I was eager for Trump to be impeached, as I strongly believed—and still do—that someone who would corrupt the democratic process should be brought to justice, no matter how powerful they may be.
In addition to the phone call with Zalensky, I was also disgusted at Trump’s attempt to thwart the judicial process by directing his administration to not comply with the impeachment inquiry. His willful efforts to impede a process granted to Congress by our Constitution served as yet another example of him transforming the presidency into a position that benefits him rather than the people he was elected to represent. Even without the phone call, his subterfuge was an offence worthy of impeachment and removal from office.
It wasn’t until Trump’s impeachment that I started to look into Clinton’s. Being born in 2000, my knowledge of Bill Clinton’s impeachment was lackluster. I knew that he was impeached but not removed from office, and I knew that he did, in fact, have relations with “that woman,” but that was about it. I actually thought he had been impeached for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Being a staunch Democrat, I was surprised to find that I agreed with the charges brought against Clinton. Even more surprising were the similarities between his impeachment and Trump’s.
While Clinton wasn’t accused of conspiring with a foreign government to interfere with our elections, he was guilty of attempting to cover up evidence pertaining to an investigation that would have incriminated him in crimes committed before becoming Commander in Chief. While President, Clinton was sued by Paula Jones for sexual harassment that occurred while he was the Governor of Arkansas. Jones alleged that Clinton had an Arkansas state trooper invite her to a hotel room where Clinton made inappropriate advances on her. It was during a grand jury investigation of these and related charges that prosecutors discovered Bill Clinton had personally engaged in perjury and instructed his counsel and witnesses to do the same. The express purpose of his perjury was to cover up his wrongdoings and subvert the judicial process, using his power as President to influence testimony to provide a more favorable outcome for himself. Unluckily for him, investigators caught the disparities in the narrative, leading to the impeachment inquiry.
After reading the House’s evidence against him, I see no other option than to say Bill Clinton should have been removed from office. Clinton’s willingness to lie under oath showed that he didn’t respect the office. Further, this evidence demonstrated that Clinton sought to tip the scales in his favor—behavior that cannot be condoned in our public servants. The President needs to be someone we can trust to protect our interests, not their own. It hurts to say as a Democrat, but I can’t defend a man who deliberately impeded the system that is supposed to apply to everyone equally. There’s a reason Lady Justice is blindfolded. If laws were applied selectively, it would not be truly just. As we can see with the continued abuse and murder of civilians at the hands of the police, accountability of those vested with power is crucial.
Clinton attempted to use his power as President to circumvent punishment, just as Donald Trump did in response to the recent impeachment inquiry. I remember the fervor my friends and I had surrounding the impeachment. We, as liberals, were excited to see Trump brought to justice. We were excited to see a criminal held accountable for his actions. Now I encourage other liberals to come together and recognize that a President from our own party was similarly guilty of wrongdoing. If we can’t criticize Clinton for doing exactly what we condemned Trump for doing, then our condemnations mean nothing. Cheering for one side while ignoring the injustices committed in one’s own camp is downright hypocritical. To do so would reveal that we were excited for an ideological rival to be impeached, not that we actually care about the crime he committed and the sanctity of the office that he violated. By considering impeachments against presidents from different parties in our recent history, we are given a unique opportunity to reflect on our own political biases and strive to take action against them.
Gabe Batista is a member of the class of 2023.