Constitutional crisis hits the White House

Tate Williams

The current crisis in our nation's capital is not merely an assault upon our president, but an assault upon the very foundation of our nation. The manner and scope of the power given Kenneth Starr is a threat to the delicate system of checks and balances designed by our founding fathers.

If in order to preserve our democracy we must rid ourselves of a president who transgresses the laws he is sworn to uphold, then so be it. At the same time, however, we must ensure that the manner in which we go about doing so holds up to the same scrutiny.

Mr. Starr has exercised almost unbridled power in conducting himself and his investigation in a manner more reminiscent of McCarthyism or the Spanish Inquisition than Watergate.

Once before, Radical Republicans in Congress sought to oust a president who was not to their liking. His name was Andrew Johnson. Historians say that his narrow victory, after a harrowing trial in the Senate, confirmed the power of the presidency as an equal and independent branch of government to its foils, not simply as a "yes man" to the will of the legislature.

I believe the same issue is before us now. Is a partisan Congress through an "independent counsel" to run roughshod over every future presidency? Surely any future congressional majority can find an excuse to request one.

If the current example is the norm, all that is needed is a potential scandal, i.e. Whitewater, which, although it doesn't directly implicate the president, serves as an adequate disguise to conduct a partisan witch-hunt.

This partisan and authoritarian attitude in Congress is further evidenced by the desire of some Republicans to impeach federal judges with whose decisions they disagree, despite direct argument to the contrary by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78.

The truly difficult question facing America is not about whether Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern and then asked her to lie about it; it is instead about whether we are to have a nation in which one branch of government raises itself above the other two, shattering the triumvirate envisioned by our forefathers.

This is a question irrespective of Clinton's guilt and one that needs to be answered soon after the conclusion of this current crisis.

This nation may have to lose a president in order to preserve the integrity of the office, but it should not sacrifice the Constitution in the process.

Williams is a second-year law student.

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