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Monday, February 23, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 99






Trevino on the Cosmic Plan

Schuchart on Greek Myths

Staff Editorial

Editorial Cartoon



About the Cougar
 

It wasn't just about sex, folks

R. Alex Whitlock

A frequent and justified outrage among feminists and victims' rights groups is the tendency of defense teams to put the victim on trial in rape cases. Similarly, in murder cases, they either put the victim or anything besides the defendant on trial.

This defense tactic should look familiar to anyone who followed the impeachment inquiry from flawed beginning to bitter end. Just about everyone was put on trial -- from the accusers (the "victims") to the police (or Ken Starr, in this case) -- except the president and his actions.

President Clinton and company achieved a resounding victory by making the issue anything but the president's actions.

The first issue was Paula Jones. Her case was weak and most Americans never really believed her anyway. However, instead of focusing on the weakness of Jones' case, they chose to label her as "trailer trash."

They attempted to destroy her through labeling, name-calling, and a suspiciously timed IRS tax audit that occurred very shortly after she levied the accusations. Paula Jones was on the defensive here, not Clinton.

The most consistent issue of choice was politically inept Ken Starr. Starr, a former Solicitor General under the Bush administration, had previously been considered a fair and impartial professional by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

The vigor that gained Starr acclaim as he pursued the wrong-doing of Republican Bob Packwood was turned on its head by the Clinton defense team and labeled "out-of-control." Suddenly, Ken Starr and the independent council statute were on trial.

It was more difficult with Monica Lewinsky. They didn't want to alienate her too much, because she held evidence that could be used against the president. In the end, the official line was wishing Lewinsky well. Meanwhile, Sidney Blumenthal began leaking absurd stories to the press that Lewinsky was a dangerous stalker.

Accusation after accusation, scandal after scandal, it was never the president that was on trial. Linda Tripp tried backing her claims of improper behavior by Clinton with audio tape, and she became the target of a relentless barrage of attacks.

Kathleen Willey, a Democratic supporter and volunteer for the president, was portrayed a liar, though no real reason for her to lie was given, since she had no real apparent motive to lie about the president.

Finally, the ultimate and most convenient target was the Republican Party. The Democrats objected throughout the impeachment inquiry, no matter what the Republicans did. When Republicans tried to go fast, Democrats talked about the Republicans "railroading the process." When they slowed down, the Republicans were "stalling due to lack of evidence."

Henry Hyde, who was respected and revered among Democrats and Republicans prior to his roll in the impeachment trial, was suddenly worthy of a good-old-fashioned stoning, as so eloquently put by Clinton supporter Alec Baldwin.

When the impeachment was final, Hyde and the entire Republican house became the issue. The trial was effectively over when they succeeded in labeling the Republicans, and Ken Starr, as the "sex police."

Democrats would scream over and over again of how it was about sex. To back up their claims, they would unearth sexual misconduct on the part of the Republicans, which perpetuated the myth that this was just about sex.

Nonetheless, when it was all said and done, it was about sex, and President Clinton's defense team did everything in its power to keep it that way.
 

Whitlock, a sophomore information systems technology major,
can be reached at rwhitloc@bayou.uh.edu.
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