How do millenarians explain themselves when the millennium skips by and the imperfect secular world fails to implode? This seemingly frivolous question is suddenly topical in Washington DC, not because Y2K is fast approaching, but because America's first sexually titillating Constitutional crisis has ended with an embarrassing whimper. A Republican Congress has just been publicly humiliated for trying unsuccessfully to oust a Democratic President in the middle of his second term. As it turned out, the serious charges were not provable and the provable charges were not serious. In the course of pressing their flimsy legal case, however, Clinton's Republican tormentors predicted extravagantly that, if the President were not sent packing at once, 'the beacon of liberty' would be 'snuffed out'. Without immediate impeachment and removal, one of their foremost legal minds also pronounced, 'this country's entire judicial process will inevitably collapse.' So what would yesterday's doomsayers have us expect today? Must we now kiss goodbye to the deterrent value of perjury law? Should we really pack our bags, fold our tents and prepare for American liberty to expire and the American legal system to crumble into dust?
LRB 18 March 1999 | PDF Download