These are tumultuous times. The President of the United
States, the most powerful individual in the world, stands
accused by the U.S. House of Representatives of acts which it
believes render him unfit to serve as President.
William Jefferson Clinton stands accused of lying to a grand
jury while under oath, and of obstructing justice. There are
many issues and some are complex. The underlying matter was a
civil one and not related to Clinton's responsibilities as
leader of the United States, but Clinton's recorded testimony
is believed by many to have been false based on the facts of
the matter as they were later revealed. Even most of the U.S.
President's defenders admit that he committed a crime. They
just argue that the offenses that have been proved are not
"impeachable offenses," meaning that they are not of the type
to obligate the removal of a popular President, twice
elected, who is generally acknowledged to be doing a good job
in his office. Since the whole affair did not touch on
anything related to his responsibilities as leader of the
United States, his defenders argue that Clinton should not be
forcefully removed from office.
The vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach
President Clinton was pretty much along party lines:
Democrats, from the same party as Clinton, voted against
impeaching the President, and Republicans, the rival U.S.
political party which holds a majority in the House, voted to
impeach him. Still, even most Democrats conceded that the
Republicans in voting against Clinton were strongly motivated
by ideological convictions rather than by simple political
partisanship. It was also obvious that it was not simply a
vendetta against the President since only two of four
proposed articles were eventually approved.
The next step is to try the U.S. President in the other
chamber of Congress, the Senate. Though a simple majority in
the House is sufficient to impeach a President and to force a
trial in the Senate, a conviction in the latter chamber
requires a two-thirds majority. Though the Republicans are
also a majority in the Senate, their 55 votes are far short
of two-thirds of all members. Most observers think it is
unlikely that a two-thirds majority will vote to remove
President Clinton from office.
All parties seem to agree that speed is important to the
process, so as not to prolong the uncertainty and agony of
concern about the outcome for the players in Washington, as
well as the American people and really the whole world. Every
effort is made to ensure that things will end as soon as
There is much that can be said from a Torah viewpoint about
every step of the process and about the various people
involved. The wisdom of the Torah and its millennia of
historical experience can shed much light on aspects of the
entire process, and on the motivations and deeds of many of
those most deeply involved.
Yet it is equally clear that the Torah is telling us as Torah
Jews that our main responsibility at this point is to keep
quiet and to stay out of the fray.
Our main concerns are religious and ethical, and the dominant
issues in this affair are clearly political, however based on
matters of conscience in the background. Moreover, no one has
asked for our opinion.
Sensitive to our situation in the continuing golus, we
have always avoided taking sides in political battles,
wherever we could. The advantage of coming out in advance in
support of the prevailing side is more than offset by the
potential dangers -- which are real and serious -- of betting
on the losing side.
We can, however, say with deep conviction: "May the best side