Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director







Opinion & Comment
What Do We Say About Impeachment?

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 possible.

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 win!"

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