John Kerry has addressed intern issues before — Bill Clinton’s. “I don’t think it’s that huge,” Kerry said about Clinton’s perjury during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. “In fact, on one issue of perjury it’s a question of whether one additional portion of the body was touched over another. I mean, is that huge?”
Kerry inserted himself into the Impeachment proceedings as a kind of mediator between the Clinton White House and Congress, which a Boston Globe story from 1998 found “odd” since Kerry at the time was “neither an acknowledged party leader nor is he regarded as any great ally of the White House, and he has virtually no channels to the House leadership.”
Kerry proposed an arrangement for an “expedited vote on impeachment” in an attempt to save Clinton from one. He cast his defense of Clinton as a high-minded defense of the Constitution. “The bottom line is this is bigger than any of us. This is not about any person’s individual journey. This is about our country’s journey,” he said.
Kerry was adept at changing the subject from Clinton’s conduct to Congress’s: “You are putting our institutions on trial — the House, the Senate, the Congress, and the presidency, and the reputation of all who serve therein.”
Should Kerry face questions about the charges of infidelity previewed on the Drudge Report, he can draw upon his rhetoric honed during the Lewinsky scandal. Kerry insisted that Americans didn’t care as much as the House Republicans about Clinton’s corruption. That Clinton gutted out the scandals illustrated to Kerry “the growing up of America.”
In a speech during the Impeachment proceedings, Kerry asserted that the “country does not believe the fiber of our nation is unraveling over the President’s egregious behavior, because most people have a sense of proportion about the case that seems totally lacking in the House managers’ presentation.” He said, “No parent or school in America is teaching kids that lying or abusing the justice system is now OK.”
Kerry accused Congress of “moralizing,” and that “no amount of inflated rhetoric, or ideological or moral hyperextension” could elevate the “President’s actions to the kind of threat to the fabric of the country contemplated by the Founding Fathers.” Kerry said he was “stunned by the overreach, the moral righteousness, even the zealotry of arguments presented by the House managers.” He said “the President is certainly a sinner. We all are,” but Clinton was more sinned against than sinning, having suffered a “violation of a zone of privacy that is as precious to Americans as the Constitution itself.”
He asked his colleagues, “Who is not deeply disturbed by a so-called independent counsel grilling a sitting President of the United States of America about his personal sex life, based on information from illegal phone recordings?” Ken Starr was a “congressionally created Javert,” Kerry said. He said he wasn’t blaming Clinton’s predicament on “the right-wing conspiracy,” and then proceeded to do so, accusing Ken Starr, Robert Bork, Ted Olson and others of tripping Clinton up in the Paula Jones case. He said these “entire proceedings arise out of this deeply conflicted, highly partisan, ideologically driven, political civil rights case with incredible tentacles into and out of the office of the independent counsel.”
Kerry will have to find a new explanation for his own predicament. “Kerry will implode over an intern issue,” says Wes Clark, according to the Drudge Report. This story originated not on the political right but with Kerry’s ex-staffer Chris Lehane, according to the e-mail from Congressional Quarterly‘s Craig Crawford that Drudge posted.
Crawford’s e-mail, by the way, may explain Al Gore’s perplexing endorsement of Howard Dean. A former Gore flak, Lehane, says Crawford’s e-mail, has “shopped” around the intern allegation about Kerry, which “was one reason the Gore vetters in 2000 shied away from Kerry as a running mate choice — their conclusion that it wasn’t bad enough to disqualify him, except for the fact that they couldn’t risk it as they were trying so hard to distance themselves from Clinton’s personal failings.”
Kerry helped Clinton to survive impeachment. The low precedent this set may help Kerry survive whatever charges materialize against him. Kerry once told the press that “Democrats were very sophisticated in making a distinction between the policies and personal behavior of President Clinton.” This “sophistication” — not to mention the sophistry Kerry used during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment hearings — will likely be on display in the days ahead.