The liberal media. The biggest newspaper in America:
To hear White House lawyers tell it, independent counsel Ken Starr's impeachment report is a "hit-and-run smear campaign" full of sexual details designed to damage the president. Nothing in the report supports Starr's claim of 11 impeachable offenses, they say.
Not so, according to Starr. After eight months of investigation, he says it's clear the president repeatedly lied under oath, encouraged others to lie, obstructed justice, and defiled his office. His 445-page report details grounds for removal from office.
That is essentially the same argument that has raged for eight months, with details added, and now moves to Congress for judgment.
But the legal skirmishing misses the central question: Has the president so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office?
The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the president to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment, but now. Bill Clinton should resign.
Not because he is unquestionably guilty of any specific criminal offense, though he may well be. Not because of his sexual behavior, as disgraceful as it is. And not solely because of Starr's report, which is far from an impartial judgment. He should resign because he has resolutely failed — and continues to fail — the most fundamental test of any president: to put his nation's interests first.
The least any American can expect of a president is that in crisis he will readily put the welfare of the nation he leads ahead of his own well-being. In other contexts, that is the ultimate test of character. It separates the military leader or executive who accepts blame for failure from the one who tries to shuffle it elsewhere.
There's no doubt which kind of man the Founders had in mind. Not someone with "talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity," but with qualities to "establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union," as Alexander Hamilton put it in The Federalist Papers.
This crisis continues to expose Clinton as someone who lacks both the courage and the character to make that sacrifice.
If nothing else, this is made plain in the Starr report, as salacious and flawed an impeachment document it may be. It is a tale of a man who entered into the most shallow sort of affair knowing better than anyone else what pain the nation would suffer if he were caught; a man, who once exposed, lied in the nation's face and then used his considerable power to intimidate and discredit his accusers; a man who consciously skated along a thin legal edge, determined to hold onto office at any cost to the nation he is sworn to serve.
In the end, the legal strategy Clinton pursues today combined with his apparent repentance may prevail, with the president escaping impeachment and remaining in office. It would at best be a hollow victory for someone who has shown himself to be a small man.
A president should be more than that. He should be the extraordinary person Hamilton foresaw — one who occupies the office with integrity and who instinctively places honesty and the nation's welfare above self-interest.
For eight months, continuing to this day, Bill Clinton has given no sign that he is or can become that kind of person. Now the channel has narrowed, leaving him no choice but to push ahead or resign.
Bill Clinton should resign.