How the Democrats Bungled Impeachment and Prevented Al Gore from Becoming a 10-Year President

With the Trump impeachment drama in full swing, it is useful to look back into history to see how past impeachment activity can impact the future.

We all know that the Republicans acted against their own interests when they impeached President Clinton in 1998, because this caused an electoral backlash against them in 1998.  But what few realize is that the Democrats, too, at this time, acted against their own self-interests by their refusal to convict Clinton in the Senate, thereby preventing the accession of V.P. Al Gore and causing the election of the second President Bush in 2000.

To see how this works, let's go back to 1963, to the days before the assassination of President Kennedy.  As popular as JFK was after his death and remains today, that was only an outcome of being assassinated.  While he was alive, he actually was not a particularly popular president.

Patrick Buchanan has written about this.  In his past writings, he cited the fact that Look Magazine had run a story in November 1963 titled "Kennedy Could Lose" (the 1964 election).  When the news of the assassination broke, Look frantically tried to recall its issues, but it was too late; they had already hit the newsstands. (A similar scramble to spike a gauche story occurred at this time too when LIFE Magazine successfully recalled a story from its November 26, 1963 edition that would have examined LBJ's corruption with the likes of Bobby Baker and Billie Sol Estes.)

Had JFK not been assassinated (and had he been healthy enough to run, which is another story altogether...), 1964 looked to be a spirited election between him and his good personal friend, Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater would have run a competitive race and might well have defeated Kennedy.

But the assassination changed everything.  When John F. Kennedy the man died, he transmogrified into St. John the First in the hearts of most Americans.  He was mourned as a holy, sainted martyr.  His successor, Lyndon Johnson, became the Joshua to the JFK Moses, the St. Paul to the JFK Jesus — the one who caught the torch from the falling divine ruler and held it on high, thereafter leading his chosen people to new heights of progress and virtue.

The post-assassination President Johnson became the loyal disciple and successor of the fallen hero and everything he (supposedly) stood for.  LBJ thereafter was unbeatable in 1964.  Nobody could have defeated him.  Remember when John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ?  Well, in 1964, LBJ too was more popular than Jesus Christ.  He could have defeated the real Jesus Christ in an election.

The same kind of thing halfway happened in 1999 — and woulda, shoulda happened to a far greater degree if the Democrats had been clever and Machiavellian enough to recognize their opportunity when they had it in their grasp.  Up to the point of the Senate trial of Clinton for impeachment crimes, the Democrats, with their many media allies, had done a masterful job of stampeding the American public into a general support of Clinton against those cruel, evil, dastardly, nasty Republicans.

But in order to ensure a continued supremacy and domination of American politics for the next generation, all they needed to do was scrounge enough Judas Democratic senatorial votes to convict aptly named Slick Willie in the Senate trial and thereby complete Bill Clinton's own transmogrification from Bill Clinton the corrupt, perjuring adulterer to St. Bill the First.  But they blew it.

At the time of the Senate trial, the Republicans held a 55-45 majority.  All they needed to convict Clinton on impeachment charges was 12 out of 45 Democratic senators willing to be the ones to throw Slick Willie under the bus.  (This assumes that all the Republicans would have stayed on the plantation.  In real life, they didn't, but if conviction had been a real possibility, most if not all of the stray sheep could have been corralled to vote for it.)

Jesus, JFK, and now St. Bill Clinton the First — crucified by dark, reactionary, evil conspirators, betrayed by a handful of Judas-like Democratic senators.

When LBJ ran for president in 1964, he did it as incumbent president Lyndon Johnson.  He was unbeatable because he inherited the bloody cloak of actual assassination from the fallen St. JFK.

Al Gore coulda, shoulda inherited that same mantle of martyrdom.

Had he done so, he too would have been invincible.  Incumbent president Al Gore would have sent a landslide over anybody the Republican could have nominated.  And he'd have been eligible to be president for ten years.

All it would have taken was twelve (plus maybe a few more to be certain) Democratic senators willing to play treacherous Hagen, stabbing the hero in the back.  But they lacked wisdom, so they retained their precious Bill Clinton, like Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage, for Clinton's time was almost up anyway, and because in 2000, there was enough of a residue of public resentment against them to enable the second George Bush to squeak to an electoral victory.

The dumb Democrats brought it all on themselves by not being ruthless or smart enough to see to their own long-term best interest.  It may be that they haven't gotten any smarter ever since.

Image: JD Lasica via Flickr.

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