When I was a little boy and television was a new medium, the most popular weather guy in New York – his name escapes me, but one of you will remember – used to draw some kind of big doodle or cartoon as, occasionally looking back over his shoulder at us viewers, he “did the weather.” I don’t know that Magic Markers had been invented then, but it was that kind of idea: a big sketch of a droopy dog, say, on a two-by-three-foot easel pad, and won’t this dog be sad when it starts to drizzle later this afternoon. Annoys the heck out of me that I can’t think of his name, but I can still hear his voice. He was a good guy.
Weather forecasting has come a long way since then, but the post of the local weather guy/gal remains one that’s often filled by a ham or a happy-face or a full head of hair; i.e., we’re not talking rocket science here.
Well, actually, at Weather Headquarters it is a bit like rocket science. (Perhaps you saw National Geographic‘s documentary on the March 1993 “Storm of the Century”?)
But down at the local TV station it’s somebody grabbing the weather report off the wire service and then pointing at a blank green wall, which appears to us to be the weather map, and pointing out all the precipitation. (He manages to do this by watching his hand on a TV monitor to see what it appears he is pointing at. But to someone in the studio watching him, he is pointing at a blank green wall.)
There are exceptions. There are some local weather folk who actually understand meteorology. Indeed, there are a few who are not just “nice, bright people” but nice, really bright people, like Bryan Norcross, who does the weather in Miami.
He’s the guy widely credited with “saving Miami” from hurricane Andrew, so much so that NBC made a TV movie about his heroism. How many local weather guys have TV movies made about them? Not, of course, that he was able to divert Andrew – that would have been the stuff of a $100 million Spielberg epic, not some two-bit TV movie. But by understanding the gravity of the situation long before any of his competition and then staying on air nonstop for something like a million hours without sleep, he was able to make a real difference. Even today, people stop him on the street to thank him for the practical life- and property-saving advice and admonitions he dispensed hour after hour.
Today Norcross sees another potentially devastating storm. Only this one, happily, we can avert. So – like many of us, whatever our normal professions may be – he’s jumped into the debate to try to do just that. Avert it.
What follows (with his permission) are excerpts from his letter to Rick Lazio, a good guy who represents part of Long Island. I have no idea whether Congressman Lazio has found time to read Bryan’s letter – like his colleagues, I am sure he is positively deluged with constituent mail and e-mail and phone calls. But even if he hasn’t read it, I thought it might be of interest to you as you make up your own mind and contact your own congressperson:
Dear Congressman Lazio,
You have been identified in the media as a “moderate” Republican. I found you to be very fair during the hearing in which I participated at the National Hurricane Center some years ago. I am sure you are agonizing over the critical vote you are about to make. I think this event may affect our governmental system for the rest of our lives. Therefore, I feel compelled to offer you my thinking.
In the strongest terms I urge you to find the resolve and political will to act in the best interests of the country and vote AGAINST impeaching the President. In my opinion, this politicized impeachment process is the most dangerous governmental event of my life, even worse than Watergate. In 1974 the system worked. Now, I think it has not.
The Congress has NO responsibility to punish or even condemn an official who has sinned, or even violated the law, UNLESS the transgression is impeachable, in which case it must be a “high crime.” The power to punish lesser sins lies with the people. The fact that the House is hell-bent on doing something viewed as punishment, in my opinion, shows disdain for the people who elected them.
In my opinion, the risk to our form of government is GREATER because of this process than anything that Mr. Clinton has been alleged to have done. This politicized constitutional process will likely cause permanent harm to the carefully crafted Balance of Power that is our governmental system. The power of impeachment should only be used for the most threatening times and events.
Why are we suddenly so anxious to rip our government apart when we have used judgement in the past?
I just returned from Europe. I can tell you that 100% of the doctors and attorneys with whom I discussed the Clinton situation thought continuing to pick apart his tawdry affair, and all the vague and misleading statements about the details, is absurd and damaging, not only to the United States, but to the stability of the world. To them, it reflects much worse on the judgement of the Congress than on the President. In the totality, it reflects extremely badly on our country.
In addition, any objective view of the process that brought us to this point has to make a fair-minded person uncomfortable. Look at a small part of the list:
- A private federal lawsuit is filed years after the event, encouraged and funded by an enemy of the President.
- The so-called Independent Council, operating under a law that many members of Congress have said will not be renewed in its present form, has some peripheral involvement.
- Illegal wiretaps are involved.
- A convoluted definition of a phrase in the dictionary (sexual relations) is used (even the Judge said, “I don’t know what to do” with the definition). The President is never asked, “did you have oral sex?” (Could it be because an honest answer to that would have circumvented a future perjury claim?) Remember, Jennifer Flowers said years ago that the President does not consider oral sex to be sex. (Might the attorneys have known that?)
- And there is much more.
These are all reasons to feel uncomfortable with the underpinnings of this case. (Republicans on the Judiciary Committee even expressed some concerns). In our system, the underpinnings count. How can we consider impeaching a President, with the incredible cost to the nation, over a situation whose beginnings smell so political? The entire process lacks credibility. In fact, one after the other, prosecutors have indicated that this sort of legal case would not be likely ever to see a courtroom. Should we impeach a president, with all of the financial and political turmoil that it will bring, over a case that would likely never be tried? How can a “high crime and misdemeanor” be such a low crime as to not be worthy of prosecution?
Yes, the President acted like an idiot in fooling around with an intern. But when the risks are weighed, the opinion of the American people is considered, the tainted process is noted, and history is remembered, the United States is better off allowing the President to continue to serve. Thank you for your consideration of my opinion.
What makes it all so bizarre is that no one imagines the Senate would vote to convict. So we have a practical choice: Go through months more of Monica Lewinsky and have the President stay in office. Or not go through those months and have the President stay in office.
Two routes to the same result.
If all that were at stake were a few more months of interminable and embarrassing C-Span, it might not matter which we chose. But investor psychology and economic confidence are fragile, skittish, unpredictable things. Leave aside, for a moment, what a partisan impeachment vote and a months-long, all-consuming impeachment trial could do to the future of our political process. What might it do to the fragile world economy and to hundreds of millions of people for whom life is already a struggle at best? Possibly, it would have no effect at all. But why on earth take the gamble?