So here’s what I asked a couple of months back. If perjury is such a big deal — and it is — what about those seven tobacco-company CEOs in 1994, when they raised their right hands and swore to Congress they did not believe nicotine was addictive?

This lie was part of a decades-long attempt to addict millions of people to a product that, in about 400,000 cases a year in the U.S. alone, leads to premature death often preceded by terrible suffering.

Why is that perjury not worth even a little investigation or censure? Yet the Republican-led Congress — financed not insignificantly by the same tobacco interests that so hate Clinton — has in four years called for no action whatever in this regard.

So come on, everybody. Let’s get real. What the president did was wrong. But it wasn’t treason, it wasn’t bribery, it wasn’t assassinating a political rival or some other egregious “High Crime.” He just couldn’t bring himself to admit to an embarrassing affair. (And what has the world gained, really, now that it knows? Are we so much better off? Are Linda Tripp and Ken Starr and Richard Mellon Scaife heroes we should be thankful to for all of this?)

Though I feel for the president, I agree with the Republicans, and many Democrats, who think he really did something unacceptable. And I suppose he must pay the consequences. (I say “I suppose” because, in the face of all the good he’s done, in my view, one might make the case for forgiveness.) But what are the appropriate consequences? An historic censure and loss of a year’s pay would certainly chasten you or me. If people feel the need, I suppose they could even attempt to put him in jail on criminal perjury charges after he leaves office. He could be prosecuted for this like anyone else. But in the meantime, we should get back to the business of running the country and trying to help lead the world away from the financial precipice.

And hey, Mr. Hyde. Hey, Mr. Chabot and the rest of you fellows — what about those seven tobacco CEOs? Is it just that they helped fund your campaigns that kept you from saying a peep when they lied under oath?

Punish the president — but don’t punish the country (and the rest of a fragile world) by putting us through an unnecessary, unwarranted impeachment trial that almost all seem to agree will fail to result in conviction anyway.

And when you’re done, don’t forget to punish the guys who not only lied under oath but also compounded the sin significantly by lying about something important.

 

 

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