If the point of the headline on Karl Rove' latest Wall Street Journal column was to get attention, the editors succeeded. It read, "Clinton's Impeachment Was Dignified."
Those of us who remember the details of the impeachment saga surrounding Bill Clinton, and read Ken Starr's report, can probably think of a variety of adjectives. "Dignified" isn't one of them.
A week earlier, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), one of the House impeachment managers who encouraged the Senate to remove Clinton from office 20 years, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times and emphasized an even less defensible point.
Earlier this Congress, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, set forth criteria for undertaking an impeachment. They said that the evidence would have to be overwhelming and compelling, and, importantly, it would have to be bipartisan.
Looking back at the Clinton impeachment, I'm convinced we satisfied each of these. Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, conducted a very lengthy and nonpartisan investigation.... Mr. Starr testified before our committee that the president might have committed impeachable offenses.
Sensenbrenner's underlying point was that contemporary House Democrats failed because they didn't convince House Republicans of Donald Trump's guilt. It's a difficult argument to take seriously, since for GOP lawmakers, nothing short of a signed presidential confession would've made a difference.
But the Wisconsin congressman assertion that Ken Starr oversaw a "non-partisan" probe, like Rove's insistence that the investigation into Clinton was "dignified," suggests Republicans don't remember the events of the late 1990s nearly as well as they should.
It's part of a phenomenon Robert Schlesinger once labeled "Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome," which generally involves Republicans, who made every effort to destroy Clinton at the time, praising the former Democratic president, and encouraging contemporary Dems to follow Clinton's lead.
But the effort now appears to be spreading, with Republicans also holding out their own impeachment crusade against Clinton as a model worthy of emulation.