WASHINGTON, April 7, 2018: Recently, Hollywood has produced courtroom dramas based on the O.J. Simpson and Menendez Brothers’ sensational murder trials. But last Wednesday, the History Channel announced it has scrapped plans to produce a true-crime docudrama centered on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
The History Channel, two books, two different takes
But perhaps it’s just as well that the History Channel chose to table its proposed docudrama. The show was said to be based on book by Peter Baker, entitled “The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and trial of William Jefferson Clinton.” Baker had originally covered the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal and the Senate impeachment trial for the Clinton-friendly Washington Post.
Back in 1999, Baker made the following observation about the woman known in impeachment documents as “Jane Doe No. 5,” Juanita Broaddrick:
“The airing of her [rape] charges [against President Bill Clinton] has come too late to have the impact desired by those who had urged her for so long to go public, now that that Senate has acquitted Clinton at his impeachment trial and virtually assured that he will finish his term in office. But Broaddrick’s story is just one of many loose ends of the Clinton saga that are likely to linger as he moves through the final two years of his presidency.”
A lot more than sex
Baker, like most in the mainstream media, insisted the Clinton trial was “all about sex.” He seemed also to suggest that, even if true, Juanita Broaddrick’s experience was a simple sexual “loose end.” He did not regard it as an act of horrific violence.
In other words, the History Channel would have done far better basing its Clinton impeachment docudrama on a different book. “Sellout,” by David Schipper and Alan Henry would have been a better choice.
While defenders of the nation’s 42nd president kept the Clinton sex scandals front and center, Schipper and Henry took a different tack.
“If sexual misconduct were all that could be shown, there would have been no inquiry or impeachment. No, the impeachable offenses were committed much later: perjury, lies, witness tampering, suborning perjury – all to achieve a personal and political result, whatever the cost.”
And David Schipper should know. He was the Republicans’ chief investigative council for the House Judiciary Committee under then-GOP Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois. As such, was privy to meetings between House managers, who served as prosecutors during the Senate trial. He also worked with bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate leadership, who set the procedural conditions for Clinton’s Senate trial.
Clinton’s best Republican friends
Schipper says then-GOP Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott wanted to limit the trial’s interruption of business as usual:
“We can’t just shut down the Senate. We have important matters to address,” said Lott.
Equally upset at the prospect of a prolonged trial was Alaska’s Republican Senator Ted Stevens:
“You’re going to bring the Senate of the United States to a screeching halt for five weeks? While we are trying this, bombs are falling on Iraq.”
Enter, Joe Biden
That’s when, according to Schippers, something extraordinary happened. The Senate’s top Republicans stepped aside and let Delaware’s Democratic Senator, Joe Biden, run the meeting.
When Chairman Hyde suggested the Senate trial include witnesses, Biden went ballistic:
“Oh, come on, Henry, come on, you’ve got to be… I mean live witnesses… You put on live witnesses, then the President brings a hundred witnesses, then you want to put more witnesses on – we’ll still be trying this case in June.”
Hyde was insistent, reminding Biden that Senate rules “provide for a trial – for witnesses and evidence to be taken.”
Biden leaned back in his chair and smiled:
“We make our own rules.”
We cannot emphasize this point enough: Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate at this time.
But the fix was in. A bipartisan cabal of senators allowed Bill Clinton to skate during his impeachment trial. The simple reason: a senate trial would get in the way of passing runaway spending bills. The History Channel likely judged this kind of truth less than compelling for a cable TV docudrama.
Republican bridges to nowhere
As a side note, you may recall that Alaska’s Sen. Stevens championed the inclusion of a $320 million earmark (allocating funds to a project without specifically naming it in legislation) to pay for construction of what became known as “the bridge to nowhere.” If completed, that bridge would have connected Alaska’s Gravina Island (population 50) to the mainland.
In 2008, Stevens was found guilty on seven counts of making false statements to investigators. (The conviction was later overturned, though it was too late for Stevens. Having already left the Senate, he was killed in a plane crash before he was exonerated.)
For his part, Sen. Lott went on to form a Washington lobbying group after resigning from Congress, telling the Washington Post in 2010 – the year of the great Tea Party uprising:
“We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint [Tea Party supporter] disciples [in Congress]. As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.”
Back to Bill and the Blue Dress Caper
Getting back to Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, the Senate quickly found him “not guilty.” The majority included a healthy assist from the Republicans, who actually rant the Senate at the time.
Voting not guilty along with 45 Democrats on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice were:
- Sen. John H. Chafee (R-Rhode Island)
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
- Sen. James M. Jeffords (R-Vermont)
- Sen. Olympia J. Snow (R-Maine)
- Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania)
Voting not guilty with Democrats on the single charge of perjury:
- Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Washington)
- Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Alabama)
- Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
- Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee)
- Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia)
Like pork in Washington, Clintons still untouchable in Hollywood
It’s understandable why both the History Channel and Hollywood itself would pass on making a docudrama based on Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. After all, a compelling, true-life drama requires conflict in order to hold the audience’s interest.
Less compelling, though, is how Republicans and Democrats worked so well together – “in the spirit of bipartisanship” – to push aside a bothersome impeachment trial they saw as an obstacle to their pre-arranged onslaught of pork-barrel spending.
And today, people still wonder why our national debt stands at $21.1 trillion.
Oh, by the way, the former GOP House Chief Investigative Council David Schipper has one more tidbit to add on the subject.
“A great deal of evidentiary material remains under seal or in the executive protection of the House Judiciary Committee.”
It seems Republican leaders continue to conceal evidence of Bill Clinton’s one-man war on women.
Top images: Composite photos of television set with White House photo of
President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky.