Wag the Doubt 

How you look at things.
Dec. 20 1998 3:30 AM

Wag the Doubt 

The debate over Clinton's Iraq attack blazes new frontiers in cynicism.

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10. Recidivist cynicism. Having accused Republicans of cynicism for suggesting that Clinton cynically used the Iraq conflict to delay the impeachment vote, Democrats use the conflict to delay the vote. Example: The House should "not take up impeachment until the hostilities have ended. It shouldn't come up as long as our troops are in harm's way" (House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt).

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11. Cynicism about cynicism. While publicly accusing Republicans of tactics aimed at gaining political advantage, Democrats privately gloat that the tactics will give Democrats a political advantage. Example: " 'The rules we've always had is that politics stop at the shore," one senior White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 'Somebody changed the rules and it wasn't us.' But Clinton advisers said that they expected Mr. Lott's comments to backfire" (New York Times).

12. Reverse cynicism. While accusing Clinton of invoking the Iraq conflict to delay the impeachment vote, Republicans invoke the Iraq conflict to expedite the impeachment vote. Example: "I don't see any reason to postpone the vote. That plays right into Saddam Hussein's hands. That's what terrorists want--disruption" (Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla.).

13. Cynical anti-cynicism. While accusing Democrats of cynicism for suggesting that impeachment would undermine the war effort, Republicans argue that impeachment is the best way to honor the war effort. Example: "As those troops are engaged now, even now, defending ... the Constitution of this nation, they have a right to know that the work of the nation goes forward. And in consideration of this, it is our intention, Mr. Speaker, to begin consideration of [impeachment]" (House Majority Leader Dick Armey).

14. Circular vicarious cynicism. Unable to prove that Clinton wagged the dog, Republicans argue that the mere suspicion of dog-wagging is grounds for impeachment. Examples: "The suspicion some people have about the president's motives in this attack is itself a powerful argument for impeachment" (Armey). "Perceptions that the American president is less interested in the global consequences than in taking any action that will enable him to hold onto power [are] a further demonstration that he has dangerously compromised himself in conducting the nation's affairs, and should be impeached" (Wall Street Journal editorial).

Recent "Frame Games"

  • "The 'Coup' Bomb": William Saletan says Democrats could blow up the impeachment process by crying "coup." (posted Wednesday, Dec. 16)
  • "Escape Artists": Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein share the same bag of tricks. (posted Wednesday, Dec. 2)