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From the January 1999 MediaWatch

Nixing Judge Nixon's Case

During their third day the House managers referred to how the Senate had impeached federal judges for perjury, including Judge Walter Nixon in 1989. The broadcast networks all ignored the point that night, Saturday January 16. Among those voting to convict and remove Nixon were then-Senator Al Gore and many current Senators, including Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

But on Sunday’s World News Tonight, ABC reporter Tim O’Brien took it up, only to discredit the comparison. O’Brien started by noting that Clinton defenders contend that lying about sex is not sufficient for removal even if all the charges are true. He then got to the GOP point: "But Republican House managers pointed out this week that a number of federal judges, most recently Walter Nixon in Mississippi, had been removed from office for committing perjury. Republican Senators argued today the standards for removing Presidents should be no different than for removing judges."

After playing a clip of Phil Gramm on This Week saying there’s only one standard for all federal officials, O’Brien launched his counter-argument, with two soundbites and two additional points he made himself: "But former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who had voted in favor of removing Judge Nixon, says removing a President is far different from removing a federal judge." On Meet the Press Mitchell said that judges are not elected by the people and elections are sacred.

O’Brien picked up the Democratic argument: "Article III of the Constitution says federal judges shall ‘hold their offices during good behavior.’ There is no such requirement in the Constitution for Presidents." Lanny Davis then got time to assert: "Judges are appointed for life. Nobody votes for a judge. If a judge is a drunk you want to get rid of him and he can’t be gotten rid of in an election. He’s got to be gotten rid of through impeachment."

O’Brien concluded: "Presidents, on the other hand, can be voted out of office and may not serve more than two full terms. In a preview of what is certain to come this week, the President’s defenders were arguing today that not only does the Constitution require different standards for removing Presidents than for removing judges, but also that there are different levels of perjury and that no one has ever been removed from office for lying about sex."




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