- Yesterday, December 19, 2018, marked the 20th anniversary of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton by the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Let me tell you the story of my nano-scopic role in that event.
- 1998 was the Year of Monica. It started on January 17 when Matt Drudge broke the news that the editors at Newsweek had decided to sit on/spike the story of Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. It had been written by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff.
- The elections of 1998 were largely run on the question of impeachmentOlde Bill Clinton. We were pretty confident that Republicans would pick up 10-12 seats in the House (we were already in the majority following the election of 1994).
- When they actually counted the votes, we had lost five seats in the House and gained no seats in the Senate. According to Wikipedia, “It was the first time since 1934 that the non-presidential party failed to gain congressional seats in a mid-term election.”
- 1934 marked the first mid-term of Franklin Roosevelt’s first administration.
- Largely as a result of those disappointing results Gingrich announced he would not run for another term as Speaker and, in fact, would not take his seat in the next Congress.
- Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana launched a campaign for speaker and, as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee had the standing, and soon the votes, to be successful.
- Now, to my part in all this.
- I was in Jakarta, Indonesia on a trip for the International Republican Institute. Jakarta is 12 hours away – half a world – from Washington, DC.
- Our team had gone out to dinner and gotten back to our hotel at about 11 PM local time – 11 AM on the floor of the U.S. House.
- I turned on the TV and found CNN International where they were talking about the “shocker” from Livingston. I had no idea what that meant but soon found out. As the Washington Post put it the next day:
“Fearing that controversy over his sexual past would undercut his power and tear apart his family, Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) yesterday told an astounded House he will not assume the speakership he claimed last month but would instead resign from Congress next year.”
- This was, remember, December 19. A lame-duck session. The new Congress would convene in just two weeks and the GOP couldn’t afford a bitter leadership fight.
- In 1998, cell phone service was nothing like it is today. Nevertheless, mine rang. It was Newt. He said, without preamble: “This is Newt. I need you to call your guys and tell them it’s going to be Hastert.”
- Dennis Hastert of Illinois was the Republican Chief Deputy Whip. He was generally liked, known as a team player, would be a calming departure from the four years of Newt’s high-energy leadership and, most important, could get elected by the GOP Members.
- My “guys” included Frank Sesno who was then CNN’s Washington bureau chief; Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington bureau chief, and Dave Espo who was the senior Hill correspondent for the Associated Press.
We had nothing against Fox News, but they had only gone on the air a couple of years earlier and cable news wasn’t what it is today. MSNBC had also gone live in 1996, but we had covered them with the call to Russert.
- I said, “Do you know where I am?”Newt: You’re out of the country.
Me: I’m not only out of the country I am as far out of the country as I can be and still be on the surface of the Earth.
Newt: (Ignoring this) We need to get to the word out that the Leadership has decided on Hastert.
Me: Aren’t there any press people around you?
Newt: Yes, but they won’t get through.
Me: What does that tell us about how we got into this situation?
Newt: (Ignoring this, too) Are you going to do it or not?
- Sesno was on the air, so I waited until he got off, called his cell phone, and told him about Hastert. He came back onto the set and accurately reported what I had said.
- I couldn’t see Russert, but I did the same thing, then I called Espo and completed my task.
- A few weeks later Dave Espo and I were having lunch and he said: I was maybe 50 feet from the room where that decision was being made. You were 10,000 miles away.
- You called me and told me what no one within whispering distance could or would.”
- “Ain’t technology grand,” I said.
- I didn’t realize ironic those words would become in our world of hacking, identity theft, and cyberwar.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the WaPo piece on Bob Livingston, and to the Wikipedia entry for the 1998 midterms.
- The Mullfoto is two – TWO – parking fails on the same trip to the grocery store.
Reprinted from Mullings.com