Clinton's Senate Trial: Americans switching off in droves

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The Independent Online
THIS MAY have been the first time in 130 years that a United States president went on trial in the Senate, but for much of America yesterday it felt like yet another grotesque episode in a scandal that has dragged on far too long.

Radio stations on the West Coast ignored the start of the proceedings. They had suspended normal programming to broadcast President Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony, the impeachment hearings and debates in Congress, but yesterday they played music and hosted phone-ins on improving standards in public schools.

"I've stopped reading the newspapers, stopped following the details," said one modern languages professor in Los Angeles. "As far as I can work out, once again all attempts at compromise have been sabotaged by partisan politics. I'm not going to grace such a spectacle with my attention."

Bill Rubenstein, a Hollywood screenwriter, has expended considerable energy over a year calling Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House of Representatives judiciary committee, and Kenneth Starr, whose report triggered the proceedings, and haranguing them about their activities. But he said he too had given up because he did not know what to say any more.

Outside the Capitol building in Washington, about 100 people stood in line for a chance to watch a piece of constitutional history. In the rest of the country there were only a few flickers of interest displayed.

"I do not want my vote cast aside because of Republicans insisting to hide behind the rule of law to enforce their moralistic Christian view on America," Ronald Perkins, aClinton supporter, told National Public Radio. "As Henry Hyde and all of his self- righteous fervour read the articles, I became sick."

A 30-year-old Los Angeles resident lunching near the main beach, Andrew Rice said: "The only thing that cheers me is the thought that the Republicans are going to continue to shoot themselves in the foot. There is going to be a slew of new resignations, but none of them will be Clinton's. If they want to crucify themselves on the issue of sexual morality, that's fine by me."

"At least this will bring home to people the nature of the Christian right in this country and make them realise how they've been setting the agenda for the past four years," said his lunch partner, Stacy. "This scandal is waking people up."

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