House theatricals are a bit of a drag

FOR A nation that likes its thrills of the instant variety and whose politics are focused on the sound-bite and the television, there is something curiously old-fashioned and theatrical about the Senate trial of Bill Clinton, a flavour that emerged in much of the press coverage.

This was not universally welcomed. For some, the prospect of days spent listening to men in suits present a detailed legal argument did not go down well. "The First Day Wore On, On, On," The Washington Post commented in its front-page headline.

As the day progressed, said the Post, "it was Dr Seuss who crept to mind. All those senators, normally creatures of constant hubbub, hour after hour in their straight-backed chairs. `All we could do was to sit sit sit,' wrote Seuss. `And we did not like it, not one little bit'."

Much of the action was in nuances of meaning, or lay in the behind-the- scenes manoeuvring, The New York Times noted. "The impeachment trial of the President was not a straightforward legal proceeding that would necessarily move automatically to the standard calling of witnesses and cross-examination," it reported.

"Nor is this a jury quite like any other ... these are 100 senators well aware of public impatience with the Monica Lewinsky case." And, of course, "some senators - particularly those up for election in 2000 - were likely to consider not only the facts of the case but how their votes would affect their own personal political survival."

The Los Angeles Times reported that as well as their political motives that were on show, "there were many reminders of human frailty". Blasphemous though it may have been, "at least two senators appeared to nod off as the dry legal presentations stretched into the late afternoon". Other senators had other problems.

The Manchester Union-Leader commented: "It's a good thing for John Kerry of Massachusetts that the no-talking rule isn't strictly enforced. Were it so, he might be going to prison for life." Mr Kerry, the paper said, "is a regular gabber".

The Union-Leader noted some of the odd touches that make the Senate such a compelling theatre, if a little slow. "Stenographers stand in the aisles punching out the words of history. With their machines dangling from their shoulders they resemble cigarette girls from a 1940s nightclub."

And "in the back of the room Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who is troubled by a vision problem, has put on dark glasses. He looks very Hollywood."

Much of America was not watching at all. "With Michael Jordan retiring, Mike Tyson cussing and the [Atlanta] Falcons heading for the Metrodome on Sunday, even the start of the first presidential impeachment trial in 130 years had a hard time competing for metro Atlanta television viewers," noted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At a local bar, "customers asked owner Danny Ciorrocco, 49, to switch back to (sports television) after Ciorrocco flipped to CNN." One local student described herself as "burnt out," and complained that impeachment was "always in the news".

There was some drama outside the Capitol building, The Los Angeles Times reported, as "a woman from Marina del Rey wearing California's idea of a winter coat passed out from hypothermia as she waited in line in a freezing rain to get a spectator's seat". But then perhaps she wasn't missing much, according to Nikki Heidepriem, a Maryland woman who listened from the public gallery. "If people are looking for a Perry Mason moment," she told the paper, "they won't find it here."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015