The Impeachment Of A President: Democrat Reaction - Attempt to remove the chief has unified party

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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH CONGRESSIONAL Democrats have suffered the indignity of seeing their President impeached by a convincing majority in the House of Representatives, they are standing behind Bill Clinton.

The number of Democrats who voted for impeachment was kept to six, members came out of the chamber en masse to protest at the rejection of a censure vote, and massed a couple of hours later at the White House to demonstrate their continuing support for the President. Their leader in the house, Dick Gephardt, strengthened his position and earned widespread respect for his handling of the debate.

The party's solidarity is in marked contrast to the defections in the congressional party suffered by Richard Nixon 24 years ago and is one crucial reason why Mr Clinton has survived this far.

In the summer, in the wake of Mr Clinton's 17 August admission that he had lied about his relationship with Ms Lewinsky, morale in the party was low and divisions multiplied as mid-term elections approached.

But Hillary Clinton's campaigning zeal, and Mr Clinton's strong showing in opinion polls,seemed to rally the party, and the Democrats' election results were far stronger than anyone had expected.

Since then, Democrats have been almost unanimous in their support of President Clinton, and his plight may even have served as a unifying force. The orthodoxy now is that he has been unfairly condemned by Republicans and that he has done, and will continue to do, much good for the country.

So far, a majority of Democrats has chosen to disregard, or to parry, the vexed question of principle and it is possible that this could become a divisive factor when Mr Clinton is tried in the Senate.

Despite this backing, the White House is said to be worried that momentum could build up behind calls for Mr Clinton to step down, especially after Bob Livingston's resignation from the House speakership on Saturday.

But so long as opinion polls show a majority in the country still approving of Mr Clinton, Democrats seem prepared to rally around their President, and the Nixon precedent of senior party officers arriving at the White House to persuade him to resign seems remote.