The Impeachment Of A President: Republican Reaction - Wish granted - but the Majority left battered

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The Independent Online
AS IF the Republicans needed any more bad news, David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, has said he will run for the congressional seat vacated by Bob Livingston, the Speaker elect who resigned on Saturday.

"I am running because there needs to be one member of Congress who stands up for the European-American," Mr Duke said in a message that the party really does not need. Because although it may have got what it wanted - the impeachment of President Bill Clinton - the party has emerged battered, bleeding and deeply divided.

The resignation of Mr Livingston crystallised its problems. He had been appointed just weeks ago after Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, resigned in the wake of the election rout.

Mr Livingston was forced to admit on Thursday that he had damaged his marriage through adulterous liaisons, after a Washington newsletter published details on its web site.

Mr Livingston presented his resignation as an honourable reaction to his problems, and challenged the President to follow suit. But in truth, he was brought down by the anger of conservative members of his own party. The resignation left his colleagues stunned.

"It was like a punch in the stomach," said New York Republican Peter King. "Some members were actually crying on the House floor."

Tom DeLay, the Republicans' chief whip, came apparently to praise Mr Livingston. "He understood what this debate was all about - it's about honour and decency and integrity and the truth, everything we honour in this country," he said.

But Mr DeLay, who was the first target of criticism after the elections saw the Republicans lose House seats, has emerged suspiciously well-placed. The new speaker is likely to be Tom Hastert, a protege of his from the whips' office.

The Republicans in the Senate have watched aghast as the House party has turned itself inside out. They are unlikely to want a repetition in their House of the same events: weeks of hearings, embarrassing questions and opinion polls that show the public thinks they are partisan and vindictive.

All of this points towards some early move to broker a deal which will see the President censured.