Distracted nation

To most observers "The Contract with America," Congressman Newt Gingrich’s 1994 brainchild, appears to have slipped beyond the political horizon. The Republican campaign promise to reduce the power, size, and reach of government has come, over the last four years, to be regarded as a failure, except insofar as some of its features have been adopted by the Democrats. Yet scanning the desultory process of government in Washington this past year and anticipating the standstill to come as the Senate debates the articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, it seems that our political life may have been greatly diminished not only by Mr. Clinton but by the apparently moribund Republican revolution as well. Is it possible that the Republicans have carried out their revolution by other means, namely putting the country’s political needs on hold while titillating the media and distracting the citizenry with the salacious details of the Lewinsky affair? There is more than one way to reduce the influence of government. Relentless partisan pursuit of impeachment and conviction is one of them.

As the scandal of Mr. Clinton’s behavior and his lying has gradually emerged over the past year, his capacity to govern has been repeatedly questioned. But is this really the issue? What about the capacity of the Congress itself, to examine and legislate, to focus on the critical questions facing the nation? Education,...

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