What He Said, And What They Wish He’d Said

I’m yielding the floor to Dafydd ab Hugh for his dissection of a story by WLS in Chicago about their interview with retiring Congressman Henry Hyde:

A transcript of a video report that appeared on an ABC affilliate makes a rather startling claim Upon careful parsing, however, there appears to be an awful lot of gravy for so little pot roast. Here is the screaming headline:
Clinton impeachment was retaliation for Nixon, says retiring congressman
by Andy Shaw.

By the time we get all the way to the lede, an element of doubt has begun to creep in:
Republican Congressman Henry Hyde made some surprising comments Thursday on the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton. He now says Republicans may have gone after Clinton to retaliate for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.
Note how “was retaliation” has transsubstantiated into “may have” been retaliation. Doubt and certainty are locked in an epic battle for all time (like the two guys in the Star Trek episode). But reading a bit further, doubt starts to get the upper hand:
The veteran DuPage County congressman acknowledged that Republicans went after Clinton in part to enact revenge against the Democrats for impeaching President Richard Nixon 25 years earlier.
In part? How much part? One part principle to three parts revenge? Or one part revenge to four parts sloe gin? And at last, if we persevere long enough, we finally come to the actual words that Hammerin’ Hank Hyde actually used to Mr. Shaw:
Andy Shaw asked Hyde if the Clinton proceedings were payback for Nixon’s impeachment.
I can’t say it wasn’t, but I also thought that the Republican party should stand for something, and if we walked away from this, no matter how difficult, we could be accused of shirking our duty, our responsibility,” said Hyde.

Well! It’s certainly hard to imagine a stronger indictment of Republican perfidy than that! The sudden upthrust of principle after all renders utterly absurd the next paragraph… which makes it quite plain that Mr. Shaw began with his conclusion and worked backwards to his evidence, then forgot to work forward again and bring his snarky commentary into line with the best quote he could get out of old Henry:
Hyde’s comments reflect what Democrats have been saying for years about the Clinton impeachment. It will be interesting to see what happens when Hyde’s comments hit the national media.
Yes siree… for years and years, Democrats have insisted against an army of naysayers that the Republican Party should stand for something and shouldn’t walk away from its responsibility to impeach Bill Clinton. By golly, I think the Dems deserve a round of applause and perhaps a lump of sugar for finally proving their case!
No sermon would be complete without its homily; no symphony would seem finished without a grace note. Shaw understands the requirements of his chosen profession, so he finishes out with the following:
Hyde’s style will be missed in Washington, as well as his sense of civility, even though a lot of people will not miss his rigid ideology.

Somehow I have a feeling the “rigid ideology” at work here is Andy Shaw’s. Turns out he was the one that introduced the concept of “payback” for Nixon’s impeachment–a mere 25 years earlier–and Hyde responded politely, while making the point that the impeachment issue was one of principle. What a scoop!
I’m afraid that what happened when this story went national might not be what Shaw had in mind. The WLS story was unavailable online for a while, and now, if you follow the above link, you will see that it has been rewritten. The headline and some of Shaw’s inflammatory commentary are gone, and key paragraphs are rewritten, but the impeachment quote remains.
UPDATE: Several readers have written to point out that, contrary to the original article, Nixon was never impeached. That’s true; my recollection had been that he resigned after the House voted articles of impeachment, but before a Senate trial. But, after checking the record, I’m reminded that Nixon resigned after the House Judiciary Committee adopted articles of impeachment, but before an impeachment vote had actually been held in the House. I don’t think this is a big deal, as the article would have been correct if it had referred to “impeachment proceedings” instead of “impeachment,” a correction that was made in the revised version of the article. But it is indeed an inaccuracy.


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