Editor's note: On Oct. 8, 2016, the Deseret News editorial board called on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to resign his candidacy, citing a duty to speak clearly on issues that affect the well-being and morals of the nation. To provide context, we present the following editorial from Sept. 15, 1998, when the Deseret News called for the resignation of President Bill Clinton.
The president's attorneys have built a defense on a foundation of air. They continue to say that the charges in the report from Kenneth Starr, and the things to which Bill Clinton already has admitted, do not rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" mentioned in the Constitution. They go as far as to say such charges "would not even be brought against a private citizen."
The implication is that the standard for impeachment is much higher than the standards for criminal prosecution. In fact, the opposite is true. The term "high crimes and misdemeanors" is not found in criminal law. It comes with so little relevant precedent that it can mean whatever Congress says it means. But one thing is sure from historical records, the nation's founders intended impeachment to be a defense against presidents of low moral character; those lacking in virtue. Clearly, criminal activity is impeachable, but so is reprehensible behavior that may not be defined as criminal under the law.
Since Friday, the nation has been reeling from the graphic detail in the Starr report. The damage these sordid descriptions have done to the office of the presidency, to the nation's moral sensibilities and to U.S. prestige abroad is incalculable. The last thing the nation needs is for this saga to drag out even longer, with more gory details and cross-examinations.
However, the president, despite his contrite apologies, insists on mounting what he calls a vigorous defense. That defense amounts to turning truth on its head and offering legal definitions that seem absurd to the average person. The Starr report details what any rational reader would call a sexual relationship, but Clinton's attorneys insist otherwise. The reason for this is obvious. Were he to admit that he lied under oath, Clinton's presidency would be over and he would be vulnerable to criminal charges. Americans cannot tolerate lies under oath, no matter how trivial some may feel the case at hand to be. To do so for the chief executive would be to tolerate it for everyone of a lesser station.
How absurd that the president of the United States has to resort to semantic riddles to save his administration. To use a chess analogy, Clinton has been reduced to a king and a dwindling set of pawns desperately trying to maneuver around the board in search of a stalemate. Even under the best of circumstances, he would be left powerless in a hollow presidency.
And looming ominously in the distance are these words from the Starr report: "All phases of the investigation are now nearing completion. This office will soon make final decisions about what steps to take, if any, with respect to the other information it has gathered." Those phases include the Whitewater, White House Travel Office and FBI files matters.
The people of the United States don't deserve to endure month after month of sickening detail and debasing examinations, only to end up with at best a feeble and helpless White House. President Clinton should do the honorable thing and resign.