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World Wide Web--U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) is hoping that some of the millions of Websurfers who log on to view the Starr Report will also check out her site, which features excerpts from the 1974 Watergate impeachment hearings, to gain some historical perspective.

Lofgren has posted a report drawn up by the 1974 House Judiciary Committee outlining the legal and Constitutional grounds for impeachment, which had not been officially studied since the days of Andrew Jackson's impeachement. Lofgren is herself a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is charged with reviewing Kenneth Starr's report to Congress.

The 1974 document quotes the Constitution specifying that impeachment is warranted only in the case of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." It goes on to define the latter cause as "serious offenses against the system of government," and "constitutional wrongs that subvert the structure of government."

The report goes on to recommend caution, pointing out that "not all presidential misconduct is sufficient to constitute grounds for impeachment. There is a further requirement--substantiality."

In a speech on the floor of Congress last week, Lofgren berated her colleagues for failing to live up to the standard of fairness laid out in 1974.

"The proposal to release the Independent Counsel Report [445 pages of allegations] and to publish it on the Internet without bipartisan review falls short of this standard," she said.

"If we fall short of the yardstick of fairness, the American people will correctly see the cause as partisanship. The damage done would be to our country and to our system of government."

Lofgren, the only Democrat west of the Rockies to win office in the 1994 Republican landslide, was forced to compromise often with her Republican colleagues, and is generally considered a moderate.

More Sexgate on the Web.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R) also appealed to history in his floor speech.

"President Theodore Roosevelt defined the principle that must guide our deliberations in the days ahead: 'No man is above the law,'" Hyde quoted. He went on to speak in grandiloquent terms about his committee's responsibility, warning that Clinton's sexual escapades could destroy the republic.

"We live in a century which, in blood and tears, in pain and sorrow,

has vindicated the contention of the Founders of this Republic and the Framers of its Constitution, that the rule of law is the only alternative to tyranny, or to the anarchy that eventually leads to tyranny," Hyde said.

"Let us conduct ourselves and this inquiry in such a way as to vindicate the sacrifices of blood and treasure that have been made across the centuries to create and defend this last best hope of humanity on earth, the United States of America."

Cecily Barnes

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Web extra to the September 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro.

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