Slouching Toward A Final Vote

From her base in Washington, CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver tries to answer the penetrating questions any American might ask these days about the goings-on in Washington. Such as, "What are you people doing up there?" Her column, "The Braver Line," appears weekly on the CBS News Sunday Morning site on

You know it's coming. Whether you're in Michigan, or Texas, or California, as soon as you say you're from Washington, D.C., their eyebrows arch, their bodies stiffen, and they ask you one of two questions. "What are you people doing up there?" or "When will it be over?"

The answer to the first question remains the same. "Uh, it's not really us people. Despite what you might think, the Congress is really in charge of this one, not journalists. Honest. Of course the president had a lot to do with it in the first place, etc., etc..." But now it looks like the answer to the second question may really be "Soon."

At long last, Congress is slouching toward a final vote on impeachment and no one could be happier than the journalists who have to cover this day in and day out. Even reporters like this one, who don't have to spend every moment tracking Senate response to Henry Hyde's latest barrage, are weary.

True, the impeachment crisis has created some media stars. But what price glory? For weeks now, every day in this city has felt like that movie, Groundhog Day. You wake up and get ready to relive the same story, with the same characters saying the same things over and over again.

Only there's no Bill Murray to crack jokes.

Finally though, even Strom Thurmond couldn't take it any more. He knew that during their depositions this week, Monica Lewinsky and Vernon Jordan and Sydney Blumenthal all gave virtually the same accounts they've been giving since Kenneth Starr brought them before the grand jury. He didn't want to hear it all again on the Senate floor, especially when everybody knows the Senate is not going to vote to convict. We also know that the president was a very naughty fellow who will forever be a subject of psychological interpretation and risque jokes.

But the people seem to want him to remain in office, and they are practically screaming, "Let's get on with it." There's Social Security and crime and education and the budget and the crisis in Kosovo to be dealt with.

But when you look back over all these months of fighting over impeachment, it seems unlikely that the wounds of war are going to heal quickly. Even with impeachment off the table, it doesn't seem realistic to think that the bitterly divided Republicans and Democrats are going to take off their battle gear to work together to solve the nation's problems.

Somehow, I'm afraid, I'm still going to be hearing that first question, the one that asks "What are you peple doing up there?"

By Rita Braver
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