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Jeff City too busy for impeachment

January 14, 1999
By: Edward Klump
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - While it was an historic day in the nation's Capitol, it was just business as usual in Missouri's. The dark TV sets and silent radios in state offices offered no clue that the U.S. Senate was trying a president for only the second time in history.

Gov. Mel Carnahan wasn't even in town, having left for Greece on Wednesday. Chris Sifford, the governor's spokesman, said Carnahan wouldn't watch the proceedings, but would be told of any major developments when he called the office to check in.

Others in the executive branch weren't following the impeachment proceedings much more closely. Staff members said Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson left early for a meeting, Attorney General Jay Nixon wasn't paying unusual attention and State Auditor Claire McCaskill's schedule was too full.

Members of Columbia's delegation also said that while Bill Clinton's impeachment trial is historic, it has little effect on their daily routine.

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said he watches impeachment updates at night because the process is important, but he wishes this piece of history had never happened. The result, Graham said, is an atmosphere of personal attacks and bizarre twists that is more surreal than serious.

As the impeachment process drags on, Graham said he checks up on the proceedings as if he were following "Days of Our Lives."

"If you've got your favorite soap opera, you can click on it a month later and find out what is going on," he said.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, said reading the newspaper and listening to the radio are the best ways for her to keep up with the latest developments. She said she only pays attention before or after work, and has not been convinced that Clinton should leave office.

"I haven't seen anything yet that rises to the level of an impeachable offense," she said.

Another member of the area's state delegation, Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, said he has been too busy to watch the proceedings during the week. Harlan said that leaves the weekend for him to read newspapers and watch "Meet the Press."

But Harlan also said it's interesting that the supposed trial of the century has such an apathetic audience. He said this confirms the polls showing people are sick of impeachment talk.

"This week I have not heard one person in the Capitol who has mentioned it at all," Harlan said.

He certainly hasn't heard Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, discussing the events in Washington. After first saying he had no comment on impeachment, Jacob said he is tired of hearing about Clinton.

"Everybody in the world is talking about it," he said. "And I'm not going to."