A president who lies to the American public should resign. Bill Clinton said so in 1974, the year President Richard Nixon counted the votes and then had the grace and honor to resign before he was impeached.
How ironic that today, Mr. Nixon's decision to put his country ahead of himself stands as a stinging rebuke to President Clinton, who defiantly insists that resigning has never even crossed his mind.
The sad truth is that what President Clinton says -- in 1978 or 1998 -- means nothing. He has lied too many times -- to the public and under oath.
That's what Article I of the House Bill of Impeachment is all about: Perjury. It passed with 228 votes, 10 more than needed, with five Democrats.
Article III -- obstruction of justice -- targets another of Mr. Clinton's dangerous flaws: his arrogant disregard of the law. It had 221 votes.
It is time now, in the eye of the hurricane between the House vote and a looming Senate trial, to consider what should come next.
Leading Democrats in the House and Senate should stop filling sandbags for President Clinton and search the soul of their party to ask: Should our nation be led by a man who has disgraced the presidency and violated his oath of office? Or is it healthier to start fresh, with President Al Gore serving the remainder of Mr. Clinton's term? The answer is obvious.
The Democrats' show of solidarity on the White House lawn yesterday may have been good for their morale, but it was wrong for the country.
After his supporters fired a broadside of accusations that the impeachment was purely partisan, Mr. Clinton had the gall to say "It's time to move beyond partisanship."
Dismissing impeachment as "purely partisan" is itself a partisan attack -- a shameful insult to the men and women of conscience and integrity who agonized over their votes.
Mr. Clinton has apparently moved into that room in the White House that used to be called "Nixon's bunker." Deep in denial, he still blames Republicans for his own disgrace.
If he remains defiant, the next step is a trial in the Senate. "Managers" from the House -- including Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati -- have been appointed to prosecute. Mr. Clinton will again present a defense.
The trial could end quickly if the Senate lacks a two-thirds majority for conviction and removal. But the impeachment mechanism carefully designed in our Constitution must be allowed to work. And once it gets started, Mr. Clinton could lose again. The evidence is strong and undisputed. Impeachment by the House has already added gravity to gathering momentum.
Impeachment and removal of a president was never intended to be easy or quick. It was deliberately designed to be difficult, to make sure it is used rarely.
Our Founders wisely left the final decision to the "deliberative body," the Senate, where each Senator will sit in silent judgment after taking an oath that was last spoken in the trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868:
"I do solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of the President of the United States, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws."
"Impartial justice" says clearly: All partisanship stops at the Senate door.
If Mr. Clinton survives the trial, or is censured by the Senate, America will survive. Mr. Clinton will carry his impeachment albatross into history, alongside his defiant vow to stay in office until "the last hour of the last day of my term."
But our presidency will be weakened, diminished, crippled by disgrace.
Mr. Clinton should for once think of something besides himself. He should think of the nation he swore to "preserve and protect" -- and resign.