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The Semiosis of the Clinton Impeachment Debate

18 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2001  

Denis J. Brion

Washington and Lee University

Date Written: September 2001


The attempt in 1998-99 to remove William Jefferson Clinton from the office of the presidency of the United States through the impeachment process was justified on the grounds of the immorality of the actions which he was accused of taking. During the long public debate over this matter, there was a substantial disconnect between the dominant view that Clinton was understood as a person of dubious morality and the dominant view that Clinton ought not be removed from office. At the same time, those who led the attempt to remove him from office were charged with engaging in a naked grab for power behind the facade of a hypocritical rhetoric of morality. These phenomena can be explained by the fact that all of the major themes in this long discourse sounded in one or another of the ancient myths of kingship. In turn, these myths each rest on one or another of the deep cosmologies to which humans appeal in order to create the cognitive World that is the milieu of the conscious human. Thus, the discourse rested on deeply principled foundations. And, as a political matter, Clinton was not removed from office because a substantial majority of the populace held one or another concept of kingship for which the morality of the incumbent is irrelevant.

Suggested Citation

Brion, Denis J., The Semiosis of the Clinton Impeachment Debate (September 2001). Washington & Lee Public Law Research Paper No. 01-14. Available at SSRN: or

Denis J. Brion (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University ( email )

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