35 Years of Experience: Years 1 + 2
Reverend Jeremiah Wright has at least temporarily retired the phrase “chickens coming home to roost” but that’s the phrase that comes to mind reading Dan Calabrese’s column about Hillary Clinton’s performance as a staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Inquiry in 1973-4.
Mr. Calabrese’s is the most recent retread of the basic charges made by Jerome Zeifman, the Harvard-trained attorney who was the Committee’s staff director. Hired by and beholden to Chairman Peter Rodino, Mr. Zeifman was then (as he apparently still is) a liberal Democrat. In 1995 he published a book based on the extensive diaries he had kept during the impeachment period: Without Honor: The Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of President Nixon.
Those contemporaneous diaries set out his concerns about the efforts (successful efforts as things turned out) of a group within his staff —primarily consisting of John Doar, Bernard Nussbaum, and Ms. Rodham— to prevent the accused President from being represented by counsel. A Nixon defense might be expected to uncover abuses by prior administrations (read: JFK) and thereby cause problems for Teddy Kennedy’s prospective 1976 presidential bid. Ms. Rodham also successfully deep-sixed the academic study of prior administrations’ offenses that she had been charged with supervising.
Mr. Zeifman was no friend of Nixon, whom he thought should be impeached. But he was greatly perturbed by the partisan corners he saw being cut by this cabal in order to achieve the end they sought. As Mr. Calabrese puts it:
Jerry Zeifman, a lifelong Democrat, supervised the work of 27-year-old Hillary Rodham on the committee. Hillary got a job working on the investigation at the behest of her former law professor, Burke Marshall, who was also Sen. Ted Kennedy’s chief counsel in the Chappaquiddick affair. When the investigation was over, Zeifman fired Hillary from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation – one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman’s 17-year career.
“Because she was a liar,” Zeifman said in an interview last week. “She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”
These days the colorful Mr. Zeifman shows no signs of letting his eighty-three years slow him down. And he has come to share at least one thing with his former employee Ms. Rodham — they both channel Eleanor Roosevelt (although at least Mr. Zeifman actually knew Mrs. R. and worked with her to get Adlai Stevenson his third Democratic presidential nomination in 1960).