Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen

Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment
By James E. Rogan
Hardcover.  476 pp.
2011.  WND Books.

Twelve years ago, after Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives and acquitted in a Senate trial, a slew of books were published about the historic event but the nation was going through Clinton fatigue, impeachment exhaustion, and scandal burnout.  The last thing most people wanted to read about in early 1999 was Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, and the first impeachment in American History of an elected President (Andrew Johnson, impeached and acquitted in 1868, had never been elected to the Presidency but instead succeeded to the office upon Abraham Lincoln’s assassination).  Even now, lingering partisan rancor from President Clinton’s sleazy scandal and the dogged hunt by Congressional Republicans to bring Clinton down often evoke an unpleasant reaction from Americans from all sides of the political spectrum.

However, a dozen years later, we are able to get a unique, inside look at Clinton’s impeachment and the Senate trial to decide the President’s fate with James E. Rogan’s book, Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment (WND Books, 2011).  Rogan was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1997-2001; a Republican representing a usually-Democratic Congressional district in California that included parts of Hollywood.  Congressman Rogan joined the House Judiciary Committee in January 1998, just as rumors surfaced that alleged the President had carried on an affair with a 24-year-old intern named Monica Lewinsky.  The next 12 months, as anyone who was alive during that time can recall, was a circus.  President Clinton denied the allegations to anybody and everybody who would listen.  In the process, Clinton also looked for a way to hold on to his Presidency as Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation threatened to bring down his Administration. 

As President Clinton lied about the extent of his affair with Lewinsky, Rogan and his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee prepared for what seemed inevitable: a process which might result in the impeachment and removal from office of the President of the United States.  In Catching Our Flag, Rogan uses his own personal notes and diaries to reconstruct the impeachment process and give the reader insight on the meetings and conferences where Congressional Republicans formulated a plan aimed at taking down Clinton.

I have political beliefs that are strong and intractable, and so does Jim Rogan.  Our political beliefs are polar opposites and Catching Our Flag certainly does not hide his disdain for Clinton’s Presidency, policies, and personal failures.  When I first started reading the book, I worried that it would be so biased or so one-sided that I would become frustrated and not be able to finish it.  My worries were unfounded.  Congressman Rogan — now a Superior Court Judge in California — is obviously a man of integrity and honesty.  His partisan feelings are not hidden, but that’s okay because he’s honest about them and doesn’t try to hide them.  Rogan makes no excuses and doesn’t pretend to be something that he isn’t.  He was a Conservative Republican Congressman who was disappointed by President Clinton and tried to remove him from office.  Rogan doesn’t apologize for that, and I really respect him and his book for that.

Rogan also doesn’t hide his feelings for some of his fellow Republicans.  Catching Our Flag is very candid and Rogan is critical of fellow House members and Senators from both sides when the criticism is warranted.  Most interesting is Rogan’s bitter feelings towards the Senate during the trial to determine whether Clinton would be removed from office.  Because of the strict rules placed by the Senate on the House Managers (including Rogan) chosen to prosecute the President, Rogan makes it clear that he never considered the Senate trial to truly be a trial.  Rogan’s frustrations with the Senate throughout the trial are apparent, and seemingly well-deserved.

I found Catching Our Flag to be tremendously interesting.  Rogan’s partisanship did not bother me as much as I worried it would because I do feel that he was fair throughout the book.  I didn’t agree with President Clinton’s impeachment and I still don’t, but I can respect a politician who stood up for his beliefs and fought for what he felt was right, especially since Rogan knew that his leading role in the impeachment and Senate trial would most likely cost him his Congressional seat in 2000 (and it did). 

What really adds to Catching Our Flag is Congressman Rogan’s eye for history.  Rogan is a lifelong collector of political memorabilia and the notes that he took in his diaries during the impeachment process and Senate trial indicate that he was observant of the fact that he was in the midst of a rare and historic event.  Rogan’s appreciation for the details of history stand out and allows Catching Our Flag to capture many of the subtleties and nuances that other records of this well-covered event tend to leave out.  Plus, Rogan played a major role in every part of the impeachment process from the House Judiciary Committee’s recommendation of Articles of Impeachment to the actual impeachment of the President in a vote by the House of Representatives to the Senate trial in which Rogan acted as one of the House Managers responsible for prosecuting the President. 

Perhaps no one else who played such a big role in President Clinton’s impeachment has left behind an exhaustive record like Jim Rogan has with Catching Our Flag.  Congressman Rogan approached this book with the eye of a historian, judge, and prosecutor – and he is all of those things.  Yes, it has a partisan feel at times, but Rogan is a loyal party member.  I may disagree with his beliefs and his actions, but I admire his tenacity and I appreciate the detail of his book.  It’s always important to get both sides of every story, and there’s no getting around it:  this is Jim Rogan’s side of the story.  Catching Our Flag is a fascinating history of a rare and solemn event that the American people are very unfamiliar with – the impeachment of the President of the United States.

Congressman James E. Rogan’s Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment is available now.  Jim Rogan left the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001 after losing the 2000 election largely due to his role in President Clinton’s impeachment.  Rogan is currently a judge of the Superior Court of California.  You can order your hardcover copy now, or download it for your Kindle.   

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