Cover image for A coup attempt in Washington : a European mirror on the 1998-1999 constitutional crisis
A coup attempt in Washington : a European mirror on the 1998-1999 constitutional crisis
Merkl, Peter H.
Personal Author:
First Palgrave edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave, 2001.

Physical Description:
370 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E886.2 .M474 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E886.2 .M474 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This is an exploration, with hundreds of appropriate quotes from French, British, German, Italian, and other newspapers, on how differently European journalists interpreted our attempt to impeach and remove our twice-elected president. This is not an effort to defend President Clinton. Contrary to what our media told us, Europeans did not just snicker about our attitude to sex scandals--they did little of that--but they critically and knowledgeably examined our obvious abuses of American legal procedures and concepts (e.g. perjury) and relevant constitutional clauses. They saw this as a five-year vendetta culminating in a quasi-constitutional coup attempt, not just the pursuit of a scandal, and believed an important part of our media was involved in the "vast rightwing conspiracy" to overthrow Clinton. Finally, and again unlike our media, they thought that this action damaged our constitutional system and would have destroyed it had the coup succeeded.

Author Notes

Peter H. Merkl is professor emeritus of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With all the late-2000 chatter about how our "who-won-it?" presidential election was viewed overseas, few commentators drew the obvious parallel: the overseas perspective on the 1998-1999 impeachment imbroglio. Merkl, an emeritus professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, examines Europe's view of that controversy, which the author considers our "most serious constitutional crisis . . . since the Civil War." Merkl sketches the European media's reaction to GOP attacks on Clinton from 1993 to 1997 and to legal and legislative processes ("the coup attempt") from the Supreme Court's decision that the Paula Jones suit could proceed to House passage of articles of impeachment and the Senate's failure to convict. He parses European commentary on "sex, lies, and audiotape" and joins the European critique of the U.S. "media conspiracy" that made tabloid tidbits the lead story while ignoring serious constitutional issues, important nonscandal stories, and the rest of the world's appalled reaction to the U.S. feeding frenzy. Merkl closes with a thoughtful analysis of the long-term damage the long, bitter impeachment drama may have done to the U.S. Constitution. --Mary Carroll

Library Journal Review

Hypocrisy, partisan attacks by right-wing conservatives, and a questionable sexual harassment case is how members of the European media viewed President Clinton's impeachment trial, according to Merkl, editor of The Federal Republic of Germany at Fifty and professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Merkl draws on Jeffrey Toobin's A Vast Conspiracy (Random, 1999) to portray Clinton as no hero but more honorable than his attackers, especially Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The Europeans quoted here make good points about their American media counterparts and the impeachment process, which they view as much different from a Prime Minister's being legally removed by Parliament. In America, they note, the move by the House of Representatives to remove a twice popularly elected president from office for charges less than treason and high crimes and misdemeanors was tantamount to an attempted illegal coup. Unfortunately, Merkl is frequently as strident as those he faults, and his good arguments are made emotionally and repetitively. Recommended for larger public libraries; other libraries may purchase as interest warrants.DKarl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
A Fablep. 1
Introductionp. 5
Chapter 1 The Prelude, 1994-1997p. 33
Chapter 2 A Coup Attempt in Washington?p. 83
Chapter 3 Europeans on Sex, Lies, and Audiotapesp. 173
Chapter 4 Democracy and the Media Conspiracyp. 249
Chapter 5 Damage to the Constitution?p. 303
Notesp. 353
Indexp. 359