There’s no playbook for how to handle the aftermath of an impeachment—it’s only happened three times—but as I watched President Donald Trump’s post-acquittal statement today, I was inspired to review what Bill Clinton said after the Senate acquitted him in 1999.
The sometimes logorrheic Clinton was short and crisp:
Now that the Senate has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, bringing this process to a conclusion, I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.
I also am humbled and very grateful for the support and the prayers I have received from millions of Americans over this past year.
Now I ask all Americans, and I hope all Americans, here in Washington and throughout our land, will rededicate ourselves to the work of serving our nation and building our future together.
This can be and this must be a time of reconciliation and renewal for America. Thank you very much.
As he finished, a reporter asked him whether “in [his] heart,” he could forgive and forget. “I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it,” Clinton said.
“Do you feel vindicated?” another reporter asked. Clinton did not reply.
Trump’s statement, almost exactly 21 years later, was the complete opposite. The president was rambling and improvisational, speaking for more than an hour. He was jubilant and celebratory, even showing a facsimile of affection—not an emotion typically associated with him—toward his allies.