President Clinton’s impeachment was a foregone conclusion, or so the syndicated columnists and the “political analysts” on the television news shows would have us think. According to them. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives enforced strict party discipline and engaged in arm twisting to ensure the desired outcome. But was the result predetermined, or are these analysts and columnists guilty of making up their minds before any actual voting took place? After all, each postvote “analysis” corresponded closely to pre-vote predictions. These so-called analyses were also suspiciously similar to the spin placed on the whole affair by White House spokesmen and by the majority of Democratic politicians.

If one can believe the polls, it also appears that the public agrees with the pundits every step of the way. Life is simple: Clinton was railroaded on trumped-up charges at the hands of a Republican Party leadership ready for “payback time” for the attempted impeachment of President Nixon.

While party leaders on both sides of the aisle admonished House members to vote their conscience, the public properly doubted the sincerity of this display of political civility and duty to oaths of office. Never mind insignificant items such as the fact that Representative Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico) declared in debate that, far from subjecting her to arm-twisting, no one of either part) even asked her how she was planning to vote. The entire affair was clearly staged by Republicans, and that was that.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde declared at the outset that a bipartisan decision was needed for a meaningful outcome. When the votes were in, which party seemed more partisan, and which party’s members showed the greater tendency to vote their individual consciences?

Simple arithmetic and common sense are the only tools needed to reveal that the dark forces of evil were not as the experts would have them. There’s no need for “scientific sampling:” Fourth grade arithmetic reveals the truth.

What follows are the data on the Democratic and Republican votes cast for each of the four Articles of Impeachment. (The total votes do not add up to 435 because one member was not present, and the vote of the one Independent member is not germane to this analysis.)

On Article One: Republicans, 22? yea (51.5 percent of the total vote), five nay (1.2 percent); Democrats, five yea (1.2 percent), 200 nay (46.2 percent). On Article Two: Republicans, 200 yea (46.2 percent), 28 nay (6.5 percent); Democrats, five yea (1.2 percent), 200 nay (46.2 percent). On Article Three: Republicans, 216 yea (49.9 percent), 12 nay (2.8 percent); Democrats, five yea (1.2 percent), 200 nay (46.2 percent). On Article Four: Republicans, 147 yea (33.9 percent), 81 nay (18.7 percent); Democrats, one yea (.2 percent), 204 nay (47.1 percent). The total vote on the four articles breaks down as follows: Republicans, 786 yea (45.4 percent), 126 nay (7.3 percent); Democrats, 16 yea (.9 percent), 804 nay (46.4 percent).

These figures provide a whole lot of grist for the grinding on either side of the debate. For example. Democrats can point to the fact that, had the four articles been considered as a single item, there would have been no impeachment. But it only takes a single article to impeach, and the President was impeached on two of the four.

However, the figures certainly do not show that the Republicans voted as automatons. Their yea votes ranged from 147 to 223, a difference of 76, while the Democrats’ nay votes ranged from 200 to 204, a difference of four. The Republican nay votes ranged from 5 to 81, but the Democratic yeas ranged only from one to five. In other words, the Democrats voted as a solid bloc, which should prove very embarrassing to those who claim that the Republican leadership held its members to some oath of obedience. These simple numbers are there for everyone to see, even political analysts and syndicated columnists. But those who do not wish to see will, of course, not bother to look. Who would want to be confused by the facts?

Let’s assume, for a moment, that the pundits are right, and the Republican leadership did attempt to enforce strict party discipline in the impeachment proceedings. How successful were they? Of the 228 Republican congressmen, 22? (or 97.8 percent) voted for Article One; 200 (87.7 percent) voted for Article Two; 216 (94.7 percent) voted for Article Three; and 147 (64.5 percent) voted for Article Four. Overall, 786 Republican votes, or 86.2 percent, were cast for the four articles. But what about the Democrats, who presumably were free to vote their consciences? Of the 205 Democratic congressmen, 200 (or 97.6 percent) voted against Article One; 200 (97.6 percent) voted against Article Two; 200 (97.6 percent) voted against Article Three; and 204 (99.5 percent) voted against Article Four. Overall, 804 Democratic votes, or 98 percent, were cast against the four articles.

Under the pundits’ presumption that the Republican leadership wanted its members to vote for impeachment, it would seem that the members followed the party line an average of only 86.2 percent of the time, while the Democrats averaged an astounding 98 percent obedience. Or is it just that the Democrats’ consciences are really that constant?

The next time you hear that the Republicans voted as their party leaders dictated and did not vote their consciences, remember that Republican votes defeated Articles Two and Four, and that Article Three passed only with help from the Democrats. So much for the political wisdom of the “talking heads.”