The Clinton impeachment succeeded
Thinking back on it, I can see that the Republicans, while they (or at least some of them) may have thought that their intended end wasn't achieved, in fact -- on the whole -- they gained quite a (albeit strategic) political victory with their failed impeachment of Clinton.
Amongst other things, their Whitewater never-ending investigation and subsequent impeachment effort spelled the death-knell for the hated Independent Counsel Act (instituted in the wake of the Nixon fiasco), and enabled the hijacking of the justice system by political cronies, unchecked by any fear of accountability for lawlessness, once again (see also here and here).
Here's Glenn Greenwald, commenting on the current political climate:
Writing from the Netroots Nation conference, The Nation's Ari Melber detailed what he calls "Bipartisan Attacks on the Rule of Law," and specifically highlighted the fact that close Obama adviser, Professor Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago, "cautioned against prosecuting criminal conduct from the current Administration" during a Conference panel. As Melber wrote:By engaging in a naked, obvious political attack -- void of substance -- on Clinton, the Republicans (and the maladministration) have gained some immunity from even substantive attacks on their behaviour, invoked simply by saying the magic phrase "partisan witch-hunt!" (as they've done repeatedly to any attempt by Congress to uncover the dirty dealings of the executive and Republican party). And Democrats, not anxious to stoop to the level of the 1990's Republicans (or even to be seen by some as doing so), back off.Prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle" of criminalizing public service, [Sunstein] argued, and Democrats should avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton -- or even the "slight appearance" of it.
What most galling is that Whitewater was such a free-form, "anything goes", investigation of "everything Clinton", that now when the Dubya maladministration is violating laws left and right, from top to bottom, any investigation of the actual Dubya misdeeds actually looks like the open-ended (but unproductive) fishing expeditions of the Whitewater fiasco. Therefore, the Dubya maladministration gets the most immunity by being as flagrant as possible in as many places as possible. No administration could possibly be so thoroughly crooked, so any attempt to point this out begins to seem partisan and hysterical (until you see that there's substance to each and every travesty uncovered).
Cigars all around. Well done, Republicans. You've managed to generate enough public cynicism that nothing will enrage any more.