Skip to comments.Happy Clinton Impeachment Day, 2006 (Impeachment is Forever)
Posted on 12/19/2006 6:43:04 AM PST by kristinn
It was eight years ago today that William Jefferson Clinton became only the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstructing justice. Two months later, the Senate voted not to convict him, even though the evidence (such as Clinton's own words, deeds and presidue) proved him guilty.
Rep. Henry Hyde, who as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee led the thirteen House Managers in prosecuting Clinton before the Senate, is retiring from Congress this year. Below is his closing argument in the impeachment trial of President Clinton:
CHIEF JUSTICE. The Chair recognizes Mr. Manager Hyde.
Mr. Manager HYDE. Mr. Chief Justice, learned counsel, and the Senate, we are blessedly coming to the end of this melancholy procedure. But before we gather up our papers and return to the obscurity from whence we came--
Permit, please, a few final remarks.
First of all, I thank the Chief Justice not only for his patience and his perseverance but for the aura of dignity that he has lent to these proceedings. And it has been a great thrill for me to be here in his company, as well as in the company of you, distinguished Senators.
Secondly, I want to compliment the President's counsel. They have conducted themselves in the most professional way. They have made the most of a poor case, in my opinion. There is an old Italian saying--and it has nothing to do with the lawyers, but to your case--that `you may dress the shepherd in the silk, he will still smell of the goat.' (Laughter.)
But all of you are great lawyers. And it has been an adventure being with you.
You know, the legal profession, like politics, is ridiculed pretty much. And every lawyer feels that and understands the importance of the rule of law, to establish justice, to maintain the rights of mankind, to defend the helpless and the oppressed, to protect innocents, to punish guilt. These are duties which challenge the best powers of man's intellect and the noblest qualities of the human heart. We are here to defend the bulwark of our liberty, the rule of law.
As to the House managers, I want to tell you and our extraordinary staff how proud I am of your service. For myself, I cannot find the words to adequately express how I feel. I must use the inaudible language of the heart. I have gone through it all by your side--the media condemnation, the patronizing editorials, the hate mail, the insults hurled in public, the attempts at intimidation, the death threats, and even the disapproval of our colleagues, which cuts the worst.
You know, all a Congressman ever gets to take with him when he leaves this building is the esteem of his colleagues and his constituents--and we have risked even that for a principle, for our duty, as we have seen it.
In speaking to my managers, of whom I am interminably proud, I can borrow the words of Shakespeare, `Henry V,' as he addressed his little army of longbowmen before the Battle of Agincourt. And he said:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
For he that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother
And gentlemen in England, now abed
shall think themselves accursed they
were not here
And hold their manhood cheap
while any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Chrispen's day
As for the juror judges, you distinguished Senators, it is always a victory for democracy when its elected representatives do their duty, no matter how difficult and unpleasant, and we thank you for it. Please don't misconstrue our fervor for our cause to any lack of respect or appreciation for your high office. But our most formidable opponent has not been opposing counsel nor any political party; it has been the cynicism, the widespread conviction that all politics and all politicians are, by definition, corrupt and venal.
That cynicism is an acid eating away at the vital organs of American public life. It is a clear and present danger, because it blinds us to the nobility and the fragility of being a self-governing people.
One of the several questions that needs answered is whether your vote on conviction lessens or enlarges that cynicism. Nothing begets cynicism like the double standard--one rule for the popular and the powerful and another for the rest of us.
One of the most interesting things in this trial was the testimony of the President's good friend, the former Senator from Arkansas. He did his persuasive best to maintain the confusion that this is all about sex. Of course, it is useful for the defense to misdirect our focus to what everyone concedes are private acts and none of our business. But if you care to read the articles of impeachment, you won't find any complaints about private sexual misconduct. You will find charges of perjury and obstruction of justice which are public acts and Federal crimes, especially when committed by the one person duty bound to faithfully execute the laws. Infidelity is private and noncriminal. Perjury and obstruction are public and criminal. The deliberate focus on what is not at issue here is a defense lawyer's tactic and nothing more. This entire saga has been a theater of distraction and misdirection, time-honored defense tactics when the law and the facts get in the way.
One phrase you have not heard the defense pronounce is the `sanctity of the oath.' But this case deeply involves the efficacy, the meaning, and the enforceability of the oath. The President's defenders stay away from the word `lie,' preferring `mislead' or `deceive.' But they shrink from the phrase `sanctity of the oath,' fearing it as one might a rattlesnake.
There is a visibility factor in the President's public acts and those which betray a trust or reveal contempt for the law are hard to sweep under the rug, or under the bed, for that matter. They reverberate, they ricochet all over the land, and provide the worst possible example for our young people. As that third-grader from Chicago wrote to me, `If you can't believe the President, who can you believe?"
Speaking of young people, in 1946 a British playwright, Terrance Rattigan, wrote a play based on a true experience that happened in England in 1910. The play was called `The Winslow Boy.' And the story--as I say, a true story--involved a young 13-year-old lad who was kicked out of the Royal Naval College for having forged somebody else's signature on a postal money order. Of course, he claimed he was innocent, but he was summarily dismissed and his family, of very modest means, could not afford legal counsel, and it was a very desperate situation. Sir Edward Carson, the best lawyer of his time--barrister, I suppose--got interested in the case and took it on pro bono and lost all the way through the courts.
Finally, he had no other place to go, but he dug up an ancient remedy in England called `petition of right.' You ask the King for relief. And so Carson wrote out five pages of reasons why a petition of right should be granted and, lo and behold, it got past the Attorney General, it got to the King. The King read it, agreed with it, and wrote across the front of the petition, `Let right be done. Edward VII.'
I have always been moved by that phrase. I saw the movie; I saw the play; and I have the book. And I am still moved by that phrase, `Let right be done.' I hope when you finally vote that will move you, too.
There are some interesting parallels to our cause here today. This Senate Chamber is our version of the House of Lords, and while we managers cannot claim to represent that 13-year-old Winslow boy, we speak for a lot of young people who look to us to set an example.
Ms. Seligman last Saturday said we want to win too badly. This surprised me because none of the managers has committed perjury nor obstructed justice and claimed false privileges, none has hidden evidence under anyone's bed nor encouraged false testimony before the grand jury. That is what you do if you want to win too badly.
I believe it was Saul Bellow who once said, `A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is great.' And those words characterize the defense in this case. `The need for illusion' is very great.
I doubt there are many people on the planet who doubt the President has repeatedly lied under oath and has obstructed justice. The defense spent a lot of time picking lint. There is a saying in the courts, I believe, that equity will not stoop to pick up pins. But that was their case. So the real issue doesn't concern the facts, the stubborn facts, as the defense is fond of saying, but what to do about them.
I am still dumbfounded about the drafts of the censures that are circulating. We aren't half as tough on the President in our impeachment articles as this draft is that was printed in the New York Times:
An inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee in the White House which was shameless, reckless and indefensible.
I have a problem with that. It seems they are talking about private acts of consensual sexual misconduct which are really none of our business. But that is the leadoff.
Then they say:
The President deliberately misled and deceived the American people and officials in all branches of the U.S. Government.
This is not a Republican document. This is coming from here.
The President gave false or misleading testimony and impeded discovery of evidence in judicial proceedings.
Isn't that another way of saying obstruction of justice and perjury?
The President's conduct demeans the Office of the President as well as the President himself and creates disrespect for the laws of the land. Future generations of Americans must know that such behavior is not only unacceptable but bears grave consequences including loss of integrity, trust and respect.
But not loss of job.
Whereas, William Jefferson Clinton's conduct has brought shame and dishonor to himself and to the Office of the President; whereas, he has violated the trust of the American people--
See Hamilton Federalist No. 65-- he should be condemned in the strongest terms.
Well, the next to the strongest terms. The strongest terms would remove him from office.
Well, do you really cleanse the office as provided in the Constitution or do you use the Airwick of a censure resolution? Because any censure resolution, to be meaningful, has to punish the President, if only his reputation. And how do you deal with the laws of bill of attainder? How do you deal with the separation of powers? What kind of a precedent are you setting?
We all claim to revere the Constitution, but a censure is something that is a device, a way of avoiding the harsh constitutional option, and it is the only one we have up or down on impeachment. That, of course, is your judgment, and I am offering my views, for what they are worth.
Once in a while I do worry about the future. I wonder if, after this culture war is over, this one we are engaged in, an America will survive that is worth fighting for to defend.
People won't risk their lives for the U.N., or over the Dow Jones averages. But I wonder, in future generations, whether there will be enough vitality left in duty, honor and country to excite our children and grandchildren to defend America.
There is no denying the fact that what you decide will have a profound effect on our culture, as well as on our politics. A failure to convict will make a statement that lying under oath, while unpleasant and to be avoided, is not all that serious. Perhaps we can explain this to those currently in prison for perjury. We have reduced lying under oath to a breach of etiquette, but only if you are the President.
Wherever and whenever you avert your eyes from a wrong, from an injustice, you become a part of the problem.
On the subject of civil rights, it is my belief this issue doesn't belong to anyone; it belongs to everyone. It certainly belongs to those who have suffered invidious discrimination, and one would have to be catatonic not to know that the struggle to keep alive equal protection of the law never ends. The mortal enemy of equal justice is the double standard, and if we permit a double standard, even for the President, we do no favor to the cause of human rights. It has been said that America has nothing to fear from this President on the subject of civil rights. I doubt Paula Jones would subscribe to that endorsement.
If you agree that perjury and obstruction of justice have been committed, and yet you vote down the conviction, you are extending and expanding the boundaries of permissible Presidential conduct. You are saying a perjurer and obstructer of justice can be President, in the face of no less than three precedents for conviction of Federal judges for perjury. You shred those precedents and you raise the most serious questions of whether the President is in fact subject to the law or whether we are beginning a restoration of the divine right of kings. The issues we are concerned with have consequences far into the future because the real damage is not to the individuals involved, but to the American system of justice and especially the principle that no one is above the law.
Edward Gibbon wrote his magisterial `Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' in the late 18th century--in fact the first volume was issued in 1776. In his work, he discusses an emperor named Septimius Severus, who died in 211 A.D. after ruling 18 years. And here is what Gibbon wrote about the emperor:
Severus promised, only to betray; he flattered only to ruin; and however he might occasionally bind himself by oaths and treaties, his conscience, obsequious to his interest, always released him from the inconvenient obligation.
I guess those who believe history repeats itself are really onto something. Horace Mann said:
You should be ashamed to die unless you have achieved some victory for humanity.
To the House managers, I say your devotion to duty and the Constitution has set an example that is a victory for humanity. Charles de Gaulle once said that France would not be true to herself unless she was engaged in some great enterprise. That is true of us all. Do we spend our short lives as consumers, space occupiers, clock watchers, as spectators, or in the service of some great enterprise?
I believe, being a Senator, being a Congressman, and struggling with all our might for equal justice for all, is a great enterprise. It is our great enterprise. And to my House managers, your great enterprise was not to speak truth to power, but to shout it. And now let us all take our place in history on the side of honor and, oh, yes: Let right be done.
I yield back my time.
Were you happier then?
Unfortunately, in this case, right wasn't done. The Big Creep survived to party on another day.
It is tragic for our country that we do not have more patriots like Hyde who care about this country.
I was very happy on that day. And hopeful.
"...Whereas, William Jefferson Clinton's conduct has brought shame and dishonor to himself and to the Office of the President;e--"
Herein lies the problem: Clinton doesn't recognize shame and honor.
Its just a shame that the Senate didn't follow thru with removing the piece of garbage when they had the chance....but then if you think back, ALGore would have been President then and with the little brain cells he has, we could be in big trouble....
BUT another postive look if the Senate had removed the garbage from the White House, we wouldn't have the other piece of garbage as a Senator and thinking of running for POTUS....then again, we wouldn't have President Bush, the best thing since Reagan....so there are ups and downs, but I think if the Senate had followed thru, our country would have been better served.....
The Lords of the Senate were more concerned about themselves than the good of the nation.
I think I'll leave this article open on my monitor for all my liberal Clinton-loving co-workers to see as they pass through,
Happy Impeachment Day!
I think I'll celebrate with a cigar.
on second thought...
It is tragic, and we'll be paying the price for Clinton's presidency for decades to come.
Can Bill Clinton be impeached AGAIN, for crimes that were committed while he was in office?...........
ping for a good read
I think you need more to do...it's over, it will pass, we never hear anyone celebrating Johnson's impeachment.
Great reminder. Thanks.
The fact that he and his co-conspirator roam freely, is a measure of the work yet to be done...in order to form a more perfect union.
Are you less now?
The Senate was deathly afraid of Clinton. The flowers on the desk of the Senate employee killed in an odd traffic accident around the time the trial started was a daily reminder of the Clinton body count.
What's your point?
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