THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 11 Opening Statements: Mary Bono (R-Calif.)
By Federal News Service
REP. MARY BONO (R-CA): Mr. Chairman, I want to first thank the American people for giving me the opportunity to speak this morning on the most important issue I will ever face as a member of Congress. But after sitting through the many days of hearings and hours of testimony, I can also understand why much of the country has become somewhat immune to this issue. Obviously, we all wish we could put this matter behind us, but I do not have the luxury of doing that. I have a constitutional duty to review the facts and no matter how difficult or even unpopular my decision might be, in the end I must vote my conscience based on the evidence and the law.
And although the White House spin machine has tried to place the blame for these proceedings on Judge Starr or the committee majority, I can tell you that after reviewing the evidence and listening to the president's testimony, the reason we are here is because, unfortunately, the president of the United States lied to the American people and a federal grand jury and then he attempted to use the full power of the White House to cover it up. Then, instead of trying to present a credible defense that respected the intelligence of the American people, the White House and its allies used their spin machine to attack its opponents and destroy reputations.
Not until the possibility of impeachment became real to the White House in the last few days did they bother to address the facts or the truth. In the real world of everyday Americans, people who break the law face consequences. That is what our Founders intended when they drafted a Constitution and established the rule of law as the framework for our society.
And when a president attempts to weave his way through the rule of law to cover up a lie, he puts the Constitution itself on trial.
Like so many others, I am disappointed that the Office of the Presidency has been reduced in stature by the legal hair-splitting and stonewalling that the president and his lawyers have engaged in for the past seven months. According to his own defenders, the president engaged in sinful actions that were morally wrong.
So many twisted definitions of a very simple fact; the president of the United States committed perjury before a federal grand jury. He tried to convince the American people that the improper behavior he engaged in with a young subordinate, was really not sex, at least not according to the definition provided to him by the court. I am sure that every husband or wife knows in their heart that their spouse would consider what he did, sex.
And certainly, even young children recognize that he lied about it. How can anyone look their children in the eye and tell them that they must tell truth, after they see the president of the United States lie to the entire nation on television?
He abused his power as chief executive to protect himself at the expense of his family, his friends, his Cabinet and sadly, the American people.
I do believe the public deserves a president who adheres to a higher principle, and I am not afraid to admit that. It is what our forefathers fought and died for; it is what our veterans risked their lives for; it is what we all pray for, for our children.
President Kennedy, who was President Clinton's boyhood hero, said in the days before his assassination, that it is, quote, "the responsibility of the president to carry out and execute the laws of the country and that whoever is president will do the same, because if he did not, he would begin to unwind this most extraordinary constitutional system. So I strongly believe in fulfilling my oath," end quote.
And that concerns me greatly. If we just look the other way and allow a president to abuse his authority and betray his oath by committing at the very least, perjury, the public trust in our constitutional system will be forever diminished.
Today, the president's lawyers asked us to put an end to this process for the good of the nation. If the president had really wanted to save the nation the turmoil of this past year, he should have been more truthful or forthcoming from the beginning. Or, as some have already suggested, he could have simply resigned.
So I say to the president today, if you really believe that this process will cause our nation irreparable harm, I ask you for the good of the nation -- resign and spare our country a lengthy and divisive impeachment process. The simple truth is that this issue would not even be before us if the president simply told the truth or settled with Paula Jones in the beginning, rather than telling his political operatives that they would just have to win instead.
The pursuit of the truth cannot be avoided simply because it involves an uncomfortable issue like sex. And I have got news for you; whatever you do that is wrong is going to be embarrassing when people find out about it.
To avoid dealing with the truth because it makes people uncomfortable would be particularly hurtful to any and all women who must deal with cases of harassment. And that is a real fear that I have. In fact, this case is largely about one woman being denied her day in court, about a White House that uses all of its resources to intimidate witnesses and obscure the facts.
That is one reason why so many Americans have lost faith in our legal system. The lesson women learn from the Paula Jones case is not to challenge a powerful person, certainly not someone who has the best lawyers and the resources of a nation at his disposal. Believe me, the example this sends is that any person who challenges a figure of authority is going to be subjected to all types of abuse. Let me tell you, that is a very scary message.
Another concern that is very scary is the effect the president's behavior will have on our national security. Just a few months ago, I found myself, along with many other Americans and even the media, wondering if our strike against terrorism was life imitating art or a genuine response to a terrorist organization. Just the thought that the possibility existed that the president was engaging in a "Wag the Dog" scenario was chilling and profoundly disappointing. As a nation, we deserve better.
You know, a lot of people ask me if I'm concerned about voting to impeach a popular president. They talk about his high approval ratings and the polls that say most Americans oppose impeachment. But I cannot allow my decision to be based on the president's popularity or the numbers in a poll. History will judge us on the facts, and I want future generations to look at the evidence and say that what we did was based on the law and upon our constitutional duty.
I know that the president is a very likeable man. I understand why people want this issue to just go away. But the issue we are facing is at the very core of our constitutional system, and while many people may like this president, I hope that they love their country more, because that is what I will base my vote on -- my love for this country and on our Constitution. If we do not uphold its principles, the foundation of our system of government will be undermined forever.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your leadership and your fairness throughout these entire hearings and this process. And I want to echo the sentiments of Congressman Graham, that it has been truly an honor to serve with each and every member on this panel.
And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.
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