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Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Howard Coble (R-N.C.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, December 10, 1998

    REP. HOWARD COBLE (R-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Much has been made about the absence of bipartisanship on this issue, and I want to reiterate my position on that.

    Do not point accusatory fingers at Republicans or Democrats because there is disagreement. Assuming we vote our consciences and exercise sound judgment, little else can be asked. Some favor impeachment; some oppose it. The process then will move forward.

    I want to direct my attention to perjury, Mr. Chairman. I know of no situation, my friends, where sanctity is so generously laced as when one submits to an oath, then violates it. At this point, perjury rears its unsavory head.

    I represent a district far removed from the Beltway and its accompanying mentality. Here we are surrounded by Beltway advisers, who demand fees in excess of $500 per hour. And many of these adept advisers, lawyers, counselors are "spinmeisters." They attach their spin, and oftentimes confusion results.

    But when I return to my district, I sometimes motor south on Highway 29 through the fox and the wine country of Virginia. And as I approach the North Carolina boundary line, my mind begins to clear, as I am at that point removed from the Beltway spin.

    All of sudden I am aware of the definition of "sex." All of a sudden I know the meaning of "alone." I know what "is" is, as do the majority of my constituents. (Soft laughter.)

    Many have compared the present White House crisis to Watergate. There are similarities. There are distinctions. One glaring similarity, in my opinion, my friends, is this: If President Clinton and President Nixon had come before the American people in a timely way -- and by that, Mr. Chairman, I mean early in the game -- and sincerely apologized for their offenses or crimes, we likely would not be here today. Watergate misconduct as well as current White House misconduct are, in my opinion, subject to impeachment, but the American people are a forgiving people. But neither President Nixon nor President Clinton saw fit to pursue the course I have just outlined.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Sin has many tools, but the lie is the handle that fits them all." And the centerpiece to this scenario, I am convinced, ladies and gentlemen, is not sex; it is indeed perjury. It is the lie. It's the handle to the tool! And as best I can determine, there are no exceptions to the perjury statute -- statutes. And if we turn a blind eye to perjury in this instance, what precedent do we establish when subsequent cases involving perjury must be resolved fairly and impartially?

    Finally, I take umbrage to charges that some are out to get the president. Mrs. Bono, the gentlewoman from California, earlier said this week that it is not we on this committee who crated the problem that's now before us; that was the president's doing.

    I take umbrage as well to those who claim that some approach this arduous task in a gleeful manner. I take no joy in discharging this duty before us, but it remains our duty nonetheless.

    Mr. Chairman, every 25 years, it seems, the House Committee on the Judiciary charts its course through impeachment waters. We spend the remaining years in relative obscurity compared to some of our House committees that enjoy higher levels of profile than we.

    And I must confess -- and I may be speaking for all the members on the Judiciary Committee -- I long for the days of relative obscurity! That may come one of these first days. (Laughter.)

    My good friend from Michigan, the distinguished ranking member, referred to the shutdown of the government when he said the Congress shut down the government. Let me talk a minute about that. When the government shut down in 1991, President Bush was blamed for the shutdown. When the government shut down in 1995, the Congress was blamed for the shutdown. Still haven't figured that one out. I think the truth of the matter is President Bush and the Congress closed down the government in '91; President Clinton and the Congress closed down the government in '95 under very -- almost identical circumstances -- the inability to agree on spending measures. So I don't believe that -- assuming impeachment will follow -- I don't think that will accelerate the shutting down of the government.

    My good friend from New York talked about, oh, it's going to tie everything up. And it may well tie up to some extent. But I'm the eternal optimist; I forever see that glass half filled. And I can't see that this is going to shut down the government or tie it up, assuming it does advance to the Senate.

    Having said all that, Mr. Chairman, I am happy to report the red light has not illuminated and I yield back my time.

    REP. SENSENBRENNER: I thank the gentleman from North Carolina.

    And the gentleman from California, Mr. Berman.


    Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at

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