THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Bob Ingliss (R-S.C.)
By Federal News Service
REP. BOB INGLIS (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to join with others in thanking you for the way that you've conducted these proceedings and congratulate you on the demeanor with which you've conducted them and the fair way in which you've conducted them. Obviously, my point of view differs considerably from the gentleman who just spoke. What I'd like to do, Mr. Chairman, is talk about three things; talk about truth, talk about principle over convenience, and talk about our constitutional obligation.
First, it seems to me that what we're witnessing here is a conflict, a clash, between two very different views. One view is that there is absolute truth; the other view is that everything is relative. And this is not new; this is not a new debate in this country. It's actually been going on quite a while. Most of us on this committee are lawyers and remember that Oliver Wendell Holmes sort of established the school of legal realism, which basically said let's abandon the search for truth and let's do relative justice between people, because there is no truth out there to find. That was a significant statement and set us on a significantly different course in our legal tradition than where we started at the foundation of the country.
And really, what we're seeing in President Clinton, I believe, is the culmination of that. He is the perfect embodiment of everything being relative. He is the epitome of someone who says there is no truth, everything is relative. And that's the big conflict here. For those of us who believe that here's truth, that telling the truth is crucial and that there are right statements and there are wrong statements, we find it incumbent upon us to act. For those who are willing to dismiss, well, it was a lie in the case of sex, so therefore, it's not a real lie, it's a little lie about a little matter. They take the opposite view and say, you surely can't impeach a president for something like that because relatively speaking, it's not as bad.
So there are around us some vestiges of this old system of absolute truth. You know, we had a witness here, Steve Saltzburg (sp) who taught me evidence at the University of Virginia Law School and at UVA we have something called the "single sanction honor code" -- if you lie, cheat or steal, you're gone. Single sanction. No intermediate sanctions, no disciplinary actions against you.
If you commit any of those infractions, you're gone from Mr. Jefferson's academical village. That's an old view. And the reason I mention Mr. Jefferson, you know, is he said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
Now, let me rewrite that in the way that the White House spin machine would write it: "We hold these relativistic moral assertions to be relativistically true. They worked for me, see if they work for you." That's the way the White House spin machine would rewrite the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. But Mr. Jefferson said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
So for those of us who take that view that Mr. Jefferson was right, we come upon a guy, William Jefferson Clinton, who asked us to believe that "alone" depends on the geographical definition of "alone," and "is" depends on how you define the word "is," and all of these other hair-splittings; and we say this is unacceptable.
Now, I understand there are others who don't take that view. They want to usher us into this relativistic age. They want to push on Oliver Wendell Holmes' ideas. They want legal realism to be the rule of the day. They want a very different rule than where we started in this country. But I, for one, hope that we reassert, here at the end of this millennium and the beginning of the next, that truth matters, that it matters whether the president of the United States lied or not. That, I believe, is the real question behind this.
Now, there's a lesser question there, too, not quite as high as the question of truth as opposed to relativism, which is the rule of law. And there what we're looking at is, for those of us who believe in true truth, absolute truth, we believe that the rule of law is crucial. There are those that take a different view, and they're willing to excuse this breach of the rule of law. Perjury is a crime that I believe undermines the very basis of our judicial system, the very basis of the rule of law, and we've heard that repeatedly from witness before this committee.
So the first issue, I think, is truth. The second issue, I think, before us is the issue of principle over convenience. We've heard a lot of discussion from the other side, particularly, and from the White House counsel about how the economy could suffer, about how legislation may be held up, about how the Supreme Court's activities may be held up if we go forward with a trial.
And, of course, they also tell us that polls for the moment tell us that the president shouldn't be impeached. But, you know, those same polls said that Richard Nixon early on shouldn't be impeached, although at this point in the process they had turned. The polls early on told George Bush not to go to the Persian Gulf conflict. But he led. And I it's incumbent upon us to lead, even in the face of that.
You know, in 1992 when I first ran for Congress, we had a wonderful volunteer, a college student who probably brought in a T- shirt to the campaign office that has a slogan that many will recognize: A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation. And here, rather than studying the polls and figuring out what we should do about the next election, I think we must think about the next generation and decide that we are going to establish the principle, or really, restate the principle here at the end of this century that truth does matter. And it's important to say that even if it causes short-term inconvenience by the way of interruption of legislation or the interruption of the function of the Supreme Court, because this is an important matter.
The third thing that I think is important to point out here is that we have a constitutional obligation, a constitutional obligation to act. And there are lots of folks who would counsel, Listen, let's just move along. It's sort of the Clinton so-what defense. So what? I committed perjury. So what? I broke the law. Let's just move along. I believe we've got a constitutional obligation to act. And, of course, there are those that overlook that constitutional obligation, and they refer again to the polls, and they say "But look at the polls." In a pure democracy, of course, you can do anything as long as you got a majority. In fact, if there are more Baptists than Roman Catholics, the Baptists can vote that there will be no masses on Sunday. In a pure democracy, that is completely acceptable.
But thank goodness we're not a pure democracy. We're a constitutional republic. And in a constitutional republic, we are constrained by principles set out in the Constitution. And those principles, I think, call on us in this case to act against the President of the United States and to punish his perjury and to act against his obstruction of justice and to say that we will not tolerate abuse of power.
Censure is not an option, it's an extra-constitutional remedy, it can't be found in the Constitution and the fines that are being discussed -- I think we heard from a number of witnesses -- would be bills of attainder, clearly violating that constitution that I was just describing. So that means we're left with the constitutional procedure, the majestic constitutional procedure of impeachment and I hope we go forward, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
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