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Dec. 11 Opening Statements: William Jenkins (R-Tenn.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Friday, December 11, 1998

    REP. BILL JENKINS (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    We're about to conclude an undertaking which this committee did not invite, a solemn responsibility that was thrust upon us after 430 members of the House of representatives voted for an inquiry of one magnitude or another. We're here to consider the conduct of a president of the United States.

    The committee did not initiate or encourage the conduct that brought us here. The Congress did not initiate or encourage the conduct that brought us here. The conduct was the conduct solely of the accused.

    Initially, it was a private matter that was met with reactions ranging from forgiveness to condemnation. Later it gravitated to giving false testimony under oath in depositions and before a grand jury.

    We have heard sworn factual deposition testimony and sworn testimony from witnesses with a wide range of opinions. Most of the witnesses were very capable and well prepared. One witness recounted her own false testimony about a strikingly familiar personal relationship that led to her conviction for obstruction of justice. One witness appeared intent on dictating, even threatening, rather than informing the committee, declaring in advance the historical condemnation of the committee and the entire Congress.

    Defense lawyers have constantly attacked the special counsel and his investigators. They have attacked the committee in their review of the referral of the special counsel. They have attacked the committee in accomplishing the task assigned to the committee by the full House of Representatives and House Resolution 581.

    It was not until the last day of the hearing, and then for a very few minutes, that defense counsel provided any factual evidence that the accused did not engage in the conduct charged or that the conduct did not constitute perjury, obstruction of justice, or abuse of power.

    Wide-ranging testimony has been given to this committee about the burden of proof required to send this matter to the full House of Representatives. In my mind, the evidence is sufficient to vote some articles to the House of Representatives. Also, to fail to do so would deny the citizens across the United States through their elected representatives their voice and their vote on this divisive issue. From all of this the committee must decide if the president committed perjury, obstructed justice, or abused the power of his office and if these constitute grounds for impeachment.

    Throughout this proceeding many expressions of concern have been voiced about the presidency itself. I share these concerns and have for decades. Since 1960, one president has been tragically assassinated. One president was driven out of office and did not seek reelection. One president was caused to resign. Three good presidents were voted out of office after one full or a partial term of office. Only one president thus far in almost four decades has served two full terms in office. The presidency, I think, is under attack. But amid this concern there has been little mention that presidents themselves can strengthen the presidency by conducting themselves in a manner that brings pride and admiration and confidence to the minds of all our citizens.

    We will soon know the conclusion of this committee's work. After it ends, whatever the outcome, I hope we will have a renewed and increased spirit of cooperation to strengthen Social Security, to make our health care system more compatible to and considerate of patients and their physicians, to ensure that we have a strong national defense, to ensure that our children receive a good education. After all, we started this great republic with the goals set out in the preamble of the Constitution: to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

    If there is a vote to impeach, it will not be the end of our republic. Although our system is, indeed, fragile, it has survived impeachment, it has survived two world wars and numerous other conflicts, the Great Depression, and a very bitter civil war. The country survived these things partly because we believe that we all, and the least among us, are entitled to a measure of dignity and to be dealt with fairly and to not be overwhelmed by the most powerful among us.

    In order to continue that belief, those who have the mantle of leadership, who have power and privileges beyond the knowledge of the average citizen and beyond the belief of some who have knowledge, must be expected to meet basic responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to tell the truth under oath, as every citizen is required to do. If these responsibilities are not met, the average, ordinary American is overwhelmed. Our survival will, indeed, be in question.

    For those invested with great power and privileges, it seems to me that the simple code for them to follow is this: to whom much is given, much is expected in return.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time.

    REP. HYDE: Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.

    Mr. Wexler, the gentleman from Florida.


    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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