Moran to Vote Against Impeachment
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 11, 1998; Page G1
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), for months one of President Clinton's most vocal Democratic critics, said yesterday that he will vote against impeaching the president. Instead, he is drafting his own censure resolution demanding that Clinton confess to a pattern of "dishonest and illegal conduct" surrounding his sexual involvement with Monica S. Lewinsky.
Calling Clinton's actions "reprehensible. ... unforgivable, but not impeachable," Moran outlined in an interview his agonizing four-month journey from ardent White House loyalist to a "disillusioned" and "disappointed" Clinton defender.
The Alexandria lawmaker, 53, expressed the lingering misgivings he and many other Democrats have as they face the prospect of voting on four articles of impeachment expected to reach the House on Thursday.
"I don't think you can show President Clinton ever deliberately compromised the security of the nation," Moran said. "So what we're talking about is private activity which reflects on his moral character. That is not what the Founding Fathers intended to be impeachable offenses. ... That's unforgivable but not impeachable."
But Moran, one of several lawmakers personally lobbied by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in September to support the president, is worried that the party will face "real internal problems" if Democrats fail to punish Clinton. As a result, he will propose a censure resolution far tougher than what Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee proposed this week as an alternative to impeachment.
A draft version excoriates Clinton for an "immoral sexual relationship" with a subordinate that exposed him to bribery threats. The president also is chastised for lying under oath, lying to the American people and failing to uphold the standards of discipline as the nation's commander-in-chief.
The resolution, which is not expected to compete seriously with a Democratic Judiciary Committee alternative, calls on Clinton to admit to illegal conduct and to causing "prejudice to the rule of law . . . to the manifest injury to the people of the United States."
Moran joins regional Democrats Steny H. Hoyer and Albert R. Wynn, both of Maryland, in opposing impeachment. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) is leaning against impeachment. Three area Republicans, Maryland Rep. Constance A. Morella and Virginia Reps. Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf, have yet to say how they will vote on the impeachment articles.
A prominent Democratic centrist who several months ago suggested that Clinton should resign because of the Lewinsky scandal, Moran has been whipsawed by his personal ties to the first couple and his commitment to the party's new values-laden agenda.
As co-chairman of the 40-member legislative New Democrat Coalition, he is concerned that the impeachment process will undermine the party's decade-long effort to reclaim the moral center.
"I'm not a self-righteous person; I've got no reason to be," Moran said. "But every time we get into a debate, we are up against the image that the Democratic Party is always on the side of absolving and excusing criminal behavior. It's not healthy."
In August, after Clinton's acknowledgment that he misled the American people, an outraged Moran urged New Democrat candidates to "disavow" the president. In October, he joined 30 other Democrats who supported the GOP impeachment inquiry, and he criticized Clinton in several interviews.
It was a big switch for the eight-year incumbent. One of a small group invited to a White House movie screening after the Lewinsky scandal broke in January, he repeatedly attacked independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and defended the president on Capitol Hill throughout the summer.
"The fact is, he basically misled everybody deliberately," a subdued Moran said yesterday. "We who are most disappointed tend to be the idealists."
In venting his anger after Clinton's admission, Moran said he told Hillary Clinton that if she had been his sister, he would have punched her husband in the nose.
She graciously praised "you emotional Irish Catholic type guys," he said.
"There is no relationship with the White House now," Moran said yesterday. "I still respect him for what he's been able to accomplish as president."
Moran said he had no second thoughts about supporting the GOP inquiry, saying it would have been irresponsible not to hold impeachment hearings. But he said the GOP had not proved a case for impeachment a move that he said would damage the presidency, invite partisan retribution and lead to global economic instability.
Moran's independence has not hurt him among his constituents. He was reelected last month to his fifth term with 67 percent of the vote in his heavily Democratic district. He said he was jolted, however, by the "Impeach Moran" signs he saw during his campaign, including some held by a normally supportive group, Irish Americans for Clinton.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company