Clinton Accused Special Report
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

 Main Page
 News Archive
 Key Players

  blue line
Moran: Why I Am Voting Yes

By James P. Moran
Thursday, October 8, 1998; Page A25

To show that House Republicans are excessively partisan in the incipient impeachment proceedings now before the House, some in my party are engaging in excessive partisanship of their own: They want House Democrats -- as many House Democrats as possible -- to vote along party lines against the impeachment inquiry that was approved late Monday by the Judiciary Committee. By voting no, the theory holds, Democrats will show the nation what a partisan "witch hunt" this really is. After all, one party shouldn't be able to impeach the president on its own.

Such an approach is wrong on several counts. First, the paradox of a party-line vote for the purpose of showing our opponents' partisan zeal is not lost on a public that has grown tired of the constant spin and cynicism that infects our politics. On a matter as grave as impeachment, members on both sides of the aisle must feel free to vote their consciences and to follow the will of their constituents.

And for Democrats to vote uniformly against the resolution that will set the ground rules for the impeachment hearings will unfairly tag our party as wanting to short-circuit what should be a legitimate search for the truth. It will prevent us in the last three weeks of this election from communicating the president's important message of saving Social Security first, fighting for managed care reform, improving education and protecting our environment. This is the playing field on which this congressional election should be fought. We can't win if the contest becomes only a referendum on the president's conduct.

None of us relishes the prospect of impeachment hearings, particularly against a president for whom many of us have great personal admiration and respect. Try as we might, however, to wish that this issue will simply go away, the Starr report contains serious allegations that should be aired fully and disposed of in the interest of our nation. That's a reality we simply can't ignore.

So what should President Clinton do?

I believe that the president and his defenders should stop fighting what are inevitable impeachment hearings. They should encourage Democrats to follow their consciences. They should begin to prepare for these hearings not as a partisan fight but as an opportunity once and for all for the president to exonerate himself. Hearings before Congress will afford the president the benefit of counsel, the chance to cross-examine witnesses and the opportunity to testify personally before the committee if he so desires. Americans saw just how effective the president can be in his own defense when they watched the videotape of his grand jury testimony. He should prove even more effective in mounting a defense before Congress.

By voting to hold this inquiry on the Republicans' own terms, I believe that I will be in a far better position to keep the inquiry on a straight and honest path during the coming months. The danger of the White House's current strategy is that if we cast the inquiry as a partisan witch hunt at this early stage, we'll look a little bit like the boy who cried wolf if the Republican majority does in fact abuse its solemn duty to conduct a fair and impartial proceeding.

I don't know what the outcome of the inquiry will be. In my view, the president's opponents will carry an extremely heavy burden to show that he has conducted impeachable offenses, and that the results of two elections should be overturned.

But I do know that if the public thinks that Democrats want to stonewall this process, we will not be serving the best interests of the party, the president or our nation.

The writer is a Democratic representative from Northern Virginia.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar
yellow pages