THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Dec. 11 Opening Statements: James Rogan (R-Calif.)
By Federal News Service
REP. JAMES ROGAN (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The House Judiciary Committee today contemplates Articles of Impeachment against an incumbent president of the United States. Our committee undertakes its task in an era where the deceitful manipulation of public opinion no longer is viewed as evil, but as art. Propaganda once invoked images of dictators enforcing mind control over the masses. Now we readily bathe ourselves in spin and we confer the degree of "doctor" upon those who administer the dosage.
In this very sobering hour, the time has come to strip away the spin and propaganda and face the unvarnished truth of what this committee is called upon to review. First, this impeachment inquiry is not and never was licensed to rummage through the personal lifestyle of the president of the United States. It is a gross distortion to characterize his present dilemma as only about sex. As Governor Weld said earlier this week, adultery is not an impeachable offense, and the country needs to know that nobody on this committee seeks to make it so.
If that is true, then why are these unsavory elements of the president's private life now at issue? It is because the president was a defendant in a sexual harassment civil rights lawsuit. When Paula Jones's lawsuit reached federal court, after much consideration, the trial judge ordered the president to answer under oath questions relating to other subordinate female employees with whom he might have solicited or engaged in sexual involvement. This line of questioning was not invented to torment the president. These questions are routine and must be answered every day by defendants in harassment cases throughout the country. Why is this so?
It is because the courts want to see if there is any pattern of conduct that might show a similar history, either of harassment, abuse, or granting or denying job promotions. It was in this context that the president first was asked questions about Monica Lewinsky and it had nothing to do with Judge Starr, Speaker Gingrich, or any member of the Congress of the United States.
If lying now becomes acceptable in harassment cases because candor is embarrassing or because the defendant is just too powerful to be required to tell the truth, we will destroy the sexual harassment protections currently enjoyed by millions of women in the workforce. One cannot fairly claim to support the societal benefits of these harassment laws on the one hand and then deny the application of these laws to a defendant merely because he is a president who shares their party affiliation.
Next, the Constitution solemnly required President Clinton, as a condition of his becoming president, to swear an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and to take care that our nation's laws be faithfully executed.
That oath of obligation required the president to defend our laws that protect women in the workplace, just as it also required him to protect our legal system from perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power. Fidelity to the presidential oath is not dependent on any president's personal threshold of comfort or embarrassment. Neither must it be a slave to the latest polling data. Even more disturbing is the current readiness of some to embrace out of political ease a thoroughly bastardized oath, so long as the offender expresses generalized contrition while at the same time rejecting meaningful constitutional accountability.
Consider how far afield these new standards would move us as a nation, since our first president obliged himself to the same oath that now binds Bill Clinton to the Constitution. On the day George Washington became our first president, he pledged to our new country that the foundation of his public policies would be grounded in principles of private morality. He said that by elevating an otherwise sterile government to the level of private moral obligations, our new country would win the affection of its citizens and command the respect of the world. Most significantly, in his first presidential address Washington presented himself not as a ruler of men, but as a servant of the law. He established the tradition that in America powerful leaders are subservient to the rule of law and to the consent of the governed.
Two hundred years later, in an era of increasing ethical relativism, it seems almost foreign to modern ears that the first speech ever delivered by a president of the United States was a speech about the relationship between private and public morality. George Washington was not perfect. He certainly was no saint. But soldiers knew his bravery on the battlefield. His national reputation for truthfulness was unquestioned. Washington, a very human being with very human flaws, still could set by personal example the standard of measurement for the office of the presidency.
Today, from a distance of two centuries, Washington stands as a distant, almost mythical figure. And yet President Clinton and every member of the Congress of the United States have a living personal connection to him. Like Washington, each of us took a sacred oath to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
There is no business of government more important than upholding the rule of law. A sound economy amounts to nothing beside it, because without the rule of law, all contracts are placed in doubt and all rights to property become conditional.
National security is not more important than the rule of law, because without it, there can be no security and there is little left defending. And the personal popularity of any president when weighed against this one fundamental concept that forever distinguishes us from every other nation -- no person is above the rule of law.
Mr. Chairman, the evidence clearly shows that the president engaged in a repeated and lengthy pattern of felonious conduct, conduct for which ordinary citizens can and have been routinely prosecuted and jailed. This simply cannot be wished or censured away. With his conduct aggravated by a motivation of personal and pecuniary leverage rather than by national security or some other legitimate government function. the solemnity of my own oath of office obliges me to do what the president has failed to do -- defend the rule of law, despite any personal or political costs.
With a heavy heart, but with an unwavering belief in the appropriateness of the decision, I will cast my vote for articles of impeachment against the president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.
I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. The distinguished gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Lindsey Graham.
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