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Dec. 11 Opening Statements: Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Friday, December 11, 1998

    REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. One thing I think would be appropriate as we wind toward the end -- and Mary and I are, again, as we've always been, the last two to speak here -- and let me just say it's been an honor to serve on the committee. I've been on the committee relatively as a junior member. I think Ms. Bono, myself, Jim and Mr. Barrett have all come on relatively in the late stages of the last Congress or this Congress. And it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life, I can assure you that. I doubt if I'll ever do anything as important for my nation as having served on this committee. I've been an Air Force officer serving overseas as a prosecutor, I've been an Air Force officer serving stateside as a defense attorney, defending men and women accused of crimes in the military. I'm very honored for that experience. I've served in the Air National Guard, representing men and women's legal interests during Desert Shield and Desert Storm with my unit.

    Mr. Chairman, I'd like to compliment you on two things. Over 50 years ago, when my father was in the Far East serving America in New

    Guinea fighting the Japanese, you were in that part of the world serving America, protecting the Constitution, protecting the rule of law, risking your life. And we all owe a debt of gratitude to you and your generation for having done so. I think we owe a unique debt of gratitude to you now for having guided this committee, somewhat under fire, at a time when we're going to evaluate who we are as a people, how far we've come in 200 years.

    Have we made progress? Have we gone backwards? What's the state of the American people? What's the state of American political system?

    I will say this; the people who fought and died should feel good. We are going to have a partisan vote, but that's okay. You have parties, you have political thought, you have political differences. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. A lot of people have fought and died so you could have those differences.

    Let me share some thoughts about my colleagues. Then we'll talk about the evidence and the truth.

    Mr. Frank has made a statement that I would like to associate myself with. This is about the Monica Lewinsky episode.

    This is not about Whitewater; that has not been put at the feet of the president. This is not about Filegate; that was not put at the feet of the president. This is not about Travelgate; that was never put at the feet of the president. That's important.

    Quite frankly, I thought some of these things would mature into cases that would come before this committee. They did not, and we should not mislead people that we are voting on anything other than what happened in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit. And we'll all make a decision into the day, is that worth overturning a national election?

    Mr. Berman, I would like to associate myself with his comments. This is not all about sex but is colored by sex. It certainly is.

    Mr. Rogan has told you about the sexual-harassment nature that got us into this whole situation, and I think he did so far better than I can comment because there are some important concepts.

    But in many ways, this is all about people, this is all about emotion; this is really all about one man, Bill Clinton. There are some really "cast of characters" here: the Linda Tripps of the world; Ken Starr, whether you like him or not. There are some unique characters here; myself, whether you like me or not. But at the end of the day, we are here because of what Bill Clinton did or chose not to do.

    Mr. Barrett, I would like to associate myself with his spirit. He is a very nice man. He has got a child coming along, a new child to be brought in the world, and we all wish him well. He has tried to say to this committee, "Let's bring the country together." What a noble cause. Don't worry, Mr. Barrett, if we don't come together. This country is strong. We shall survive.

    Mr. Schumer, I admire him greatly because he believes the president lied to the grand jury. But he says in the context in which he lied, "I do not believe it's a high crime or a misdemeanor." I respect that reasoning; I disagree with it.

    No Democrat on this committee has ever suggested that the president's conduct was acceptable. Let the record reflect that. Whatever differences we have had, there has been nobody from this committee on the Democratic side -- ever suggested that what the president did was appropriate or was okay. I think they deserve to have that said.

    If this is a vote of conscience, and I believe it is, it is going to come down to a Republican conscience versus a Democratic conscience. And I don't know how to characterize that; I don't know what that means. I would suggest that one is not better than the other. I would suggest that there is a very unique nature about this case that we need to look at long after this case is over. And only time will tell who got it right.

    One thing has guided me more than anything else, and I've really had to struggle. Do you want to impeach a president when it comes down just to the Lewinsky events? I live in a district that finds the conduct unacceptable, and they, quite frankly, do not want Bill Clinton to be their president. They never have, as a district. We've never voted for Bill Clinton. And the misleading and all the things that the Democratic members condemn as being unacceptable, people in my district find not only to be unacceptable but inconsistent with national leadership. I am proud of my district. I respect those in my district who disagree with the majority, but the majority in the Third District of South Carolina believes that the conduct is inconsistent with national leadership.

    I have tried to take a middle position. I like politics, but I love the law. The law has been something I chose to do to make a living. When you politicize the law, you're putting the country at risk. My father and Mr. Hyde made sure that we could come together and disagree; that the first person to ever go to college from their family, like Lindsey Graham, could one day wind up in Congress. If we had lost that war, that would have been impossible.

    So I've tried to take a tone here that the law has to win out over politics. And the easy thing for me to have done from day one is to come up here and rant and rave, because that would have played well because people do not like the president. I have asked the president on numerous occasions to reconcile himself with the law. I never meant for him to have to humiliate himself. The standard that Governor Weld has set to reconcile himself with the law, quite frankly, is stronger than I've ever wanted. I do not want to take money out of his pocket. I do not want to humiliate him in front of his family or daughter. I merely want him to have the character and the courage to come forward and admit to criminal wrongdoing, that he violated his oath, that he engaged witnesses in an improper way. I was willing to make sure, if I could in any fashion, that the whole affair would end then, that two years from now he need not have to face prosecution. I think the chances of that are almost zero.

    That's all I ever wanted from my president. I'm about to vote. I have yet to receive that. I don't know if I will ever get it. Bill Clinton's fate, ladies and gentlemen, is in Bill Clinton's hands. The biggest enemy of Bill Clinton, just like with all of us, is Bill Clinton. God knows he has many enemies.

    God knows he's a polarizing figure. God only knows what's in his heart. I'm having to judge Bill Clinton based on evidence. And I would like to speak a few minutes to what I believe is the unshakable, undeniable truth. And much of it is about sex.

    This idea that the President of the United States when he testified in Paula Jones' deposition, a lady who brought a case against him for sexual harassment, that he gave testimony that was legally accurate is a total falsehood. The idea that the definition of sex did not include oral sex and they did not ask right questions and if they did he would have told the truth offends me. This idea of what "sex" meant came up after this blue dress, in my opinion.

    The reason I say that is that on January the 17th, when he was asked to testify about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, he knew she had provided an affidavit denying any improper relationship of any kind whatsoever. He believed himself to be covered. He did not know of the tapes. Whether you like the tapes or not, he did not know of them. And without them he would have lied with Monica Lewinsky to the prejudice of a citizen who was suing him for conduct (that), if true, should be enough to impeach him. We shall never know what happened in that room in Arkansas, or that hotel room. Two people know, and God knows.

    Why I believe the definition of "sex" as being propounded by the president to this very day is a lie is based on the conduct he exhibited after the deposition. On January the 17th he would have us to believe they did not ask the right question and the definition excluded oral sex. I would suggest to you that's a fabricated tale. Then on January the 24th we have a talking point paper from the White House telling people how to respond about the allegations against the president, and one of those questions was "Does sexual relations include oral sex?" The answer was yes.

    REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.

    REP. : Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman be given two additional minutes.

    REP. HYDE: Without objection, so ordered.

    REP. GRAHAM: Thank you. I've talked in 30-second sound bites for so long, I've never had this much time. Thank you very much. (Laughter.) I can't believe 10 minutes went by so quick.

    What I believe is that his press accounts to Mr. Layer (sp) and to Roll Call indicate that improper relationships, there was no artificial definition, this is -- oral sex is not included. I believe that's a falsehood, that's a fraud. I believe that he knew Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit was false and that when the discussion with Mr. Bennett came up in the deposition he was following intently what happened and that he was not surprised and that he did in fact lie to the grand jury on numerous occasions.

    Should he be impeached? Very quickly; the hardest decision I think I will ever make. Learning that the president lied to the grand jury about sex, I still believe that every president of the United States, regardless of the matter they called to testify about before a grand jury should testify truthfully and if they don't they should be subject to losing their job.

    I believe that about Bill Clinton and I'll believe that about the next president. If it had been a Republican, I would have still believed that and I would hope that if a Republican person had done all this that some of us would've went (sic) over and told him, You need to leave office. I understand that the dilemma that all of us are in about that. His fate is in his own hands.

    Right quickly, Mr. Chairman. Thirty years from now they're going to judge what we've done and how partisan it's been and whether or not this made any sense. I just want you to know as you look back and look at these tapes and find out what we're doing, there's one member of Congress, there's a lot of us here, believe the president has lied to us to this very day, that we can't reconcile ourself with that, that it was in a lawsuit with an average, everyday citizen's legal rights at stake.

    And the most chilling of all things, to me, was the episode after he left the deposition, he told Mr. Blumenthal that the -- Monica Lewinsky was basically coming on to him, he had to fight her off. He told Betty Currie, She wanted to have sex with me and I couldn't do that. The most chilling thing was, for a period of time, the president was setting stories in motion that were lies. Those stories found themselves in the press to attack a young lady who could potentially be a witness against him.

    To me, that is very much like Watergate. That shows character inconsistent with being president, and every member of Congress should look at that episode and decide, is this truly about sex? Is Bill Clinton doing the right thing by continuing to make us have to pursue this, have to prove to a legal certainty he lied? The president's fate is in his own hands. Mr. President, you have one more chance. Don't bite your lip; reconcile yourself with the law.

    I yield back -- (inaudible) -- beyond my time.

    REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. The distinguished lady from California.


    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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