Podium: This is a time to rise above politics
The Lead Manager concludes the defence case for President Clinton in the US Senate
Tuesday 26 January 1999
HL Mencken one time said, "When you hear somebody say, `This is not about money' it's about money." And when you hear somebody say, `This is not about sex', it's about sex. You pick your own adjective to describe the President's conduct. Here are some that I would use: indefensible, outrageous, unforgivable, shameless.
I promise you the President would not contest any of those, or any others. But there is a human element in this case that has not even been mentioned. That is, the President and Hillary and Chelsea are human beings. This is intended only as a mild criticism of our distinguished friends from the House. But as I listened to the presenters, to the managers make their opening statements, they were remarkably well prepared and they spoke eloquently - more eloquently than I really had hoped.
To say constantly that the President lied about this and lied about that - as I say, I thought that was too much for a family that has already been about as decimated as a family can get. The relationship between husband and wife, father and child, has been incredibly strained, if not destroyed.
There has been nothing but sleepless nights, mental agony, for this family, for almost five years, day after day, from accusations of having Vince Foster assassinated, on down. It has been bizarre.
The question about lying; that is your decision. But I can tell you, put yourself in his position - and you have already had this big moral lapse - as to what you would do. We are, none of us, perfect. I remember, Chaplain - the Chaplain is not here; too bad, he ought to hear this story. This evangelist was holding this great revival meeting and in the close of one of his meetings he said, "Is there anybody in this audience who has ever known anybody who even comes close to the perfection of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ?" Nothing. He repeated the challenge and, finally, a little-bitty guy in the back held up his hand."Are you saying you have known such a person? Stand up." He stood up and the evangelist said, "Tell us, who was it?" He said, "My wife's first husband."
Make no mistake about it: removal from office is punishment.
It is unbelievable punishment, even though the framers didn't quite see it that way. Again, they said - and it bears repeating over and over again - they said they wanted to protect the people. But I can tell you this: the punishment of removing Bill Clinton from office would pale compared to the punishment he has already inflicted on himself. There is a feeling in this country that somehow or another Bill Clinton has gotten away with something. Mr Leader, I can tell you, he hasn't gotten away with anything.
Colleagues, this is easily the most important vote you will ever cast. If you have difficulty because of an intense dislike of the President - and that is understandable - rise above it. He is not the issue. He will be gone. You won't. So don't leave a precedent from which we may never recover and almost surely will regret. If you vote to acquit, Mr. Leader, you know exactly what is going to happen.
You are going to start dealing with Medicare, Social Security, tax cuts, and all those things which the people of this country have a non-negotiable demand that you do. If you vote to acquit, you go immediately to the people's agenda. But if you vote to convict, you can't be sure what is going to happen. James G Blaine was a member of the Senate when Andrew Johnson was tried in 1868, and 20 years later he recanted. He said, "I made a bad mistake.
"As I reflect back on it, all I can think about is that having convicted Andrew Johnson would have caused much more chaos and confusion in this country than Andrew Johnson could ever conceivably have created."
And so it is with William Jefferson Clinton.
If you vote to convict, in my opinion you are going to be creating more havoc than he could ever possibly create. After all, he has only got two years left.
So don't, for God's sakes, heighten the people's alienation, which is at an all-time high, toward their Government. The people have a right, and they are calling on you to rise above politics, rise above partisanship. They are calling on you to do your solemn duty, and I pray you will. Thank you, Mr Chief Justice.
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