Impeachment trial: They went out as Republicans and came back as stars

Participants deliver their premature verdicts on television while the legal teams take stock
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The Independent Online
AFTER THE "managers" from the House of Representatives wrapped up the case against President Clinton at the weekend, the White House and the Senate were said to have been surprised by the quality of the presentation.

Here were 13 Republicans from the House of Representatives who had stood before the august upper chamber of the Congress at what could prove a turning point in American history and they had given highly professional and effective performances.

They had appeared confident and composed, almost as though advocacy were their natural habitat - which in almost every case it was. All 13 "managers" are lawyers by training. The angry, argumentative politicians of the House judiciary committee's impeachment hearings last year transformed themselves into the lawyers they always were: quieter, more considered, more painstaking; as keen to explain as to argue.

Among them two stood out: the most senior, Henry Hyde, 74, and one of the most junior (at least by age), Lindsey Graham, 43.

While Mr Hyde's closing speech was lavishly praised for rising rhetorically to the occasion and may have been calculated to appeal to the predominantly white and ageing Senate, Mr Graham represented a new face of Republicanism that may have appealed more widely outside the chamber.

While Mr Hyde studded his 20-minute speech with allusions to the big picture of history and the progress of Western civilisation, Mr Graham started out from his humble origins in a still segregated South Carolina where his parents ran "a beer joint, I guess you'd say".

While Mr Hyde spoke of "keeping faith with our ancestors" Mr Graham spoke of the civil rights struggles of the Sixties in which he grew up.

Mr Hyde spoke of "bedrock principles" - the love of the rule of law, justice and honour in public life - and he called on a hushed Senate to "restore the sacred honour of the presidency". Mr Graham admitted, without flinching, that the charges "are coloured by sex, and there's absolutely no way to get around that".

While Mr Hyde alluded distantly to the "flaws in all human beings" Mr Graham conceded that he too might have started lying to cover up an embarrassing affair. What made Mr Clinton's offences grounds for removal, though, was the continuation of his lying into a court of law.

Mr Graham is a man with ambition. He is one of the "young Turks" who plotted (unsuccessfully) to oust the former Speaker Newt Gingrich - before the Republicans' poor election performance effectively did the job for them.

But by sympathising with Mr Clinton at the human level, by invoking the civil rights era rather than Western civilisation, Mr Graham marked himself out as one of the new generation of American politicians. His is a face, and a career, to watch.