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December 26, 1998
Column #904

NEEDED: A CLINTON RESIGNATION OR CONVICTION

The impeachment of President Clinton was a sad day, but an honorable one for the House of Representatives and the nation.

The most moving moment was the speech of Rep. Bob Livingston, elected the House's next speaker. Addressing the President, he said ''You have done great damage to this nation. You, sir, may resign your post.'' The Democratic members burst into a deafening roar of protest. Then a chorus began, ''You resign! You resign,'' because Livingston had acknowledged two days earlier that he had committed adultery.

He then added, ''And I can only challenge you in such a fashion if I am willing to heed my own words.'' He asked friends and his wife for their forgiveness, adding he could not ''be the kind of leader I that I would like under current circumstances. So I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. I will not stand for speaker of the House.''

After a moment of hushed silence, both Democrats and Republicans rose in a standing ovation at the humility, courage and integrity of a man who was willing to place honor above personal ambition.

Democrats soon read it differently. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that Livingston's resignation was ''wrong. It is a surrender to a developing sexual McCarthyism'' which will ask candidates if they are adulterers. ''We're losing tract of the distinction between sins and crimes. We're lowering the standard of impeachment. What the president has done is not...an impeachable offense under the Constitution.''

Rep. Henry Hyde, who has also been outed as an adulterer, responded that there has been a ''confusion between private acts of infidelity and public acts.'' He said taking an oath was a public act, while adultery is a private act which the ''government has no business intruding into. But it is our business, it is our duty to observe to characterize public acts by public officials. ''Equal justice under the law, that's what we're fighting for. And when the chief law enforcement officer trivializes, ignores, shred, minimizes the sanctity of the oath, then justice is wounded, and you are wounded and your children are wounded.''

Rep. J.C. Watts, (R-Okla.) said, ''If we do not label lawlessness, our children cannot recognize it. And if we do not punish lawlessness, our children will not believe it. How can we tell our children that honesty is the best policy if we do not demand honesty as a policy? How can we expect a Boy Scout to honor his oath if elected officials don't honor theirs?''

Clinton, however, has steadfastly refused to admit that he lied under oath. His refusal to do so was what persuaded many Republican moderates to vote for impeachment.

They did so at some risk. Polls show the public opposed impeachment 2-1. ''But what's popular isn't always what's right,'' said J.C. Watts. Gary Bauer, President of the Family Research Council, adds, ''Politicians who are usually accused to being weather veins, instead acted like leaders.''

What should happen now? Former Presidents Ford and Carter argue against a Senate trial, the result of which would be either acquittal or removal from office, because ''rehashing the lurid evidence of President Clinton's misconduct will only exacerbate the jagged divisions that are tearing at our national fabric.'' They propose a bipartisan resolution of censure in which Clinton would ''accept rebuke while acknowledging'' that ''he did not tell the truth under oath.'' However, Gregory Craig, White House coordinator of his defense, said Clinton is ''not going to concede he lied to the Grand Jury, because he did not.'' Further, Clinton says he plans to remain ''until the last hour of the last day'' of his term.

Therefore, the Senate trial must go forward. Conviction will be difficult because a two-thirds vote is required, while only a majority was needed to impeach in the House. But there are principled Democrats like Senators Joseph Lieberman and Patrick Moynihan who could make the drive to convict bipartisan.

''It is impermissible to allow a perjurer to remain president,'' says Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. ''A man who is a perjurer without consequence sticks at the heartbeat of our justice system. He will be the first enabler of every perjurer. All will be tempted to lie when the truth would be hurtful.''  A president's ability to lead is based upon his moral legitimacy to govern. Clinton has so squandered his authority that we can no longer believe anything he says, such as an alleged need to bomb Iraq. It is time for him to go.

Copyright 1998 Michael J. McManus

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