TOPICS > Politics

Reacting to the Vote

February 12, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: The 13 Republican House managers held a news conference at the capitol. Here are some excerpts.

REP. HENRY HYDE: When the House of Representatives received the referral from the Office of Independent Counsel on September 9th — a referral required by law, I might add — we faced a critical choice. We could have studied the polls and listened to the pundits and decided that following the Constitution was not in our political best interests. But we didn’t do that. Instead, we studied the Constitution, reviewed the precedents, and proceeded forward according to the law. Five months later, after a trial, and, need I say much tribulation, I have no regrets. We fulfilled our oath of office to discharge our duty according to the Constitution. And when people do that, when elected representatives do that, democracy works. On the opening day of the senate’s proceedings, I suggested the Senators had become stewards of the oath. I was referring in particular to the judicial oath, the act of promising before God Almighty to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Now that the constitutional process is over, only time will tell what effect all of this has had on the efficacy, the enforceability of the oath. It’s one of the pillars of an honest system of justice, and I hope and pray it remains strong.

REP. JAMES ROGAN, Impeachment Manager: When this first began, what we had were a lot of folks out there just giving a bunch of spin, saying this was some vendetta against the president by Republicans trying to undo the election. And by the end of it, America knew better. What we saw was polls that showed most Americans in fact believed that the president committed perjury. An overwhelming majority of Americans believed the president obstructed justice. We even had the former Democratic leader of the United States Senate, Senator Burke, recently say that he believed the president had committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

We have no quarrel with the senate verdict because it wasn’t our job to commit to convict the president. It was our job simply to present the case to the senate and let them make the decision as to whether or not the president should be removed from office. They made their constitutional decision, as the Constitution requires. We did our constitutional duty. And if there is a broad silver lining in any cloud from this whole thing, I think if nothing else, the American people got a chance to meet and see political leaders who will stand for conscience and principle and not for polls. It was about time that we got that message out to the folks back home.

REP. CHARLES CANADY, Impeachment Manager: I just wanted to say that we have followed the constitutional process, and as a consequence, the institutions of our government will be stronger. It’s also important to understand that in this process the House of Representatives voted to establish a standard of integrity for the presidency. And 50 members of the senate voted to establish a standard of integrity for the senate — for the presidency. Those are important things for the future of the institution of the presidency. I believe the presidency will be stronger because those standards were established by the members of the senate voting and the House voting.

REP. STEVE BUYER, Impeachment Manager: As I, one by one, checked off guilty and not guilty, my gut kept turning over and over. Why? Here’s the damage that’s been done to the Constitution and the presidency, because my great fear is that future presidents will now flaunt the law in a more egregious manner and demand party partisanship and a litmus test on parties, and that’s how they’ll defend impeachments in the future. And damage was done. But I will say on behalf of the managers and myself that we had a duty, we sought the truth, we laid out the facts, applied the law, applied the senate precedents, and it scared some members of the senate. And it’s unfortunate they didn’t follow through on their conscience and conviction.

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON, Impeachment Manager: I believe that my role as a House manager in presenting this case to the senate helped give confidence to the Constitution of the United States and to our institutions of democracy. And so I believe that we saw a duty to do, we performed our duty, and me, I’m looking forward to taking a long walk in the Ozark hills and then coming back when that’s completed and getting to go work on the legislation of this country.

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM, Impeachment Manager: The facts are it’s within their constitutional authority to run the trial the way they see fit. We’re disappointed in that regard. We’re not up on Scottish law as much as we should be, apparently. (Laughter) so there will be a lot of things talked about, like the defense of entrapment raised by Senator Harkin. I don’t remember that being raised by the defense, but his vote’s based on the idea the president was set up, and it’s all about Ken Starr.

So I think that was more of a political speech than it was a vote of conscience, and that’ll be talked about. But all these deficiencies that I’ve talked about don’t overshadow the reality that in our system, the Constitution was followed. The senate ran the trial the way they saw fit for the American public. Every senator voted and expressed themselves in a way that will stand in history, and they’ll have to be answerable for their judgments, as so will I.

But at the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, William Jefferson Clinton was cleansed today constitutionally. The two-thirds vote not having been received in a trial that was constitutionally, I think, mandated and carried out in a manner that I disagree with in some aspects but was constitutional, this brings this case to an end. I want to congratulate the White House. The president has been cleansed. The cloud from the White House constitutionally has been blown away. We all have our opinions of the president, but under our system impeachment is hard, it was meant to be hard, and it’s over.