Impeachment hearing voices

A round-up of the most quotable moments from Friday's hearing.


Salon Staff
December 12, 1998 1:00AM (UTC)

In the hours leading up to the Judiciary Committee's vote to approve impeachment articles against President Clinton, members, as expected, dug in their partisan heels and unleashed a flurry of arguments for and against removing the president from office. Some flexed impressive intellectual muscle, while others spewed sound bites (including one reference to a Hollywood film of marginal heft) that will surely perplex historians the next time our country finds itself in the unfortunate position of deciding whether to overturn the will of its voters.

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David Schippers, chief Republican counsel for House Judiciary Committee

"Life was so much simpler before they found that dress, wasn't it?"

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William Delahunt, D-Mass.

"This has been the most partisan impeachment inquiry since the infamous trial of Andrew Johnson five generations ago. It is like a runaway train ... Impeachment is not some routine punishment for presidents who fall short of our expectations. It is the political equivalent of the death penalty."

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Steve Chabot, R-Ohio

"Despite President Clinton's linguistic contortions, the evidence is strong, convincing and clear. The president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, has engaged in a pattern of cover-up and deceit ... The historic record, the law and the Constitution tell us that the charges against the president do indeed rise to the level of impeachable offenses."

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Ed Bryant, R-Tenn.

"I would join the more than 100 newspapers and numerous other Americans to call upon the president to do the right thing and the honorable thing: to resign from the office of the presidency."

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Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas

"I am sad, not only because the House is considering articles of impeachment for the president of the United States, but because I recognize that we are doing it without clear and convincing evidence."

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William Jenkins, R-Tenn.

"If there is a vote to impeach, it will not be the end of our republic. Although our system is, indeed, fragile, it has survived impeachment, it has survived two world wars and numerous other conflicts, the Great Depression and a very bitter civil war."

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Robert Wexler, D-Fla.

"This has been the scariest week of my life. I listened to Mr. Ruff, counsel to the president, and Mr. Lowell, counsel for the minority. Each presented a fact-by-fact rebuttal of the case against the president. I read the 184-page report by the president's lawyers that established the president did not commit grand jury perjury, did not obstruct justice, did not tamper with witnesses and certainly the president did not abuse his office. But the Republicans on this committee did not listen. In fact, they drafted their articles of impeachment even before Mr. Ruff concluded the president's defense. This process has been a sham from the beginning. Wake up, America! They are about to impeach our president."

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"If you're sick of all Monica all the time, you ain't seen nothing yet. Be prepared to turn on your TV and watch the chief justice of the Supreme Court swear in Lucianne Goldberg, Linda Tripp, endless testimony in front of the whole world, showcasing America at its most absurd."

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Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark.

"By committing these actions the president moved beyond the private arena of protecting embarrassing personal conduct, and his actions invaded the heart and soul of that which makes this nation unique in the world -- the right of any citizen to pursue justice equally."

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Thomas Barrett, D-Wisc.

"I honestly walked into the first hearing believing our proceeding would be nonpartisan. I don't know if I was more like 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' or 'Gomer Pyle.' I even thought that we might be sitting physically like grand jurors, individually, not divided by party like gladiators fighting a partisan fight. I was wrong."

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James Rogan, R-Calif.

"If lying now becomes acceptable in harassment cases because candor is embarrassing or because the defendant is just too powerful to be required to tell the truth, we will destroy the sexual harassment protections currently enjoyed by millions of women in the work force."

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Mary Bono, R-Calif.

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"The reason we are here is because, unfortunately, the president of the United States lied to the American people and a federal grand jury and then he attempted to use the full power of the White House to cover it up."

"If you really believe this process will cause our nation irreparable harm, I ask you, for the good of the nation, to resign and spare our country a lengthy and divisive impeachment process."

"Another concern that is very scary is the effect the president's behavior will have on our national security. Just a few months ago, I found myself, along with many other Americans and even the media, wondering if our strike against terrorism was life imitating art or a genuine response to a terrorist organization. Just the thought that the possibility existed that the president was engaging in a 'Wag the Dog' scenario was chilling and profoundly disappointing. As a nation, we deserve better."

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Barney Frank, D-Mass.

"Is this just a shell game? I guess that is the question. Under which pea is the impeachment? Is it under No. 1 or is it under No. 2? ... Or maybe it's under 3 and 2, or 4 and 1, or 2 and 3. And how are you going to defend it? ... I want to see Chief Justice Rehnquist sitting there while the senators try to guess under which pea you have concealed the impeachment."

"To say that we're going to throw Bill Clinton out of office ... and again, this notion that you're just here hitting batting practice -- you know, it's old Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the Senate and poor you, you're not making any judgments, you're not doing anything. That's simply wrong and everyone knows it. There is no more solemn act you can take here than to say we think Bill Clinton ought to be thrown out of office and we set in motion, as you just did, the process to throw him out of office."

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Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

"Let history record I have fought against the impeachment of the president of the United States in every way that I know how, that my Democratic colleagues have shown in every possible way that this president has not committed perjury, obstructed justice or committed any actions or crimes that rise to the level of impeachment."

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Henry Hyde, R-Ill.

"We are not reversing any election. Bob Dole will not end up president of the United States if there is an impeachment. We are following a process wisely set down as a check and balance on executive overreaching by our Founding Fathers ... This vote says something about us ... just who are we, and what do we stand for? Is the president one of us or is he a sovereign? We vote for our honor, which is the only thing we get to take with us to the grave."

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Steve Chabot, R-Ohio

"I believe for the children of this nation, this president has to be impeached."


Salon Staff

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