Wednesday, January 20, 1999


Thanks, but we'll pass

        Several Republicans did not attend President Clinton's State of the Union address, saying it was inappropriate for Mr. Clinton to appear before Congress during his impeachment trial.

        “The president is demonstrating his lack of respect for the Congress,” Reps. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., and Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., wrote in a letter explaining their absences.

        Most Republicans, however, decided to follow the lead of new House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who wrote that despite the “discomfort,” Congress had a duty to hear the views of the president.

        House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who has led the case seeking Mr. Clinton's removal from office, also decided not to attend.

        Mr. Hyde said his decision was attributable to a bad back that made it difficult for him to rise up and down in tribute, as most audience members do.

        He said he would try to “leap to my feet in applause in the comfort of my living room.”

        Another Republican, Rep. John A. Boehner, West Chester, was absent, but it was “not a premeditated protest,” spokesman Dave Schnittger said.

        Mr. Boehner and his wife were in Hawaii to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

        “John is just doing his constitutional duty to ensure domestic tranquility,” Mr. Schnittger said.

        Also conspicuously absent was Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is presiding over the Senate impeachment trial. Justice Rehnquist's aids reportedly had questioned whether it was appropriate for him to attend.

Listen up, Mr. DeWine
        Union members came. So did feminists. And a minister.

        Each watched President Clinton's State of the Union address at a Columbus, Ohio, union hall to lend support to those urging the U.S. Senate to end the impeachment trial that threatens Mr. Clinton's future.

        “They've been after him since he got into office,” said Lula Oliver, a 69-year-old Columbus woman who attended the gathering, sponsored by People for the American Way, a liberal organization that organized community State of the Union viewings in 18 cities, including Columbus.

        “They say they don't like the way he behaves. I think they don't like his ideas, and they don't like that he talks about what matters.”

        Larry Mays, a Baptist minister, said he hopes the speech and the meeting will spur more people opposed to the impeachment trial to speak out.

        Rally organizers suggested opponents start with the office of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio.

        “How Mike (DeWine) votes on these impeachment questions are going to determine how hard these people will work against him,” said Chuck Ardo, a rally organizer. “Now, you can take for granted that most of them won't be working for him. How hard they work against him remains to be seen.”

Widows recognized
        President Clinton began his address by recognizing the widows of two Capitol Police officers who were killed last July by a gunman who forced his way into the Capitol and opened fire.

        Lyn Gibson, wife of Special Agent John Gibson, and Wei Ling Chestnut, who survives Officer Jacob J. Chestnut, were in the gallery as guests of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

        “Let me begin by saluting the new speaker of the House, and thanking him for extending invitations to two special guests who are sitting in the gallery with Mrs. Hastert,” Mr. Clinton said.

President Cuomo?
        For security reasons, one member of the president's Cabinet always skips the State of the Union address. This year, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo drew that duty.

        The tradition allows the White House to preserve the line of succession to the presidency in case disaster strikes the Capitol.

        Enquirer reporter Sandy Theis, The Associated Press, New York Times, States News Service contributed to this report.


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Social Security plan is big, bold and controversial
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Lukewarm criticism from GOP
President out to reclaim his legacy
Text of State of the Union address
State of the Union address (Take 2)
State of the Union address (Take 3)
State of the Union address (Take 4)
State of the Union address (Take 5)
State of the Union address (Take 6)
State of the Union address (Take 7)
Clinton's lawyer presents scathing rebuke
Both parties praise president's counsel
Chabot: Ruff got it wrong
Defense low-key till end
GOP collecting, editing queries