Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Chabot's closing statement

Steve Chabot
        The following is Monday's closing statement by House impeachment manager Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, before the U.S. Senate:

This week, we will conclude this trial. Has it been difficult? Yes. Would we all prefer that none of this had ever happened? Of course. But the president has put our nation through a terrible ordeal, and it has been our duty to pursue this case to its conclusion.

        And despite the dire warnings, scare tactics and heavy-handed threats by those who sought to circumvent this solemn Constitutional process, our great country has survived. We have finished this trial in just a few weeks, the economy continues to be strong and the nation's business is getting done.

        But before you turn out the lights and head home, you must make one final decision. It's a decision that should not be influenced by party affiliation, by politics, or by personal ties. It's a decision that should be guided by our Constitution, by our laws, and by your own moral compass.

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        A few months ago, I stood in your shoes, preparing to make what will likely stand as the most important vote of my congressional career.

        Throughout the process I did my best to be fair and keep an open mind. I listened carefully to the views of my constituents. I reviewed the evidence in excruciating detail. Ultimately, for me the choice was clear: I came to the conclusion that it was my duty to support impeachment.

        Now it's your turn to cast what could be the most important vote of your political career. The question is: Will moral fortitude or political expediency rule the day?

        This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours at my college alma mater, William and Mary. As I walked through the campus, I couldn't help but think back to my days as a student and what motivated me to seek public office in the first place. In 1972, I was a 19-year-old college student casting my first ballot in a presidential election. Like a majority of Americans I voted for a Republican, Richard Nixon. Four years later, however, I voted for a Democrat, Jimmy Carter. This decision stemmed from profound disappointment over Watergate, and a strong conviction that President Nixon should not have received immunity for his actions.

        Now, just as in college, I find myself extremely troubled by the actions of a president. In fact, as I started to think about what I would say today, I wasn't sure where to begin. How exactly do you wrap up, in 10 minutes or less, everything we've witnessed in the last year? We've seen Bill Clinton's finger-waving denial to the American people. We've seen the president lie before a federal grand jury. We've learned that the president of the United States obstructed justice. We've even seen the president hold a public celebration immediately following the House impeachment vote.

        We all know that the president's behavior has been reprehensible. President Clinton, however, refuses to admit what we all know is true. To this day, he continues to deny and distort. He continues to dispute the undeniable facts that are before the Senate and the American people.

        The president's attorneys have done their best to disguise the truth as well. At the beginning of this trial, I predicted in my presentation that they would use legal smoke screens to mask the law and the facts. To their credit, they produced smoke so thick that it continues to cloud this debate.

        But if you look through the smoke and mirrors employed by these very able lawyers, you will see the truth.

        The truth is that President Clinton lied to a federal grand jury. He lied about whether or not he committed perjury in a civil deposition; about the extent of his relationship with a subordinate government employee; about his coaching of Betty Currie; and about countless other matters. In my opening statement before this body, I outlined the four elements of perjury — an oath, intent, falsity and materiality. In this case, all of those elements have been met.

        President Clinton also obstructed justice and encouraged others to lie in judicial proceedings. He sought to influence the testimony of a potentially adverse witness with job assistance, and he attempted to conceal evidence that was under subpoena.

        These truths cannot be ignored, distorted, or swept under the rug. Some of the president's partisan defenders want you to do just that. But it would be wrong. It would be wrong for you to send a message to every American that it's acceptable to lie under oath and obstruct a federal investigation. It would be wrong for you to tell America's children that some lies are all right. It would be wrong to show the rest of the world that some of our laws don't really matter.

        I must agree with Phyllis and Jack Stanley, constituents of mine who wrote me a letter saying, “We believe that President Bill Clinton should definitely be impeached for the sake of the country. If he is not impeached, will not the rule of law in this country be weakened? We do not feel glee over the prospect of President Clinton's impeachment, however, for the sake of coming generations, acknowledging that integrity, honor and decency matter greatly is very important — especially in the highest office of the land.”

        Like most of you, I have spent countless hours at grocery stores, shopping malls, schools and church talking to my constituents. I've also read thousands of letters that have been sent to my office. What I have heard and read does not surprise me — people in Cincinnati, Ohio share a variety of views on what the ultimate verdict should be in this body. Many want the president removed from office, others want a censure, still others would just like to see this process end.

        But regardless of their views, they are honorable people who care about our country and our future.

        Now I know that throughout this process some of the president's more partisan defenders have harshly criticized the managers, the House of Representatives, and anyone who would dare believe that the president committed any crimes. These partisan attacks have been unfortunate because I think we all know that these are serious issues that deserve serious consideration. I know it. The American people know it. And I think you know it too.

        But despite the partisan rhetoric and attacks, I believe that once this trial ends we must work together. So I would ask everyone here today to make a commitment — a commitment to every American that regardless of the trial's outcome we will join together to turn the page on this unfortunate chapter that President Clinton has written into our nation's history.

        The question before you now is: how will this chapter end? Will the final chapter say that the United States Senate turned its back on perjury and obstruction of justice by the President of the United States? Or will it say that the Senate took a principled stand and told the world that no person, not even the president, stands above the law? That all Americans — no matter how rich, how powerful, or how well-connected - are held accountable for their actions?

        As the father of two children, and a former teacher at an inner-city school in Cincinnati, I believe it is very important that we teach our children that honesty, integrity, and the rule of law do matter.

        When I'm in Cincinnati, I still spend a lot of time visiting schools throughout my community. And it might surprise you to learn that the question I'm most frequently asked has nothing to do with Congress or the status of appropriations bills. Instead, it's a simple question, “Have you ever met the president?”

        In the past, children asked this with pride and respect. They looked up to the office, and everything it represents. But now, Bill Clinton has let our children down, and I fear that nothing will ever be the same.

        Juliette Asuncion, a young woman in my district who attends Mother of Mercy High School, recently wrote me a letter that underscores the impact your decision will have on our nation's children. Juliette wrote:

        “I am writing to you to express my feelings on the scandalous situation that has taken over the White House for the past couple of months. ... Since the president is the official representative of the U.S., he should uphold the values and ideals held by the people of this country. The president should be an honest, trustworthy person. ...

        “He should be a good decision-maker, have good morals, and have his priorities straight. He should devote his time to the country and set a good example ...

        “I feel that President Clinton does not measure up to these standards. He has lied to the American people and has committed perjury, which is a serious offense. For someone in his position this is an unforgivable act, and he should not be allowed to just walk away without a punishment. ... He has shown that he feels that he can go above the law. I strongly believe that the president should be impeached.”

        When you cast your vote, remember, you are determining the lesson that Juliette, your children, and your grandchildren will learn. So how will this chapter end? The decision is yours.


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