The unfolding drama concerning both the president and the presidency of the United States has stunned and saddened people across America. I think the only news that has displaced the president's troubles and the Starr report from the front pages has been the remarkable home-run hitting of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Like most Americans, I would much prefer to dwell on that. However, the information and allegations submitted by Judge Starr last week to the House of Representatives are very serious and deserve solemn deliberation.
America is now facing a very challenging moment in our history, The challenge is simply how to do what is best for our country. It is to try to separate truth from spin, integrity from expediency, and political courage from blind, unmerited loyalty. It is to impose proper sanctions on the president for his behavior, which we find totally repugnant to our national values, regardless of whether the House of Representatives determines that his actions are "high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment.We are now embarking on a process that will have grave consequences not just for the president but for our country and every single American. The course and the direction of this exercise is going to be determined as the House of Representatives continues to analyze and debate the content of the Starr report. I have taken no position on what the House should recommend in the way of sanction, and I am not involved or leading any movement to pre-empt the House's deliberations.
I have great regard and deep respect for the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde. His committee has been dealing with the daunting task of reviewing the boxes and boxes of material supplied by the independent counsel and balancing the trade-offs between discretion concerning the repugnant nature of the subject matter and the people's right to know the evidence against the president. I have every confidence that Chairman Hyde will not take this responsibility lightly, that he will put partisanship aside and do the right thing.
As far as the president's videotaped testimony, I believe the decision by the House Judiciary Committee to release the tapes, and all of the other evidence, was warranted. Let's remember that the members of the House will likely be asked to vote whether to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry sometime in the next several weeks. They need to know what the public thinks of the evidence Judge Starr has compiled, and the videotaped testimony of the president, both in the grand jury and in the deposition, is some of the most crucial evidence in the case. It is unfortunate, of course, that these tapes include sexually explicit comments and questions, but I believe the American people are better off fully informed than waiting for the spinmeisters and talking heads to tell them what the evidence is.
However, I do believe that Congress should not be too swift to judgment. To be less than judicious about this scandal could throw our nation into a constitutional tailspin with repercussions for years to come. Impeachment should be and is a consideration when evidence supports it and if the actions of the president leave us no other choice.
I recently stated on national television that the president could improve his standing with Congress and with the people if he would simply start to tell the whole truth. But, if the president persists with this absurd line of defense of legal hair-splitting and legal games covering up wrongdoing, he may well foreclose any possibility of saving his presidency. In my view, we cannot accept a chief executive who lies under oath, issues a statement taking responsibility for inappropriate behavior, but then does not understand that he has to change his behavior - that is, stop lying.
It would have been better for the nation and the American people if the president had been truthful when this matter first broke eight months ago. Even on the night of his grand jury testimony, it would have been better if he had offered a heartfelt apology to the people and asked for their forgiveness.
It would have been better for the nation and the American people if the White House had not ruthlessly assailed those who have been charged with investigating this matter or stonewalled the investigation with frivolous appeals and claims of privilege. It is important to remember that this situation is not of Congress' or Judge Starr's making. The president has only himself to blame.
And let me make clear that if the House concludes that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice, whether by suggesting that witnesses lie or hide evidence or by other means, and the president's defense is lacking, then no apology is sufficient and impeachment is justified. The evidence on obstruction of justice is highly contested and deserves close consideration.
But, perhaps the most significant damage has been the great pain and destruction to our national discourse. From our kitchen dinner tables to the halls of Congress, Americans are grappling with the question of what is the best course of action for our nation and how we do we talk about it with our children. How do we teach them that lying or sexual promiscuity is not acceptable when we have the president of the United States acting in this manner?
Some people have suggested that I have been too hard on the president given that he is only human. Some have suggested that I have been too easy on him given that no elected official should be above the law. We must not look at what is good for our party or for ourselves; we must look at what is in the best interests of our country and the American people. While investigation and impeachment proceedings would be painful, it is vitally important that our children are able to look to the president of the United States with respect. Citizens should be able to believe that the president will tell them the truth at all times.
As the House fulfills its constitutional responsibility, I will continue to strive diligently to approach this grave situation in a fair and deliberative manner, with the number one goal of doing what is in the best interests of our country, both short- and long-term.