No alternative to impeachment

No alternative to impeachment by U.S. Rep. John Thune Over the past several weeks I have agonized, like most members of Congress, over the weight and burden of the constitutional duty facing the U.S. House of Representatives. This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make thus far in my career and it is not a decision I enjoy making. However, after much study, thought and prayer I have come to the following conclusion.

Either we are a nation of laws or we are not. If we are, then those laws must apply equally to all people. Our Declaration of Independence says it best. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." In America, there is no emperor and there is no praetorian guard. There is one standard of justice that applies equally to all. To say or do otherwise will undermine the most sacred of all American ideals. President Clinton has committed federal crimes and there must be a reckoning or no American should ever again be prosecuted for these same crimes.

There are those who have argued that we must abandon this process in the interest of preserving our current state of peace and prosperity, that impeachment will disrupt the stability of the country. On the contrary, I would argue that American stability, both historically and presently, emanates from a faithful adherence to the Constitution. The question often posed is, can the country survive in spite of this painful impeachment exercise? I believe the country will survive because of this process. Ours is a constitutional government whose principles transcend the latest public opinion poll.

It is our profound belief in and adherence to the Constitution that has enabled America to weather many a storm throughout history.

From names like Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy, whose presidencies each were the victims of an assassin's bullet; to names like Harrison and Roosevelt, whose presidencies were ended by their untimely deaths; to Richard Nixon, who was forced out under the cloud of political scandal, our constitutional government has stood the test of time. From slavery to civil rights, the rule of the majority has never stopped our eternal pursuit of equality and justice, because the Constitution is their eternal guardian. From the war between the states to two World Wars — and everything before or since — America has stumbled but has never fallen because our Constitution is designed to break the fall.

And then there is the final issue, and that is the matter of trust. Lying to the American people is a betrayal of trust. All of us, including our public leaders, make mistakes. We are all subject to the same universal truth. We all fall short. To err is human, to forgive divine. But to err repeatedly and willfully, with impunity, defies another universal truth — the law of the harvest. In other words, you reap what you sow. The pattern of deception and dishonesty that acts as a bodyguard to President Clinton strikes at the very core of his ability to lead. It is a matter of trust.

One could argue the issue is based upon lies about sex, as was the case with Gennifer Flowers. And most of us have long forgotten his lies about the draft and about the use of marijuana. But there is this pattern, and perhaps even more troubling than the pattern is the state of mind that permits repeated denial in the face of irrefutable facts.

Those close to the president say he can't admit to lying for legal, political and personal reasons. Fear of future prosecution and fear of political consequence gives explanation, albeit little excuse, for his denials. However, it is the president's assertion that he can't tell the truth for personal reasons that is the most troubling.

The president says he can't tell the truth because he doesn't believe he lied. And yet, even the president's most ardent defenders acknowledge he lied under oath.

If the president genuinely believes that he is telling the truth, we are left with one of two equally miserable realities. Either the president chooses contempt and complete disregard for the truth, or his conscience is so diminished as to leave him unable to discern the truth from his lies. Both conclusions are ruinous to a constitutional republic whose leaders must command the trust of those they lead.

Our constitutional government will stand the test of time, but only if we deal decisively with those who recklessly assault its foundations. Allegiance to our Constitution leaves us with no alternative but to impeach President William Jefferson Clinton.

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