The following is a statement from the Senate’s closed deliberations on the Articles of Impeachment against President Clinton, excerpts of which senators were allowed to publish in the Congressional Record for Friday, February 12, 1999.
Senator Blanche Lincoln was a Democratic senator from Arkansas. She served from 1999 until 2011.
Statement by Senator Blanche Lincoln (Democrat – Arkansas)
Mr. Chief Justice, I thank you for your thoughtfulness and patience in these proceedings. I apologize that my back is to you.
I would also like to thank the majority leader and the minority leader. I have been awed by their patience–just as Job had the patience–to deal with all of us on our particulars that we have wanted to express here and the time constraints we have all felt. They have done a wonderful job in accommodating all of us and certainly giving these proceedings the dignity that I think all Americans have expected. I do appreciate that.
As the youngest female Senator in the history of our country, as a farmer’s daughter raised on the salt of the earth with basic Christian values, and as a young mother whose first priority in life is my family and the well-being of the world that they live in, I regret that my first opportunity to speak on the floor of this historic Chamber is under these circumstances. And I am reluctant to speak here today. I had intended to wait until I had more experience under my belt before I addressed my esteemed colleagues here. You will find that I am not quite as eloquent, or as lengthy, as my predecessor; but I will work on that. But because of the historical aspects of this proceeding, I feel it is important that my thoughts and my judgments are expressed here today.
I, like President Clinton and my colleague, Senator Hutchinson, grew up in a small town in Arkansas, the oldest city in Arkansas. My colleague expressed regret that the black and white of right and wrong is not as easy as it was growing up in that small rural community. I am reminded of the wisdom that my grandmother shared with me as a younger woman returning home from college. I sat on our back porch and I expressed to her my agony over what difficult times I was growing up in, and that she could not possibly know or understand because right and wrong were so much easier in her day. She quickly corrected me. Right and wrong becomes more difficult for each of us as we grow older, because the older we get the more we know personally about our own human frailties.
I will not discuss the historical or the legal aspects about what we are doing here today and what we have been doing in these past weeks. I am not a lawyer; neither am I a historian. But I do want to thank each of you for your legal and your historical aspects, and the heartfelt wisdom and guidance that you have shared with me and with all of us as colleagues.
I want desperately to cast the right vote for the people that I represent in Arkansas and for all the people of this great country. My heart has been heavy and I have deliberated within my own conscience, knowing that my decision should not come out of my initial emotion of anger toward the President for such reckless behavior, but should be based on the facts. I have approached this both as a parent and as a public servant, with the ultimate goal of doing what is right for our country. Since hearing of the President’s misconduct, I have in no way tried to make excuses for the President or to defend such dishonorable behavior. I have tried to determine how we should communicate to our children and our Nation that this very visible misconduct is unacceptable.
I have sought to reconcile in my mind what is appropriate condemnation of such action and what is the best course of action for the future of the Presidency and for this country. In my efforts to reach a fair conclusion, I have listened to the presentation of evidence from both sides. I have examined the historical intent of our Founding Fathers with regard to impeachment and my constitutional responsibility as a Senator–however young I may be. I have sought the counsel of colleagues, family, friends and constituents; and, of course, I have prayed for guidance for myself and for our country.
My home State of Arkansas has been under the scrutiny of a powerful microscope these past 6 years and, yes, regardless of how closely we may be viewed, any of us, character does count in each and every one of us. But who of us in this Chamber does not have a chapter in our individual books of life that we might be ashamed of or might regret–a chapter that might be revealed under such a powerful microscope, something we might be so ashamed of that we might mislead others to spare our families, our very children, the pain and sorrow?
Many have referenced what they would do if another President of their own party were in this situation, and they have indicated that they would still vote the same.
But the true test, I say, is what each of us would want done if we were in this President’s position. How would we want to be treated? And who of us would not go to great lengths to protect our children and our families from the pain and embarrassment that we have seen over the course of these years?
I have also heard many people say that the President should be removed from office because he set a poor example for our children. It is all of our responsibility to set an example for our children. It is not just the President’s. Ultimately, my husband and I have the responsibility to teach our children. And we will teach our children that misconduct is unacceptable. The President’s conduct, however troubling, does not take away my responsibility to teach what is right to my children. Future generations depend on each of us–not just the President–to teach and to lead.
Many are amazed that the general public, although they believe that the President’s behavior was wrong, does not want him removed from office. I am not so amazed by this as I find it reassuring. This expression of humanity and forgiveness from the real-life people of this Nation that we represent reassures us that in our highly technical, fast-paced and somewhat impersonal society, we as a country but, more importantly, we as human beings, are still equipped to handle this or any other situation.
It is striking to me that we are at a crossroads in our Nation at this entrance into the 21st century. We are being tested–not by war or by pestilence–but by conflict that is our own trouble from within. This requires us to reflect on not only the lessons we have learned but, more importantly, those that we want to leave. These lessons should not only demonstrate how we as a country prosper, or how our people advance, but how we treat and relate to one another as individuals.
So today, after much careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that the President’s actions, while dishonorable, do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense warranting his removal from office. Impeachment was never intended to be a vehicle or a means of punishment. And the standard to prove high crimes and misdemeanors has not been met by the disjointed facts strung together by a thread of inferences and assumptions that were presented here.
I have and will support a strong bipartisan censure resolution that tells the President and this Nation that the President’s misconduct with a subordinate White House employee was deplorable, and that future generations must know that such conduct will lead to a profound loss of trust, integrity and respect. I believe there has to be consequences here not only to demonstrate that something wrong has been done but to finally bring closure to this ordeal, not just for us but also for the American people.
Above all else, I believe we have been entrusted not only to be judges and jurors in this trial, but we have also been entrusted with the last word. Senator Kerrey from Nebraska spoke strongly to this–that the last word from this body’s collective voice should be a chorus, loud and clear, of how great this land and our people are.
The President, actually in his own words from his 1993 inaugural address, aptly replied. He said, `There is nothing wrong with this country that cannot be fixed by what is right with this country.’
The most important thing we can do in the last days of this trial is to present the good in the U.S. Senate, in our government, and in our Nation for the sake of our children and future generations. I hope and pray that in the following weeks this body will grasp the leadership role and to begin the process of healing our Nation, restoring pride in our Government, and inspiring faith in our leaders once again.