Clinton Impeachment: Statement By Senator Tim Hutchinson

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 Tim Hutchinson was a Republican senator from Arkansas. He served from 1997 until 2003.

Statement by Senator Tim Hutchinson (Republican – Arkansas)

We are nearing one of the most important votes most of us will ever cast.

As an Arkansan, the impeachment process has been long and difficult. President Clinton is a dominating political influence in Arkansas and still immensely popular in my home state, so I am acutely aware of the political implications of this vote for me.

As an Arkansan, I share pride in one of our own having achieved so much and having attained the highest elective office in the land. Arkansas has produced more than its share of political leaders–the Joe. T. Robinsons, the Hattie Caraways, the John McClellans, and J.W. Fulbrights. But never before has an Arkansan reached the Presidency. I, with all of Arkansas, was proud. We knew William Jefferson Clinton’s intellect, his grasp of policy issues. We knew his personality, his charisma. We had seen for years his remarkable political skills, his uncanny ability to connect with people. I believe I’m like most Arkansans–deeply conflicted–pride mixed with embarrassment, and most of all pain.

This trial is not about private conduct. It is not about the President’s personal behavior. We are all sinners. We are all flawed human beings. The President’s personal life is his personal life. It’s his business, not mine. The facts that are relevant are those relating to law.

This trial is not about process. It seems to me that throughout this long drama, many have sought to put Ken Starr on trial or the House managers on trial. Was Ken Starr on a vendetta or was he just doing an unpleasant job? Whichever, we have to deal with the facts and the evidence. Did the House managers, as we have heard from the President’s counsel so often, `want to win too much?’ Frankly, both sides wanted to win, both sides were fervent in their presentations, and I’m glad we didn’t hear half-hearted arguments. A vigorous prosecution and defense is the basis of a successful adversarial system. What we are doing is important. I’m glad they believe in what they are doing, but in the end it’s the facts, the evidence, with which we must grapple. The process with all its flaws is secondary. The reality is, we are faced with a body of evidence.

This trial is not about punishment. It’s not about getting our pound of flesh from the Democrats. It’s not about getting our retribution on the President. It’s not political vengeance. It’s not about polls. If polls had prevailed, Andrew Johnson would have been removed, and that would have been wrong. To argue that a popular President should not be removed regardless of his actions, merely because he is popular, is to lower our Constitutional Republic to a meaningless level.

To say popularity should be a factor in our decision is to say that bad poll numbers and unpopularity is an argument for removal of a President. How contrary to our constitutional system. The popularity of this President should never been mentioned, in my opinion. Nor should political consequences of our votes be the basis for our decision of whether to remove this President.

What I had to weigh was the evidence. Voting to remove a President–the very thought sobers and humbles me. But the facts are so inescapable, the evidence so powerful.

I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that when the President testified before the federal grand jury and said that he had been truthful to his aides in what he had said about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky–that he committed perjury and obstructed justice. When he told Sidney Blumenthal that Ms. Lewinsky was a stalker and he was a victim, he was not being truthful. He was trying to destroy her reputation and he would have, had it not been for the dress. He lied, and he lied about his lie to the grand jury.

I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that when the President led Betty Currie through a false rendition of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that he was tampering with a witness and obstructing justice. He did this not once, but twice. His explanation that he was refreshing his memory offends all common sense. When he denied this coaching before the grand jury, he obstructed justice and committed perjury. Of course, there is much more to this case, but how much do we need?

If this trial was only about one man’s actions, it might be easier. But this trial is about so much more–the office of the Presidency, the precedent of lowering the bar on the importance of our nation’s rule of law. It’s about the oath Bill Clinton took when he was sworn in as our President, to uphold our nation’s laws. And it’s about the oath the President took when he swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before the grand jury. The sanctity of the oath is the basis of our judicial system. To lessen the significance of violating the oath is in fact an attack on our legal system and the rule of law.

There are men and women across America who languish behind bars today because they committed the crime of perjury, lying under oath. How can we tell America that our President, the highest government official in the land, is treated differently?

While I was growing up in Gravette, Arkansas, life seemed much more simple than it is today. It was a simpler time. But then and now, the bedrock of our society is still truth and justice. This hasn’t changed. On August 25, 1825, Daniel Webster said, `Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may.’

Today is a somber day for our country. This trial has been a sad chapter of American history, and I have a heavy heart. As difficult as these votes will be, I know that I could not serve the people of Arkansas with a clear conscience unless I do what I believe is right and uphold the law. I will vote guilty on both articles of impeachment.

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