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Politicians react to Clinton verdict
February 12, 1999
Web posted at: 7:02 p.m. EST (0002 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 12) -- Relief and concern. Satisfaction and disappointment. Expressions of faith in the constitutional process. Those were just a few of the sentiments expressed by Washington's political class after the Senate voted Friday to acquit President Bill Clinton on two impeachment charges. Here is a sampling of comments:
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi):
Answering a reporter's question, "Was this a partisan trial?": "We worked very hard for this to be fair, but if there was any partisanship, I would like to note that every Democrat, every Democrat, voted against either article."
"I'm not going to let it (the impeachment trial) cloud my idea of what we should be doing. We're going to move forward legislatively, and if he (Clinton) will join us, that'll be fine.... We're going to do the best we can for the people of this country to address the issues they're concerned about."
"You have to do what your conscience dictates and what you think is right. I think we did that."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota):
"I think a majority of senators would like to see a censure motion."
"At long last we can get back to the issues our country is so determined to have us deal with. There's an array of issues out there that we've got to address. We look forward to working with everyone in the administration to accomplish some real policy."
"Time will tell (how the impeachment process will affect Clinton). The president is an extraordinarily resilient individual."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois):
"Now that the impeachment trial has been completed, Republicans in the Congress can be proud that they stood by the principles that have made this nation strong: a respect for the rule of law and an abiding faith in the strength of our Constitution.
"Republicans must now keep faith with those principles by moving on an agenda that will make America more secure in the next century. Saving Social Security, improving public education, promoting economic security through tax relief and fortifying national security are four ways we can secure America's future."
Chief House Manager Henry Hyde (R-Illinois):
"I have no regrets. We fulfilled our oath of office to discharge our duty according to the Constitution; and when elected officials do that, democracy works."
"I want to give my deepest, heartfelt thanks to the House managers for their heroic sacrifice. No one will know what they have gone through during this process."
"We weren't happy because we were circumscribed by (the Senate's) rules. On the other hand, that was alien territory for us. The Senate did its best to accommodate us within the parameters of their way of doing things. We could have had a better trial, we should have had a better trial, but there were so many pressures. Frankly, I'm satisfied."
"I don't think indicting (Clinton) after what we've all been through is going to be helpful to the country."
"I had a breakfast with (former President) Ronald Reagan, and we talked about it. He thought it would not be good to have a president, a former president, in prison. Frankly, that prospect is off-putting to me, too."
"I wouldn't tell Mr. Starr what to do, but I think we should put as much of this on the shelf as we can. I don't think he should proceed (with an indictment)."
"I hope to slay many more dragons that will supersede the events of impeachment."
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa):
"People would have been proud to have seen the senators debate and deliberate (in open session). There wasn't anything said or done in there that couldn't have been said and done in front of all the American people. That's the only thing that I am really sorry about in this whole thing."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah):
"It's amazing to me how they (Senate Democrats) can criticize him (Clinton) as much as they did and then vote the way many of them did."
House Manager Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
"The question I have is, what will people say about the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton in 25 years?"
"Every senator voted and expressed themselves in a way that will stand for history."
"William Jefferson Clinton was cleansed today.... Impeachment was hard -- it was meant to be hard -- and it's over."
Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota):
"This is the end of a long, sad year, and I think people in the country and all of us (in the Senate) are ready to get back to work."
Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia):
"I think no censure should follow. This matter should be put to rest. This president is now a wounded president. We've got to come together as a nation and let no nation abroad perceive that we are weakened."
"The Congress will be of a more bipartisan frame of mind after the seriousness of this trial. I accept the final vote of this Senate, and I can only pray for the nation that it's the right vote."
House Manager James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin):
"It is obvious to me that Senate Democrats ... as well as most of the House Democrats were obviously strongly opposed to the impeachment of the president. They didn't want to listen to the evidence. They didn't care about the evidence. They just wanted to vote 'No,' and that's what happened."
"This trial showed America at its best. I received a letter ... from a man in Russia, and he said that, 'Only in the greatest democracy in the world is the chief of state put on public trial for violating the law. That would never happen in my country.' It would never happen in other countries that he is aware of, but it would happen only in the United States of America. And that is why our country has been this beacon of hope and opportunity for over 200 years to all of the peoples of the world."
Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey):
"I am enormously gratified that in neither of these counts of impeachment was there a majority to find the president of the United States guilty."
"For the purposes of the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the remaining two years of the Clinton administration, it was very important that a majority of senators not vote for the removal of the president."
Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee):
"We followed the (constitutional) process ... and the system works.... You can't complain about a system that allows you to have your day and allows an up (or) down vote in a democratic society. I feel good about it."
Christian Coalition Executive Director Randy Tate:
"Allowing Bill Clinton to get away with what he's done completely undercuts the legal and moral foundations of American society and deals a severe blow to women who are fighting sexual predators in the workplace."
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota):
"I think the Constitution worked today. The United States Senate decided not to nullify the last election.... In many ways the Senate as a body is closer today, one member to another ... for having had to go through this together.... I think it's very important now for the country to move on."
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania):
Asked if the impeachment trial would hurt Republicans politically, Specter said no.
"I believe that when the American people reflect on the entire matter that they will not blame the House of Representatives (and) the Republicans for partisanship."
"I think a Republican Senate acquitted itself with decorum and dignity ... and two years is a long time from now, and we'll face a whole variety of issues, and it will be the Republican nominee on the issues vs. the Democratic nominee."
House Manager Christopher Cannon (R-Utah):
"We now have a president who ... has never considered resigning ... leading a nation that overwhelmingly, by 80 percent or more, believes that he has committed perjury and other ... high crimes and misdemeanors.... The political cleansing that did not happen through the impeachment process is one that the president now bears with a great and serious burden, and we wish him the best and hope that he will get on with life and lead the country as a president must."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York):
"Thank God this is over.... The fact that neither count got a majority of votes shows it never should have come to the Senate in the first place."
House Manager Bob Barr (R-Georgia):
"To me, the most important thing that happened in these entire proceedings happened after the verdicts were announced. As (Hyde), myself and the other (House) managers were walking into the rotunda in the Capitol, a group of citizens, men and women from various walks of life, broke out into spontaneous applause.
"That tells me, more than anything, that we did the right thing, that the Constitution is alive and well and was strengthened by the (impeachment) process."
"I say, 'Thank you, America,' and I also want to thank the press for covering this matter so diligently and professionally. You let the people know how important these matters were, and that helped draw them to the Capitol today."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont):
Asked what people should tell young children about the result of the trial:
"When my grandson is old enough, I'll tell him there are terrible, terrible consequences to lying. I'll also tell him there are other dangers, too, like a prosecutor who can go out of control."
"The Constitution doesn't say we will have only saints for presidents. I think it's a very, very strong punishment for his conduct, in being the first elected president in the history of this country to be impeached."
House Manager James Rogan (R-California):
"They made their constitutional decision as the constitution requires. We did our constitutional duty, and if there is a broad silver lining in any cloud from this whole thing, I think if nothing else the American people got a chance to see and meet political leaders who will stand for conscience and principles and not for polls."
Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island):
"The Constitution endures. It's stronger than political faction. It's stronger than the frailties of any individual. It's as strong as its American people. Now our task is to get on with the work of America. The decks have been cleared."
House Manager Steve Buyer (R-Indiana):
"As I one by one checked off guilty and not guilty, my gut kept turning over and over. Why? Here's the damage that's been done to the Constitution and the presidency. Because my great fear is that future presidents will now flaunt the law in a more egregious manner and demand party partisanship and a litmus test on parties, and that's how they'll defend impeachments in the future."
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts):
"For me, the most powerful evidence was given in the House of Representatives by the 400 constitutional scholars and historians who testified that even if these matters were true ... that this would not rise to the level our founding fathers set to be the basis for impeachment."
"Today was a victory for the Constitution of the United States.... If we had seen a successful action, from the House managers' point of view, we would have lowered the bar for impeachments of presidents."
House Manager Charles Canady (R-Florida):
"We have followed the constitutional process, and as a consequence, the institutions of our government will be stronger. It's also important to understand that in this process, the House of Representatives voted to establish a standard of integrity for the presidency."
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan):
Answering a reporter's question, "Are Republicans and Democrats going to be able to work together in the months to come?":
"Better in the Senate. In an amazing way, this trial has brought senators closer together. Maybe that's hard for people to believe.... We are closer friends. We are closer as senators. There is a very strong feeling of respect for each other, and that will carry us, hopefully, to some bipartisan efforts to address the issues that have been too long set aside."
Texas Gov. George W. Bush
"I can say I'm glad it's over with. It's time for our country to start looking forward."