Sen. Inhofe's closed-door impeachment statement
Released into Congressional Record, February 12, 1999
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma): Mr. Chief Justice, in the absence of hearing something that I haven't heard or seeing something that is unforeseen up to now, it is my plan to vote for conviction on the two Articles of Impeachment.
I think this is probably the most important vote I will cast during the course of my lifetime. I say it very sincerely. I believe we are going to rise to the occasion.
I had an experience back in 1975, 24 years ago. I was a member of the State Senate in Oklahoma. I can remember being called for jury duty, and I was very happy to find myself assigned to a murder case about which I had already expressed a definite opinion. I said I believed this defendant was surely guilty, and besides, I was the author of the capital punishment bill in the state legislature. So I thought for sure I wasn't going to be qualified as a juror.
Well, I went through the qualification procedure and somehow they qualified me. Five days later, I was the foreman of the jury that acquitted that accused murderer. This can happen. It is an experience that taught me a lot about our judicial system.
I sometimes say one of the few qualifications I have for the U.S. Senate is I am not a lawyer. So that when I read the Constitution, I know what it says; when I read the oath of office, I know what it says; when I read the law, I know what it says. I don't have to clutter up my mind with what the definition of 'is' is. So it makes it a little easier for me.
From a nonlawyer perspective let me share a couple of observations.
First, insofar as perjury is concerned--lying under oath--I might be wrong, but I don't think there is a Senator in this Chamber who doesn't believe the President lied under oath.
I quote from the White House counsel, Charles Ruff, himself who said: 'Reasonable people can believe the President lied under oath.'
I quote from Senator Chuck Schumer who said: 'He lied under oath both in the Paula Jones deposition and what he said in the grand jury.'
I quote from Representative Robert Wexler, a strong supporter of the President, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, who said: 'The President did not tell the truth. He lied under oath.'
I quote from former U.S. Senator Paul Simon, one of my favorite Democrat colleagues, who appeared with me on a television program before the trial, who said: 'You have to be an extreme Clinton zealot to believe perjury was not committed.'
Second, as a non-attorney, I have a hard time reconciling the idea that there might be certain permissible exceptions to telling the truth under oath. Maybe you who are attorneys, and have a different background than mine, see it differently. But how can you reconcile this idea that under some conditions--if the subject matter is sex or something else--you can lie under oath? I really have a hard time with this.
I know that morality is not supposed to be the issue here. We are supposed to concentrate on the two specific Articles of Impeachment. However, I don't think anyone can completely compartmentalize himself and totally disregard other things going on.
All of us get many, many letters from young children, parents, teachers, and others who are deeply distressed about the President's behavior and its impact on the moral health of the Nation. I think I am very fortunate because my kids are all in their upper thirties and my eight grandchildren (make that nine--I count them when they are conceived) are all under 6, so I don't get those embarrassing questions. But I know many parents are struggling with this.
The other thing that concerns me is the reprehensible, consistent attitude this president has displayed over the years against women. Take Paula Jones as just one example. She may not win a popularity poll, but her civil rights have just as much standing as anyone else's, do they not? Is not our country based on the principle that even the least among us is entitled to equal treatment under the law?
It amazes me how these feminist organizations continue to hold this President in such high regard--groups such as the National Organization of Women. I went back and read their bylaws. They claim to want to protect women with regard to 'equal rights and responsibilities in all aspects of citizenship, public service, employment . . . including freedom from discrimination.'
And here we have a president who not only misused his power to seduce a college-age intern, but who has also engaged in extensive similar misconduct outside of his marriage. It is not just Monica Lewinsky. There is Gennifer Flowers, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Dolly Kyle Browning, Beth Coulson, Susan McDougal, Cristy Zercher--the list goes on and on.
This President has a consistent pattern of using and abusing women. You know that. I imagine most of you watched the Monica Lewinsky tapes as I did. I don't know why the House managers didn't pick this up--somehow they let it slip through--about when she told this story concerning the two security badges. She came here to Washington, this wide-eyed kid, and there is a blue badge that lets you get into the White House proper and a pink badge that lets you only into the Old Executive Office Building. And she wanted to be in there--in the West Wing--where she could see what was going on.
She had the pink badge so she had to be escorted to the West Wing by someone else. So the very first day she meets and talks to the President in person, he begins the relationship we're talking about. He didn't even know her name. And then he reached across and grabbed her pink badge, yanked it down, and said, 'This is going to be a problem.' I don't think there is anyone in the room who doesn't know what he was referring to. He was preparing to use this girl and abuse her and discard her like an old shirt. But I know that these are not things the lawyers expect us to consider.
I do want to give another observation, though. I thought the playing field would be very uneven when this trial started. The members of the Judiciary Committee who are the House managers are all lawyers. But mostly, they are Congressmen first. Many of these Congressmen-lawyers had not been in a courtroom for literally years. And here they were taking on the most prestigious, the most prominent, the most skilled, the most experienced, the highest priced lawyers anywhere in America. And yet when they finished with their opening statements, there was no doubt the House managers had risen superbly to the occasion, and I believe they have done a great job throughout.
The White House lawyers are very skilled, very persuasive people. I would make this observation--again, a non-lawyer observation: I felt that three or four of them should have quit their opening remarks about 5 minutes sooner than they did. They had a tendency to close their presentations with arguments that undermined their credibility.
Cheryl Mills, for example, was really doing well, and she was very persuasive until she started at the very last talking about the President's record on civil rights, as if the civil rights of a person his associates had dubbed as 'trailer park trash' were not significant, or the dignity of the intern he had branded 'a stalker' was not significant. I really think she destroyed her otherwise very persuasive presentation.
I think the same thing was true with Gregory Craig. He ended by talking about how conviction in this case would somehow 'destroy a fundamental underpinning of democracy' by overturning the results of an election, as if Bob Dole would come in if that were to happen.
Even our good friend, Dale Bumpers--I knew Dale Bumpers long before I came here to the U.S. Senate--did a great job. But I think he should have quit early, too, because at the very last it sounded like he was predicating the innocence of this President on his foreign policy. And as I just look at Iraq and what is going on over there, I think if that had been the test for this, I could have made up my mind a lot earlier.
Another perspective I bring to this is as chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. Having been in the service myself, and knowing how important discipline is, I am very disturbed that we have so many cases where severe punishment is dealt to individuals who have engaged in conduct far less serious than that of the President. Consider:
Captain Derrick Robinson, an Army officer, was caught up in the Aberdeen sex misconduct case and is serving time in Leavenworth for admitting to consensual sex with an enlisted person who was not his wife.
Delmar Simpson is serving 25 years in a military prison because a court-martial found that, even though his relationship with a female recruit was consensual, the power granted him by his rank made such consensual sex with a subordinate unacceptable. Think of the power granted this President by his rank.
Remember Kelly Flinn. She is not flying B-52s anymore. She was forced out the Air Force for lying about an adulterous affair.
Sergeant Major Gene McKinney, the Army's top enlisted man, was tried for perjury, adultery, and obstruction of justice--all concerning sexual misconduct. He was convicted of obstruction, but not before his attorney asserted at the trial how people in uniform rightly ask: 'How can you hold an enlisted man to a higher standard than the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief?'
So I have looked at this and studied it. I think anyone who votes to acquit has to say that we are going to hold this President to a lower standard of conduct and behavior than we hold other people. I do not understand how they can come to any other conclusion.
My wife and I have been married 40 years. I have a thing called the wife test. You go home and when you want to get an opinion that is totally apolitical, you ask your wife. So I went home and I presented the case--as explained so eloquently by the White House lawyers and others--on why we could have a lower standard of conduct for a President than we have for a judge. And I know the argument. And I expressed the argument to my wife in the kitchen. I said, there are a thousand judges, only one President. I went through the whole thing. Then she looked up and said, 'I thought the President appointed the judges.' You know, my wife is so dumb, she is always asking me questions I can't answer.
But I really believe that in this case we are getting at the truth. I really believe that the President of the United States should be held to the very highest of standards.
You know, Winston Churchill said: 'Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.'
I think we have seen the truth. And I think the final truth is that this President should be held to the very highest of standards.
Sometimes when I am not really sure I am right, I consult my best friend. His name is Jesus. And I asked that question. Now I will quote to you the response that is found in Luke: 'From one who has been entrusted with more, much more will be asked.'
Mr. Chief Justice, I think Jesus is right.
Friday, February 12, 1999
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