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A litmus test of character

The ubiquitous visage of the nation’s slithery First Deponent last
brought home to me the fact that the Clinton crisis is going to be,
inevitably and increasingly, a litmus test of character for every
individual American citizen. We have choices to make, and we need to
take them very seriously. We are going have to keep a clear vision of
our own integrity in the days ahead, and focus particularly on what we
owe to our children.

Being a parent transforms our life even in normal times, because of
enormous responsibility we have for doing our best to create a decent
moral environment for our children. It has an effect on our own
thinking and on our own conduct, so that many things get filtered
through the lens of our careful consideration of their moral effect on
our children.

And if you filter the mess that the behavior of this president forced
to view on television last week through the lens of that responsibility,
there is no doubt what the outcome must be. So now we will see just
how much America cares. Hillary and her cohorts perpetually claim to
care about children. Monday’s televised spectacle made it clearer than
ever that if we care about our children, we need to get this sick
spectacle off of the national stage. There is only one way to do
that — by removing Bill Clinton from office.

In the meanwhile, those of us with children — and all citizens, in
— are in the difficult situation of deciding what kind of moral
authority to acknowledge to the office of the president in the
meantime. I have already had to resolve this for myself, because I have
children and the question does come up in my house. As a practical
matter, the question of the moral authority of the presidency simply
amounts to the question which was put to me by my youngest child —
whether or not we must have respect for President Clinton. And the
answer that I gave was that we do not.

We have reached the point where in order to be true to decent
I have to make it clear to my children that it would be an act of deep
dishonesty to pretend to respect this man, even though he is our

In putting parents across the country in the situation of having to
answer such questions, the American people and their representatives are
playing with a fire that threatens one of our major institutions. If we
leave in office an individual who cannot deserve respect, and yet we
continue to demand respect for him, then we are asking decent people to
accord something that should not be given. For according to decent
principle and right judgement, one should not respect a man of no
character. If the people of the United States insist on retaining such
a man in the office of president and demanding respect for his
presidency, then they are asking that people demean themselves in
response to the coercive power of the majority. They are acting, in
other words, like cheap tyrants.

And that tyrannical gesture is unjust. It is unjust of the American
people to demand that anyone go against conscience and principle by
respecting that which is not respectable, just because the majority has
the power to make that demand. And when the majority of the people
behave as tyrants, they deserve no more respect than any other tyrants.
That was one of the wonderful things that our Founders understood, which
is why they set up a system of government that was supposed to, among
things, put a check on the possibility of majority tyranny. That’s
discussed in Federalist number 10. So if the people, through their
representatives in the Congress, leave in place this man who does not
deserve respect, and they then demand respect for him because they put
him in the presidency, two things will follow. Decent people will not
accord that respect. And the institution itself will suffer as a result
both of his presence in it and of the refusal of decent people to accord
the institution the respect that is its life blood.

The release of the tape last week confirmed for me the urgent
of removing this dangerous individual — dangerous especially in a moral
sense — from the office of president, because every day that he remains
is, in effect, another attempt to coerce the lie of respect from decent
people. It is time for the Congress to show enough respect for decent
hearts and consciences to get Bill Clinton out of office, rather than
permit his continued presence in the office to demand silently that we
respect what is not respectable. We cannot both respect the presidency
and maintain our integrity until Bill Clinton is impeached and
removed. We need statesmen in the Congress who will feel that pain,
and act to relieve it.