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On Saturday, Dec. 19, Bob Livingston, the speaker-elect of the U.S.
House of Representatives abruptly resigned, three days after admitting
to a series of affairs while serving in Congress. As the media were
predicting chaos, Republicans went about the difficult task of managing
the vote on the Articles of Impeachment.
Some 24 hours later, Dennis Hastert of Illinois had locked up more
than enough votes to succeed Newt Gingrich when the House re-convenes
Jan. 6. With committee assignments and top legislative priorities for
1999 already set, it will be business as usual when the opening bell
rings for the 106th Congress.
Livingston announced that he will remain in the House another six
months, but will ask the governor of Louisiana to call a special
election to replace him. While his friends in Congress hate to see him
go, his departure is a devastating blow to this White House. The
contrast between Livingston and Clinton cannot be minimized.
Although none of Livingston’s affairs were with employees and he was
never asked about them under oath, there was a pattern of bad behavior.
Nevertheless, when his sins were about to be exposed, he beat the media
to the punch and made a full confession.
After fully assessing the situation, Mr. Livingston realized that his
past would be a stumbling block to his party and a distraction for the
nation, so he did the honorable thing and stepped aside.
Mr. Livingston made the right choice and is to be commended for
putting our welfare before his own. This country needs men and women of
character and conviction in leadership. And, yes, character is what you
do when no one else is looking. A man who cheats on his wife can be
expected to cheat on his country. A man who lies to cover up his private
misbehavior cannot be trusted to tell the truth in matters of state.
If Mr. Clinton truly wants to spare us the ordeal of an impeachment
trial in the Senate, he will follow Mr. Livingston’s example. Since
Clinton’s successor is predetermined, his resignation will cause even
less chaos for the country than Livingston’s resignation did for the
House of Representatives.