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Senator Hatch argued this week that the outcome that will best serve
the integrity of our laws and government is for the Senate to adjourn
the impeachment trial without voting on the articles sent by the House.
This way, he says, there won’t be any opportunity for people to argue
that the president was acquitted. Impeached but not removed, the
president will have suffered the most powerful condemnation possible,
short of removal.

Senator Hatch apparently believes that it is consistent with
integrity to choose to leave the trial with no outcome. But this is
nonsense.

Why? Because one of the key elements of responsibility is
accountability, particularly in our form of government. Elections don’t
mean anything if a record does not exist that allows us to hold our
representatives accountable for what they do. Therefore, accountability
and integrity go hand in hand in representative government. Suppose
every vote in the Congress were secret, and we never knew how they were
voting. How would we hold them accountable? They could go behind closed
doors, cast their votes, and then come out and tell us whatever they
wanted, because we wouldn’t be able to know how the actual legislation
compares with the public stands that are being taken by our
representatives. We wouldn’t be able to hold them accountable.

Senator Hatch is proposing a situation where nobody will be held
accountable because the Senators will not be on record, since they will
not have to cast a vote one way or another. Though the facts clearly
demonstrate that the president is guilty, this proposal lets off the
hook people who are part of the criminal conspiracy to cover up his
guilt and let him escape its consequences — starting with the Democrats
in the Senate who have joined in a solid phalanx to support the criminal
element that now dominates in their party.

Senator Hatch justifies his proposal by saying that there is no
possibility of convicting Bill Clinton. Why is there no such
possibility? Certainly not because he is innocent. He is guilty as sin,
and this is clearly demonstrated by the record and acknowledged by
high-level Democrats, including Senator Byrd among others. But the fact
that he is guilty is being willfully deemed irrelevant because of
considerations of power politics, partisan bigotry, gutlessness, and who
knows what other tangled skein of motivations. The 45 Democrats are
solidly saying they shall ignore the facts to stand with this criminal
president. And now Senator “Escape” Hatch proposes to let them do that,
with no accountability.

If a vote on guilt or innocence is not taken, those Democrats will be
able to say later, “Well, I never voted to let him off the hook. The
Republicans didn’t let us take a vote. We were going to vote with
integrity, but they wouldn’t let us.” They could lie, and lie, and lie.
Why would anyone want to put the Democrats in a position where they
don’t have to be accountable for their willingness to be part of this
criminal conspiracy? Why should we avoid a vote in which Republicans
stand with integrity for the facts and the evidence that show this man
to be guilty, while the Democrats — without integrity or principle –
show their clear willingness to join in a conspiracy with the criminal
element in their party by voting to let him escape a record of judgment?
The Democrats should stand accountable before the people, and the
Republicans ought to have enough decency and integrity to make sure that
happens.

It is true that after a vote that fails to remove the president, the
Democrats may go around saying, “that makes him innocent.” But such a
perception does not necessarily result from an acquittal. How many of us
think that O.J. Simpson is innocent? What effect did the verdict in that
trial have, for example, in the civil suits, where juries actually found
that he had committed the crimes of which he was accused? An erroneous
jury verdict in the Clinton impeachment trial need not encourage the
opinion that the President is innocent, particularly because we have as
much access to the facts and evidence as the people who will have taken
the vote. That is one of the reasons that it was important that the
facts and evidence be released, and that the record should be clear to
the public, so that the Democrats can’t say they know something we don’t
know. They don’t. And we have a right to have an opinion which is
critical of theirs, and to hold their lack of integrity accountable. But
that demands that there be a vote.

Instead, Senator Hatch proposes that the Senate adjourn the trial
with a simple statement that the President has committed perjury and
obstruction of justice. Now, adjournment essentially amounts to doing
nothing. So the senator’s proposal is for the Senate to do nothing and
state the reason for doing nothing. What reason shall the Senate give?
That the president has committed all these crimes. So the Senate will
state that it is doing nothing because the president has
committed crimes.

Senator Hatch seeks to avoid combining a finding of fact with a vote
of acquittal, because such a combination would be inconsistent. It sure
would be, senator. For the Senate to vote a finding of fact that the
president committed these acts, and then to acquit him, would be
inconsistent, corrupt, and lacking in integrity. It would reveal the
partiality, and bias, and perjury — I use the word literally — of the
people who cast their votes to let him off the hook. Senators voting for
acquittal would be revealing that they lied when they took the oath that
they were going to judge the case in a fair and impartial way based on
the facts and evidence.

Senator Hatch is basically saying, “and we wouldn’t want that, would
we? We wouldn’t want a vote that revealed their inconsistency, their
lack of integrity, their corruption, their lack of principle, their
willingness to perjure themselves, their willingness to show no more
respect for their oath than the president showed for his, would we?”

Why not, senator? As a citizen, I want to know if my senator lacks
integrity. I suspect that my senators, Sarbanes and Mikulski, will lack
integrity. They will vote to perjure themselves, in the literal sense of
the term, meaning to forswear the oath that they took to judge this
impartially on the facts. They swore an oath to that effect, and if they
vote otherwise, I would like to see it. Senator Hatch apparently wants
to have an outcome that hides this corruption and lack of integrity. He
wants to come up with something that will screen those who are engaging
in this corruption from the judgment of the voters.

Is this is the right way to proceed? One of the great problems in our
society is the decay of our institutions, which are crumbling due to a
lack of integrity often caused, in turn, because there is no
accountability. And without accountability, responsibility erodes and
actions cease to correspond even to minimal standards of integrity. Do
we want to set a further national example of the path away from
accountability?

From the point of view of the politicos, I can understand why this
would be desirable. If you were a politician about to cast a vote that
made you part of a conspiracy to cover up truth and prevent criminals
from being brought to justice, and you had sworn to be fair and
impartial, would you want to be held accountable for your vote? I don’t
think so.

So I can see why the politicos would find the proposal of Senator
Hatch very attractive. It is the path of no accountability, allowing
them to be corrupt but not be seen in their corruption, to act without
integrity or principle without being seen to lack integrity and
principle — because at the end of the day they don’t have to vote. It
is a politician’s dream, at least the kind of cheap politicos we seem to
have these days. But will it advance the cause of governmental
integrity?

The vote is imperative for us, the citizens. Because if we don’t have
that vote, we can’t hold them accountable for what they do. And if we
can’t hold them accountable for what they do, then our vote is
meaningless. Anything that deprives us of the record that we need to
make conscientious judgments about the performance of our
representatives devalues our vote, degrades our franchise, and thus
harms our participation in American politics.

If I were sitting in the Senate right now, I would be eager and
anxious to cast my vote to remove this president, and then to go before
the people of my state to explain why that vote was not only good for,
but absolutely necessary to the good and the future of this country.
Apparently there is no such eagerness on the part of many of the people
sitting in the Senate right now.

Even as a matter of political calculation on the part of the
Republicans, the Hatch proposal is bad. Clinton bigots are freely
throwing around the charge that the entire impeachment process is
politically motivated. Meanwhile, the media tells us day after day after
day what a huge political liability it is to have the trial, to continue
the trial, and to vote to remove the president. But suppose that the
Republicans stick to their guns and do what the facts warrant and the
Constitution requires, despite the threats that it will harm them
politically. What happens then to the argument that they are merely
politically motivated?

Win or lose in the Senate vote, Republicans will be able to say that
theirs is a party not of political expediency, but of integrity, because
in the face of threats of dire political consequences they ignored the
political calculations and did the right thing. It seems to me that this
will be an instance of integrity which every decent-minded American will
find more compelling than any allegiance to the corruption and depravity
of the little man who now occupies the White House.

But the Hatch Escape of ducking a vote, on the other hand, will
appear inevitably to validate the argument that Republicans are just
acting out of political expediency.

There must be an up or down vote on the question of Bill Clinton’s
guilt or innocence. And however it turns out, that vote must be clearly
on the record so we can hold our representatives accountable, and show
the world that the Republican Party is a party of integrity.

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