March 15, 2005


Hyde ready to call it a career? (LYNN SWEET, March 15, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

In a few weeks, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House International Relations Committee who as Judiciary Committee chief wielded the gavel during President Clinton's impeachment, will announce that he will not seek another term.

The public position of Hyde, 80, an icon of the conservative movement, is that he will make up his mind for sure in April. But I am told he has decided to retire and is unlikely to reverse course.

Be clear on this: Hyde intends to serve out his term and has a robust schedule that provides a remarkable window to U.S. relations with other nations. [...]

Hyde gained national notice in 1976, when the staunch abortion foe championed a provision banning federal funding for most abortions, a piece of legislation that became known as the "Hyde Amendment'' that was attached to appropriation bills in the succeeding decades.

As steadfast a conservative as Hyde is, he does not march lockstep with the movement. In 1994, when Newt Gingrich's so-called Republican Revolution swept the House, Hyde opposed the term-limit plank that was part of the GOP's "Contract with America'' on the grounds that it denied voters the right to choose.

Hyde, when he was Judiciary chairman, also bucked the conservative tide when he backed legislation to require mandatory trigger locks on all guns, background checks for buyers of explosives and closing other gun sales loopholes.

It was in his role as Judiciary Committee chairman during Clinton's impeachment in late 1998 and early 1999 that Hyde's white mane and portly profile became famous.

Hyde's committee voted to impeach Clinton, and then Hyde was one of the House managers who presented the case against the president during his impeachment trial in the Senate.

Under Republican House rules, committee chairmen were limited to six years. When Hyde could not keep his Judiciary chair any longer, his seniority -- and a sense among House Republicans not to let down the man who led the impeachment -- resulted in Hyde becoming the chairman of the International Relations Committee. Because of the term limits, Hyde must end what will be a six-year run in 2006. He's on no other committees and did not relish the prospect of returning, at the age of 82, to the rank-and-file after a dozen years on top.

Mr. Hyde's most important contribution was to have been a key player in turning the tide against abortion, but his great moment came during impeachment, when his opening statement made it clear just how much of their soul the Democratic Party would have to sell to exonerate Bill Clinton:
Mr. Chief Justice and Members of the Senate:

We are brought together on this most solemn and historic occasion to perform important duties assigned to us by the Constitution.

We want you to know how much we respect you and this institution and how grateful we are for your guidance and cooperation.

With your permission, we the Managers of the House are here to set forth the evidence in support of two articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton. You are here seated in this historic chamber not to embark on some great legislative debate, which these stately walls have so often witnessed, but to listen to the evidence, as those who must sit in judgment.

To guide you in this grave duty you have taken an oath of impartiality. With the simple words "I do," you have pledged to put aside personal bias and partisan interest and to do "impartial justice." Your willingness to take up this calling has once again reminded the world of the unique brilliance of America's constitutional system of government. We are here, Mr. Chief Justice and Distinguished Senators, as advocates for the Rule of Law, for Equal Justice Under the Law and for the sanctity of the oath.

The oath. In many ways the case you will consider in the coming days is about those two words "I do," pronounced at two presidential inaugurations by a person whose spoken words have singular importance to our nation and to the great globe itself.

More than four hundred fifty years ago, Sir Thomas More, former Lord Chancellor of England, was imprisoned in the Tower of London because he had, in the name of conscience, defied the absolute power of the King. As the playwright Robert Bolt tells it, More was visited by his family, who tried to persuade him to speak the words of the oath that would save his life, even while, in his mind and heart, he held firm to his conviction that the King was in error. More refused. As he told his daughter, Margaret, "When a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then – he needn't hope to find himself again. . . ." Sir Thomas More, the most brilliant lawyer of his generation, a scholar with an international reputation, the center of a warm and affectionate family life which he cherished, went to his death rather than take an oath in vain.

Members of the Senate, what you do over the next few weeks will forever affect the meaning of those two words "I do." You are now stewards of the oath. Its significance in public service and our cherished system of justice will never be the same after this. Depending on what you decide, it will either be strengthened in its power to achieve Justice or it will go the way of so much of our moral infrastructure and become a mere convention, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2005 11:08 AM

The old guy who lost to a Democrat about 2 districts over from Hyde was a wake up call.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 15, 2005 12:59 PM

David Shippers' book.

If Bubba dies, there's no reason to keep the records sealed.

Posted by: Sandy P at March 15, 2005 10:33 PM