January 4, 2008
THERE IS NO CLINTON, EDWARDS, OR OBAMA AMENDMENT:
Henry J. Hyde, R.I.P. (George Weigel, January 4, 2008, THE CATHOLIC DIFFERENCE)
He was the most consequential Catholic legislator of his time, a man who loved the U.S. House of Representatives and who was, in turn, well-loved by its members, Republican and Democrat alike. By all accounts, he was the most brilliant extemporaneous debater in living memory, and while his comments could be sharp, they never drew blood, for Henry was, at heart, a gentle man. He marched to the drummer of his own conscience, whether it was leading the pro-life forces in Congress or breaking with conservative Republican orthodoxy by supporting an assault weapons ban. He led the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, not out of partisan rancor, but because of a deep-set conviction that America could not have, as its chief law enforcement officer, a man who was guilty of a crime -- perjury -- for which other men were serving time in federal prison.
The night the House managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate, Henry called me, late. "We're not going to make it," he said. "I saw the look in [Majority Leader] Trent [Lott]'s eyes. He's not going to fight." We spoke for at least an hour, and agreed that, if the President was going to be acquitted, it was important to lay down some rhetorical markers so that the whole affair didn't descend into farce. Thus Henry opened the House case against the President with a meditation on the importance of the rule of law, typically citing examples from sources ancient and modern; it was spoken in solemn sorrow rather than anger, and while it did not sway two-thirds of the Senate, that defense of the majesty of law as the great public barrier against barbarism will remain one of the few honorable moments in a low, tawdry time.
He was a man of rollicking good humor. Over more than twenty years of friendship and collaboration, I can't remember a conversation with him that didn't include his telling at least one really good joke. And if joy really is the unmistakable sign of God's presence, then Henry Hyde, who exhibited a joy in living that few could match, was a man who truly lived in the Presence.
It's remarkable how much more consequential he was than any of the contenders for the Democratic nomination. Posted by Orrin Judd at January 4, 2008 12:19 PM