November 29, 2007


Former Rep. Henry Hyde dies (Jim Abrams, 11/29/07, AP)

Days before leaving office, President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The White House praised Hyde, a leading foe of abortion, as a "powerful defender of life" and an advocate for a strong national defense.

"What often struck me most about Henry was his keen sense of our nation's history and of the gifts bestowed on our Republic by the Founding Fathers, whose actions and deeds were never far from his mind," Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

"In his respect for the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives, Henry took second place to no one. He was a forceful advocate for maintaining the dignity of the House and for recognizing the sacrifices and struggles members make while in its service. Indeed, when Henry spoke in Committee or on the House floor, Members on both sides of aisle listened intently and they learned."

A Gadfly in the House: Amid all the pulse takers and poll watchers in Congress, Rep. Henry Hyde, who died this morning, was more interested in being right than in being popular (Marvin Olasky, March 9, 1992, Christianity Today)
Hyde is known as an antiabortion crusader, but he generally fights society's ruling ethos not just on one issue but across the board. The leaders of media and academia, he says,

Admire and implement the Enlightenment ethic, the notion that [theological] revelation has nothing to teach us. In their view, the obstacles to a good society are simply ignorance. "If only we could educate everybody," they cry, "not only would racism, sexism, and crime disappear, but we'd have a wonderful life—Utopia itself!" Ask them about sin, and they reply, "Sin? There's no such thing. Society is the cause of evil and crime."' Somehow, it appears, society has "'failed" the rapist, the dope dealer, the mugger, the murderer. Society's to blame, not the individual responsible for his choices.

There have been three great styles of twentieth-century American oratory—northern Irish, southern white, and black evangelical—and all three are disappearing under the pressure of media mavens who teach public figures to speak in clipped sound bites. Hyde's rolling cadences represent an unapologetic throwback to a better class of rhetoric. For example, while lots of conservative politicians like to mention the references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and on the back of a penny, only Hyde issues the challenge: "A nation 'under God' means a nation under God's judgment, constantly reminded by our smallest coin that the true measure of ourselves comes from beyond ourselves."

Hyde's office walls display photographs of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, but he also has words of praise for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and sentences of scorn for those who decry the Religious Right: "There is a repressive fundamentalism extant in our country today, but it's not of the religious variety. It is the secular fundamentalism that the courts, the ACLU, People for the American Way, and many of our law schools are teaching."

Hyde is relaxed as he rocks softly in his office chair, but there is an edge to his voice as he talks about colleagues who roll over under media pressure: "People want to do what's right, but unfortunately they would rather be perceived as doing right than as actually doing what's right. I think they are torn, and perception wins out, because the adoration of the secular press is heady."

Hyde rolls in his right hand a long cigar as he discusses the job of a member of Congress: "You are supposed to be better informed than the average constituent who gets his information from a paragraph or two in the newspaper, or a sound bite on the television at night. You can make people aware of the truth."

Hyde is perhaps best known for his constant enunciation of one unpopular stand—that human life begins at conception. He became a pro-life advocate in 1969 while serving in the Illinois House of Representatives, and during his first term in Congress introduced the Hyde Amendment, which, since 1976, has prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for abortion. Yet, with over 90 percent of media leaders favoring abortion, Hyde acknowledges that many politicians are retreating from antiabortion positions. He is irritated by so-called seamless-garment rating systems that link abortion to other "life issues," such as the death penalty and nuclear deterrence. They are just a "way of protecting the Kennedys and the Moynihans," he says. He also does not care for the merging of birth control and abortion concerns found among some Catholics and fundamentalists: "Abortion is killing an innocent human life. The other is preventing conception of a human life, which I think is morally wrong, but there is a vast distinction."

No one did more to nip the American slide towards Enlightenment of the 60s/70s in the bud and his impeachment speech on the Senate floor is a model piece of rhetoric:
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. It's 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. [...]

No one running for president (though John McCain comes closest) has the legislative record associated with just two measures named for him, the Hyde Amendment and the Hyde Act.

Indo-US nuke deal's architect dead (Rediff, November 30, 2007)

The former Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, known in India for the "Hyde Act" that paved the way for civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States, died on Thursday.

Rest in Peace: Henry Hyde, Champion of Life (Nancy Frazier O'Brien, 11/30/2007, Catholic News Service)

He was named a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 in recognition of his longtime fight for life.
In 1976, as a freshman congressman, he introduced and successfully persuaded his colleagues to pass the Hyde amendment to an appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. The amendment restricted the federal government from funding abortions.

"Because of the Hyde amendment countless young children and adults walk on this earth today and have an opportunity to prosper because they were spared destruction when they were most at risk," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., in a statement.

"With malice toward none, Henry Hyde often took to the House floor to politely ask us to show compassion and respect -- even love -- for the innocent and inconvenient baby about to be annihilated," he said.

Hyde also supported the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and was present in 2003 when Bush signed it into law.

"Henry Hyde is revered by the pro-life movement for his tireless efforts to protect the innocent, defenseless life in the womb," said Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, in a statement. "It is a sad day for America. We have lost a truly great statesman and patriot."

Presenting the documents by which Pope Benedict named Hyde a Knight of St. Gregory in June 2006, now-retired Bishop Joseph L. Imesch of Joliet praised him as "a consistent, steady voice for life" and said, "The church owes you a great deal for that."

A member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bensenville, Hyde met three times with Pope John Paul II and once with Pope Benedict.

In addition to his pro-life work, Hyde's more than three decades in the House included a stint as chairman of the House International Relations Committee. At that time the U.S. committed to investing more than $15 billion to address the worldwide pandemic of HIV/AIDS and established an aid program for poor countries.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Hyde garnered support for President Bill Clinton's assault weapons ban in 1994. Hyde also made history in 1998 when he introduced legislation to investigate the case for the impeachment of Clinton. He led the impeachment hearings as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

"With uncanny skill, determination and grace, he crafted numerous, historic bipartisan laws and common-sense policies that lifted people out of poverty, helped alleviate disease, strengthened the U.S. Code to protect victims and get the criminals off the streets," Smith said. "He was magnificent in his defense of democracy and freedom both here and overseas."

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 29, 2007 6:16 PM
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