Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) was aghast. He was indignant as hell about how having a high public official involved in something like perjury and obstruction of justice can damage the very foundation on which our nation was built -- and he had the harsh words to show for it.
"By his words and deeds he chose to place himself above the law. By his words and deeds he has undermined the rule of law in America to the great harm of this nation," the Kansas Republican said. "By his own words and deeds, he has undermined the truth-finding function of the judiciary, at great harm to that branch of our government. By his words and deeds, he had done great harm to the notions of honesty and integrity that form the underpinnings of this great republic."
And here's the Brownback kicker: "We have lost many things over the past few months: trust in public officials, respect for the rule of law, confidence in the truth of the White House's public statements. But perhaps the most tragic loss has been the steady erosion of our societal standards."
That's Brownback in his closed-door impeachment statement on President Bill Clinton, that was read into the Congressional Record on February 12, 1999.
You didn't get all excited thinking he was commenting on that Scooter Libby thing, did you?
I can understand if you did. After all, Libby was convicted of those same charges and sentenced within federal guidelines to a 30-month prison sentence, only to have his friend George W. Bush decide on Monday that anything over, well, zero days in jail was "excessive" when it comes to a White House crony.
But then again, Brownback is hardly alone in the hypocritical silence being shown by the very same Republican Senators who in 1999 voted guilty on both the perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Clinton. The vote took place on that February 12, with the Senate acquitting Clinton of both articles of impeachment -- the perjury charge got 45 guilty votes while the obstruction-of-justice article resulted in a 50-50 split.
Of the 25 Republican Senators still in the Senate and who voted that day to convict Clinton on both articles of impeachment, not one of them has issued a public statement on the Libby sentence commutation in the three days since it occurred.
There's not even a statement of support for Bush's lawless decision -- except from Fred Thompson who, while no longer in the Senate, has his sights set on convincing people that he's fit to be the next seedy Republican to occupy the White House.
All of this struck me as rather strange, so I thought I would go back and look at what some of them had to say about the rule of law, integrity and all of that stuff when it involved a Democrat and not one of their own.
And you're not going to believe this: What seems to be OK with them now, wasn't acceptable back in 1999.
Here's Wayne Allard (R-CO) on President Clinton:
"The Constitution is what preserves the rule of law, and guarantees that we remain a nation of laws, not of men.
"I hold the President to a higher standard because he is the chief law enforcement official of the nation. If he is above the law, then we have a double standard; one for the powerful, and one for the rest.
"The sworn oath is central not only to our Constitution, but also to the administration of justice. Our legal system would not function without it."
And John McCain (R-AZ) seems to think that swearing to tell the truth is a pretty darned important thing to abide by:
"All of my life, I have been instructed never to swear an oath to my country in vain. In my former profession, those who violated their sworn oath were punished severely and considered outcasts from our society. I do not hold the President to the same standard that I hold military officers to. I hold him to a higher standard."
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) gives a moving statement about how we should hope that history looks back kindly at how we observed the rule of law:
"I was reminded as well, however, that the laws of our Country are applicable to us all, including the President, and they must be obeyed. The concept of equal justice under law and the importance of absolute truth in legal proceedings is the foundation of our justice system in the courts.
"A hundred years from now, when history looks back to this moment, we can hope for a conclusion that our Constitution has been applied fairly and survives, that we have come to principled judgments about matters of national importance, and that the rule of law in American has been sustained."
And George Voinovich (R-OH) made a good case for impeachment no matter the circumstances -- are we listening Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid? -- when he said "I sincerely believe that this country can survive the removal of a popular president who has forfeited public trust. But, our country cannot survive the abandonment of trust itself."
Imagine how well we could survive the removal of a president who's about as popular as Ann Coulter at a Democratic National Committee mixer.
So given all of that and the equally strident statements made in 1999 by so many of their colleagues, it's odd that there's not one similarly scathing statement about George W. Bush deciding to effectively pardon a convicted criminal just because he's a loyal Bushie -- oh, and also to keep him from coming forward with the truth about the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.
It could be that the Senate is in recess and that all of their press secretaries are vacationing in Nepal and simply can't get to their laptops. No, it can't be that, because they seem to be finding time to comment on other issues that, perhaps, they consider more pressing. Kit Bond (R-MO) has released three statements since Monday but they have titles like "Bond Attends New National Guard Facility Ribbon-Cutting" and "Bond: Good Vision is Fundamental to Learning." Judd Gregg (R-NH) is all atwitter this week over his support for "Granite State Ocean And Fisheries Research" and Dick Lugar (R-IN) is incredibly excited about the "...first E-85 ethanol pump in Washington, D.C."
But maybe it's just possible that all of these Republican Senators are a bunch of cynical, hypocritical cowards who simply don't have the guts to speak with what little conscience they have on this issue.
I think I'll go with that one.
You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.
Update: Wow, a lot of you are really curious about the 25 Republican Senators (who are still in the Senate) who were so harsh on President Clinton in 1999, only to turn a blind eye to the Libby commutation. Here they are.