Despite partisan rancor and political positioning, no American should rejoice in the events which now grip our nation. In fact, this is indeed a solemn time for our country.
But at the same time, it is an opportunity - regardless of position, persuasion or party - for we as a nation to reassert that we are a nation built upon the Rule of Law, and not the whims of men. That all people are held to the same standards under the law, and that laws and correct procedures are followed.
The president stands accused of several things, and what is on the forefront of public attention is the charge of perjury and obstruction of justice before a federal grand jury in regards to a civil case involving sexual harassment.
Under our Constitution, the House of Representatives is charged with investigating allegations against a sitting president or judge. While some may talk about whether or not an offense is "impeachable," that is only so much political rhetoric. The Constitution only specifies that Congress can impeach a president for "high crimes" and "misdemeanors," but the definitions of those words are left to Congress to determine - anything a sufficient number of Members of Congress find offensive can be cause for impeachment.
In recent weeks I have been asked many times what the timetable might be for impeachment. We now have a tentative outline.
Currently, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives is looking into the report issued by the Office of the Independent Prosecutor on charges that the president lied under oath.
According to Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), his committee will receive a full briefing on the evidence on October 1st or 2nd. Over the next three days, the full committee will debate the evidence. On either October 5 or 6, the committee will consider a resolution to begin an impeachment hearing.
The resolution would then go before the entire House for a vote within three days.
A simple majority of the House of Representatives is all that will be required to initiate impeachment hearings. Those hearings could begin immediately, or be held until early November, after the elections.
A big question will be whether or not the impeachment hearings will be limited solely to allegations that the president lied under oath, or if it will also include other charges. Those involve potentially treasonous activities in transferring advanced missile technology to the communist Chinese in exchange for campaign donations, as well as violations of peoples rights in the abuse of more than 1,000 confidential FBI files for partisan purposes. (By comparison, a man went to prison in the early 1970s for misuse of one FBI file.)
While one should never discount the importance of lying under oath, I am saddened that some congressional leaders have recently suggested hearings will not include these other, far more serious, allegations. Crimes against our Constitution must not be set aside for details of sexual escapades. I hope that after $40 million being spent on investigating these more serious charges of crimes against the Constitution, that the entirety of the hearings are not simply restricted to this matter of perjury.
Under our Constitution, in accordance with the Rule of Law, the hearings must be held as long as the allegations remain and the president is in office. Since the allegations are not going to go away, the only constitutionally and morally correct way for hearings to be stopped would be for the president to resign if he has indeed committed these crimes; knowledge certainly the president possesses.
Some claim this situation creates a "constitutional crisis" and an "embarrassment." A crisis will develop only if we, as a nation, reject the Rule of Law, and embarrassment will result only if we forego constitutional hearings.
It is in times of stress that the quality of metal is tested. The same is true for a nation.