THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS. John M. Swomley discloses that “The controversy over impeachment of President Clinton has either totally or largely neglected important information of interest to the general public.” In this report the author reveals Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and shows that he is not the unbiased or impartial chairman as he and some of his colleagues have declared. Here the author reveals Henry Hyde’s many right-wing interests, how Hyde rigidly follows the Vatican position not only against family planning but against separation of church and state, and how Hyde’s positions are relevant to the impeachment process. from: FACTS FOR ACTION, Number 221, November, 1998
THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS
by John M. Swomley
[This writer had not intended to comment in Facts for Action on the “impeachment” process, in spite of some requests to do so. However, a front-page article in the New York Times October 1, and some other items discussed later made it seem worth doing.
The controversy over impeachment of President Clinton has either totally or largely neglected important information of interest to the general public. The first important fact is that Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is not an unbiased or impartial chairman, as he and some of his colleagues have declared. The New York Times reported that Henry Hyde, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was among a group of men “who promote the church’s interests” who were made “papal knights” of the Catholic Church three years ago. Another who received the papal knight award for serving Vatican interests was David P. Schippers, who was chosen by Hyde to be the Republican prosecutor of the President in the Judiciary Committee.
Hyde’s bias is evident in his actions as chair of the Republican Party’s Republican Platform Committee, which again and again has inserted in the platform this statement:
“The unborn child has a fundamental right to life that cannot be infringed.” This clearly means that men and fetuses have a fundamental right to life but pregnant women do not. Hyde had in 1996 loaded the Platform Committee with anti-abortionists so that the Presidential candidate, Bob Dole, could not control it. Dole wanted some statement that would express tolerance for pro-choice Republicans, but Hyde did not yield on that point.
Hyde in an open letter invited Catholics to help him develop the Party’s 1996 platform. In that letter he wrote: “Catholics are a powerful voice of moral authority and fulfill a growing leadership role in the Republican Party.” Hyde, more than any other politician or member of Congress, has steadily tried to identify the Republican Party with right-wing Vatican issues. He wrote: “As a Catholic, I believe the basic principles of Catholic teaching are ideologically, philosophically, and morally aligned with the Republican Party.”
Only a few months after the Catholic bishops issued their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, Hyde introduced the following amendment to an appropriation bill:
“None of the funds appropriated under this Act shall be used to pay for abortions or encourage abortions.” In this way he proposed limiting access to abortion for poor women by restricting the use of Medicaid money for abortions.
The question of its constitutionality was brought before Federal Judge John F. Dooling in the Eastern District of New York. Dooling was a practicing Catholic who took 13 months to hear the evidence. In his 328-page decision that struck down the Hyde Amendment, he said it reflects a sectarian position that “is not genuinely argued; it is adamantly asserted.” He concluded that Hyde’s amendment is religiously motivated legislation that has a specific theological viewpoint that violates dissenters’ First Amendment rights. Dooling’s ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court on another ground, that states were not required to pay for abortion.
Hyde rigidly follows the Vatican position not only against family planning but against separation of church and state. In November 1996 Hyde, introduced a “Religious Equality Amendment” to the Constitution which would end separation of church and state and permit government funding of religion. It reads: “Neither the United States nor any state shall deny benefits to or otherwise discriminate against any private person or group on account of religious expression, belief or identity; nor shall the prohibition on laws respecting an establishment of religion be construed to require such discrimination.”
Hyde decided to attach this to the Prayer Amendment of Protestant fundamentalist Ernest Istook so that the phrase “deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion” would be accepted as well as public school prayer.
All of these Hyde positions are relevant to the impeachment process because Clinton is the first President since Hyde was elected in 1974 who steadily by his leadership and vetoes defended family planning, abortion rights, and separation of church and state. Clinton in other words has been the chief obstacle to the Vatican’s efforts on these issues, and hence has become an enemy of Hyde and the Vatican.
This writer received in September 1998 information from a New York attorney, John Tomasin, whose religious persuasion, if any, I do not know. He wrote others as well, suggesting that “Henry Hyde recuse himself as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to insure a fair, impartial and unbiased preliminary impeachment inquiry.” He sent two supporting documents issued by Pope John Paul II which would require Hyde’s obedience. The first document is Evangelium Vitae, issued in 1995, which forbids faithful Catholics with respect to “a law permitting abortion” ever “to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.”
The second document, issued in May 1998 and called Ad Tuendam Fidem, is an incorporation in canon law that requires obedience to the Pope by all Christians on such doctrines as abortion. It specifically says “All Christian faithful are therefore bound to avoid contrary doctrines” and “therefore anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively, sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
John Tomasin, in comment on these papal doctrines, states: “It is well known that Pres. Clinton is pro-choice and has recently vetoed anti-abortion legislation, and is considered the major obstacle to laws limiting or prohibiting abortion. The faithful are duty bound by the Pope to oppose him, and to remove him as such obstacle, if at all possible.”
Henry Hyde, during a trial brought by the National Organization of Women against Joseph Scheidler, who plays a role in coordinated assaults on abortion clinics, said on the witness stand: “I cannot imagine a situation in which I would not want to be associated with Joe Scheidler.” (The Wanderer, October 15, 1998)
Scheidler had a key part in the founding of “Operation Rescue”, a violent wing of the anti-abortion movement. He refuses to condemn anti-choice violence.
He was a cofounder of the Pro Life Action Network in 1984, “a deliberately loose-knit network which meets annually to plan strategies for coordinated assaults on abortion clinics or pro-choice politicians and which subsequently gave rise to Operation Rescue.” (Ibid., February 27, 1992)
He has been arrested for disrupting an inaugural mass for pro-choice Republican Governor Pete Wilson of California (United Press International, January 30, 1991) and in 1992 he claimed credit for devising a “well-organized carefully planned effort” to hound Clinton “at every whistle stop and every coffee klatch” during that presidential campaign. (The Wanderer, July 16, 1992)
If there is any doubt about Hyde’s enmity to Clinton it was evident in his burst of temper when he accused the White House of revealing his extra-marital affair and demanded an F.B.I. investigation. Rabbi Mark Levin in the Kansas City Star said: “The F.B.I. is a powerful tool. Charges of impeachment were threatened against President Nixon for misuse of his power to use the F.B.I. to investigate individuals. Let us not again walk that path of F.B.I. investigations to control perceived political enemies and chill political debate.”
An article in the September 18 New York Times reveals another conflict of interest. It said that Speaker Newt Gingrich was publicly acting as an “impartial observer in waiting for the Judiciary Committee to sort out the facts and set the policy on how to deal with President Clinton. . . . But behind the scenes, other Republican lawmakers said, not a step is taken or a decision made without the approval of Mr. Gingrich, possibly the most partisan and certainly the most dominant Speaker in the last generation.”
Anyone who knows the order of Presidential succession knows that if the President is removed and anything happens to prevent the Vice-President from becoming President, the Speaker of the House would become President. So Gingrich may not be objective in any impeachment decision.
A new slant on Monica Lewinsky appeared in the September 15 New York Times. She took the initiative to get involved with the President. The writer Katie Roiphe said the issue was not sex, but power. “A close reading of the Starr report reveals that Ms. Lewinsky was not just attracted to a man in power, she was attracted to power itself. Her love notes to the President included suggestions on education reform and she says that she often chatted with him about her ideas on how the country should be run.” Roiphe added, “She felt that she was owed a job” if she “did not reveal her intimate relationship. ‘I don’t want to work for this position. I just want it to be given to me,’ she said in a recorded conversation.”
Lewinsky wanted to work in the White House “and according to her own account, she cried, threatened and cajoled the President into getting her a better job, if not in the White House, then in New York.” Roiphe, the Times writer, concludes that Monica Lewinsky was using sex for “professional advancement.” She wrote, “Surprisingly Large portions of the [Starr] report are devoted to Monica Lewinsky’s career pursuits.”
Nevertheless, Clinton was stupid to become involved in admittedly an immoral relationship. According to the report he rejected intercourse and terminated the relationship over her protest.
Finally, much has been written about the Christian Coalition’s outrage at the sexual revelations of Clinton’s relationship to Lewinsky. The Republican members of Congress who are captives of the Catholic and Protestant right wing, like Pat Robertson and other “family values” propagandists, have not accepted Clinton’s repentance and appeal for forgiveness. Nor do they pay much attention to the Biblical record. The central figure throughout the Bible is David, the leading political and military leader. His sexual involvements were described in detail beginning with his passionate love for Jonathan and including his sexual relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who bore him a son. David arranged for Uriah to die in battle and then married Bathsheba. According to the biblical account, God was displeased with what David had done but continued to accept David; and in Acts 13:22 God found David “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
However, David had wanted to build the Temple, the House of the Lord. In explaining this to his son, Soloman, David said, “But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name because you have shed so much blood before me upon the earth.”
If this biblical record has any pertinence to the fundamentalist religious right wing leaders today, there is no evidence that they know about it. If they did they should be more angry with Clinton for his bombing in the Sudan and Afghanistan, his insistence on sanctions against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of thousands of children and adults, the billions of dollars spent to prepare for nuclear war, and the gifts of U.S. weapons to Israel, Egypt and other countries.
One or more sexual affairs, according to the Biblical record, are not equivalent to “high crimes” in comparing them with the high crimes against humanity in which the President and the Congress are daily involved.
It is important to note several additional items. Henry Hyde is not typical of most American Catholics, a majority of whom are not anti-abortion or anti-family planning or opposed to separation of church and state. Hyde is representative of Vatican rules and procedures. It is also true that all fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants cannot be categorized as followers of Pat Robertson or James Dobson. There are also numerous Southern Baptists who can be considered moderates and do not fit right-wing categories. And there are those within mainline Protestant churches who take right-wing positions on abortion.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS COMMENT ON IMPEACHMENT
“In early October 32 religious leaders top officers in the National Council of Churches and several Protestant, Orthodox, Christian, Jewish and Islamic organizations issued a statement declaring that the nation needed to avoid impeachment hearings and saying that Mr. Clinton’s misdoings did not qualify as the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the Constitution says are impeachable offenses.
“The statement offered no excuses for Mr. Clinton. The signers were bluntly critical of his behavior, saying, ‘In his personal conduct, he has violated the fundamental moral teachings of our religious traditions.’ But they also said, “As he continues the difficult work of healing himself and his family, the nation must turn to the larger moral imperatives that urgently demand our attention.’ Those issues, the statement said, include focusing on the need for health care among millions of adults and children who lack it, improving education, changing campaign finance practices and helping bring peace to Kosovo.
“. . . Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which represents more than 800 Reform synagogues, said he and the other signers want to get beyond ‘the narrow way in which the word morality is being bandied about at this particular moment.”
“. . . ‘The prophets had this broad view, and I think we need [it],’ Rabbi Yoffie said. ‘There’s tremendous indignation about what Clinton did. I accept that,’ he said, but added, ‘Where’s the indignation about 12 million children without health care?” (New York Times, October 10, 1998)
FACTS FOR ACTION
Editor John M. Swomley
Sponsored by the KANSAS CITY FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION
5123 Truman Road, Kansas City, Mo. 64127