Author: Richard Gephardt
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occasion: Vote on the articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton in 1998
Richard Gephardt, the member of the House of Representatives delivered this speech in order to persuade the member of the House of Representatives to vote against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. The main arguments against Clinton were his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, following perjury, abuse of power and other charges. Gephardt called the members of the House to bring censure instead of impeachment and emphasized that personal affairs should be more detached from the political and professional life, especially in Big Politics. Clinton led his presidential term till the end.
Text of the Speech
Mr. Speaker and members of the House, I stood on this floor yesterday and implored all of us to say that the politics of slash-and-burn must end. I implored all of you that we must turn away from the politics of personal destruction and return to the politics of values.
It is with that same passion that I say to all of you today that the gentleman from Louisiana, Bob Livingston, is a worthy and good and honorable man.
I believe his decision to retire is a terrible capitulation to the negative forces that are consuming our political system and our country.
And I pray with all my heart that he will reconsider this decision.
Our founding fathers created a system of government of men, not of angels. No one standing in this House today can pass a Puritanical test of purity that some are demanding that our elected leaders take.
If we demand that mere mortals live up to this standard, we will see our seats of government lay empty, and we will see the best, most able people unfairly cast out of public service.
We need to stop destroying imperfect people at the altar of an unobtainable morality.
We need to start living up to the standards which the public, in its infinite wisdom, understands that imperfect people must strive towards, but too often fall short.
We are now rapidly descending into a politics where life imitates farce. Fratricide dominates our public debate and America is held hostage to tactics of smear and fear.
Let all of us here today say no to resignation, no to impeachment, no to hatred, no to intolerance of each other, and no to vicious self-righteousness.
We need to start healing. We need to start binding up our wounds. We need to end this downward spiral which will culminate in the death of representative democracy.
I believe this healing can start today by changing the course we’ve begun.
This is exactly why we need this today to be bipartisan. This is why we ask the opportunity to vote on a bipartisan censure resolution, to begin the process of healing our nation and healing our people.
We are on the brink of the abyss. The only way we stop this insanity is through the force of our own will.
The only way we stop this spiral is for all of us to finally say — enough.
Let us step back from the abyss and let’s begin a new politics of respect and fairness and decency which raises what has come before.
May God have mercy on this Congress and may Congress have the wisdom and the courage and the goodness to save itself today.