Democratic Responses to Robert Livingston's Resignation
19 December 1998

Jerry (Jerrold) Nadler (D-NY)
Member, Judiciary Committee
Go to Gephardt Response
Mr. Speaker, I am even more depressed today than I thought I would be yesterday. I believe the resignation of the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Livingston), while offered in good faith, was wrong. It is a surrender, it is a surrender to a developing sexual McCarthyism.  
Are we going to have a new test if someone wants to run for public office: Are you now or have you ever been an adulterer? We are losing sight of the distinction between sins, which ought to be between a person and his family and his God, and crimes which are the concern of the State and of society as a whole.  
On one level we could say, I suppose, that you reap what you sew, but that gives us no joy, and it gives me no joy. I wish that the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Livingston) would reconsider, because I do not think that on the basis of what we know he should resign. But the impeachment of the President is even worse. Because, again, we are losing the distinction, we are losing track of the distinction between sins and crimes. We are lowering the standard of impeachment.  
What the President has done is not a great and dangerous offense to the safety of the Republic. In the words of George Mason, it is not an impeachable offense under the meaning of the Constitution.  
As we heard from the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), the allegations are far, far from proven. And the fact is, we are not simply transmitting evidence, transmitting a case with some evidence to the Senate, as evidenced by the fact that we already heard leaders in this House say he should resign. God forbid that he should resign. He should fight this and beat it.  
Richard Gephardt, D-MO, 3d District
Minority Leader
Mr. Speaker, 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 us 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 (Mr. 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 the 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 have 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 us begin a new politics of respect and fairness and decency, which realizes 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.