THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||December 19, 1998|
STATEMENTS BY THE PRESIDENT, THE VICE PRESIDENT, CONGRESSMAN RICHARD GEPHARDT, AND CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN PODESTA
The South Grounds
4:15 P.M. EST
MR. PODESTA: On behalf of the President and the FirstLady, the Vice President and Mrs. Gore, the White House and theentire administration, I want to thank the members who came heretoday, and all the members who stood with you on the floor of theHouse over the past several days.
Thank you for standing up for what you believe in.Thank you for standing up for fairness. Thank you for standing upfor the American people. Thank you for standing up for theConstitution. And thank you for doing so with dignity anddetermination, passion and patriotism.
I would like to introduce a man who has done so much forour country, a great leader, a great friend to the American people,Congressman Dick Gephardt. (Applause.)
CONGRESSMAN GEPHARDT: Mr. President, Mr. VicePresident, First Lady Hillary Clinton: We've just witnessed apartisan vote that was a disgrace to our country and ourConstitution. Chairman Henry Hyde once called impeachment, theultimate weapon, and said that, for it to succeed, ultimately it hasto be bipartisan. The fact that a vote as important as this occurredin such a partisan way violated the spirit of our democracy.
We must turn away, now, from the politics of personaldestruction, and return to a politics of values. The American peopledeserve better than what they've received over these long fivemonths. They want their Congress to bring this issue to a speedy,compromised closure. And they want their President, twice elected tohis office, to continue his work fighting for their priorities.(Applause.)
The Democratic Caucus in the House will continue tostand alongside our President, and we will work to enact the agendathat we were sent here to pass. (Applause.) We look forward tosupporting his agenda in the upcoming session of Congress.
The President has demonstrated his effectiveness as anational and world leader, in the face of intense and unprecedentednegative attacks by his opponents. I am confident that he willcontinue to do so for the rest of his elected term of office.(Applause.)
Despite the worst efforts of the Republican leadershipin the House, the Constitution will bear up under the strain, and ournation will survive. The constitutional process about to play out inthe United States Senate will, hopefully, finally be fair and allowus to put an end to this sad chapter of our history.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my honor to present ourgreat Vice President of these United States, Al Gore. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Leader.To you and to David Bonior, and to the entire Democratic Caucusleadership, thank you for what you have done for our country. Iwould also like to single out for special thanks and praise,Congressman John Conyers and all of the members of the JudiciaryCommittee who are present here today. (Applause.)
And to you, Dick Gephardt, I would like to repeat ajudgment that I made to the smaller group earlier. You and I camehere on the same day, 22 years ago, and in all that time, I don'tbelieve I have heard a finer speech on the floor of the House ofRepresentatives than the one that you delivered this morning.(Applause.)
But in all that time, I do believe, this is the saddestday I have seen in our Nation's Capital, because today's vote in theHouse of Representatives disregarded the plain wishes and goodwill ofthe American people, and the plain meaning of our Constitution.
Let me say simply: The President has acknowledged thatwhat he did was wrong, but we must all acknowledge that invoking thesolemn power of impeachment in the cause of partisan politics iswrong. Wrong for our Constitution; wrong for the United States ofAmerica. (Applause.)
Republican leaders would not even allow the members ofthe House of Representatives to cast the vote they wanted to; theywere not allowed to vote their conscience. What happened as a resultdoes a great disservice to a man I believe will be regarded in thehistory books as one of our greatest Presidents. (Applause.)
There is no doubt in my mind that the verdict of historywill undo the unworthy judgment rendered a short while ago in theUnited States Capitol. But we do not have to wait for history.Instead, let us live up to the ideals of this season -- let us reachout to one another and reach out for what is best in ourselves, ourhistory and our country. Let us heal this land -- not tear it apart.Let us move forward -- not toward bitter and angry division.
Our founders anticipated that there might be a day likethis one, when excessive partisanship unlocked a form of vitriol andvehemence that hurts our nation. We all know that a process thatwounds good people in both parties does no service to this country.What America needs is not resignations, but the renewal of civility,respect for one another, decency toward each other, and the certainbelief that together we can serve this land and make a better lifefor all of our people.
That is what President Clinton has done. That is whathe is doing, and that is what he will continue to do for the next twoyears.
I feel extremely privileged to have been able to servewith him as his partner for the past six years. And I look forwardto serving with him for the next two years. I have seen him close athand, day after day, making the most important decisions about peace,prosperity, and our future; and making them always by asking what isright for the American people, what is right for all of the Americanpeople.
I know him. I know his wonderful First Lady.(Applause.) I know his heart and his will. And I have seen hiswork. Six years ago, he was left with the highest budget deficit
in history, and he ended it. Six years ago, he was handed a failingeconomy. Today, because of his leadership, we're on the verge of thelongest period of peacetime prosperity in all of American history.And I know nothing will stop him from doing the job that the Americanpeople sent him here to do.
I say to you today, President William Jefferson Clintonwill continue and will complete his mission on behalf of the Americanpeople.
I'm proud to present to you my friend, America's greatPresident, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Good afternoon. Let me begin by expressing my profoundand heartfelt thanks to Congressman Gephardt and the leadership andall the members of the Democratic Caucus for what they did today. Ithank the few brave Republicans who withstood enormous pressure tostand with them for the plain meaning of the Constitution, and forthe proposition that we need to pull together, to move beyondpartisanship, to get on with the business of our country.
I thank the millions upon millions of American citizenswho have expressed their support and their friendship to Hillary, tome, to our family, and to our administration during these lastseveral weeks.
The words of the members here with me, and others whowere a part of their endeavor, in defense of our Constitution, werepowerful and moving, and I will never forget them. The question is,what are we going to do now?
I have accepted responsibility for what I did wrong inmy personal life. And I have invited members of Congress to workwith us to find a reasonable, bipartisan and proportionate response.That approach was rejected today by Republicans in the House. But Ihope it will be embraced by the Senate. I hope there will be aconstitutional and fair means of resolving this matter in a promptmanner.
Meanwhile, I will continue to do the work of theAmerican people. We still, after all, have to save Social Securityand Medicare for the 21st century. We have to give all our childrenworld-class schools. We have to pass a patients' bill of rights. Wehave to make sure the economic turbulence around the world does notcurb our economic opportunity here at home. We have to keep Americathe world's strongest force for peace and freedom. In short, we havea lot to do before we enter the 21st century.
And we still have to keep working to build that elusive"one America" I have talked so much about. For six years now, I havedone everything I could to bring our country together across thelines that divide us, including bringing Washington together acrossparty lines. Out in the country, people are pulling together. Butjust as America is coming together, it must look -- from thecountry's point of view -- like Washington is coming apart.
I want to echo something Mr. Gephardt said. It issomething I have felt strongly all my life. We must stop thepolitics of personal destruction. (Applause.) We must get rid ofthe poisonous venom of excessive partisanship, obsessive animosity,and uncontrolled anger. That is not what America deserves. That isnot what America is about.
We are doing well now. We are a good and decentcountry. But we have significant challenges we have to face. Inorder to do it right, we have to have some atmosphere of decency andcivility, some presumption of good faith, some sense ofproportionality and balance in bringing judgment against those whoare in different parties. We have important work to do. We need aconstructive debate that has all the different voices in this countryheard in the halls of Congress.
I want the American people to know today that I am stillcommitted to working with people of good faith and goodwill of bothparties to do what's best for our country -- to bring our nationtogether; to lift our people up; to move us all forward together.It's what I've tried to do for six years; it's what I intend to dofor two more, until the last hour of the last day of my term.(Applause.)
So, with profound gratitude for the defense of theConstitution and the best in America that was raised today by themembers here and those who joined them, I ask the American people tomove with me -- to go on from here, to rise above the rancor; toovercome the pain and division; to be a repairer of the breach -- allof us. To make this country, as one America, what it can and must befor our children in the new century about to dawn.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)