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Into the hands of history

By Al Mollo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 15, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

These are the best of times and the worst of times.

When I presented my first column last fall from Washington, D.C., I began with these words of Charles Dickens.

That was the beginning. Now, we have arrived at the end.

In too many ways, we now witness the worst of times. With the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton now assigned to history, America faces a different future. Those who stood in judgment of the president did so at a crossroads and we as a nation must accept the path they have chosen for us.

As for the trial, there is not much left to be said. It was one where the truth and rule of law were overcome by the politics of the day.

February 12, 1999, will stand as a dark day in the history of this land. It was when the United States Senate proclaimed that a high standing in public opinion polls and a soaring stock market serve as license for a president to lie, to obstruct justice, to commit what Senator Robert Byrd called "high crimes and misdemeanors."

The effects will be long lasting, the damage perhaps permanent. There has been established the acknowledgment of two separate standards of and accountability to the law - one for the ruled, and one for the ruler. In the cowardly failure to honor their oath, senators destroyed the right of equal justice under the law for all Americans.

What will this verdict mean the next time an American in Tucson or on the lower east side of Manhattan raises his or her right hand, and swears to God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Will the robe of justice allow others to assault this oath, as the president was permitted, or will these ordinary Americans be held to a higher standard?

So to these members of the United States Congress who ignored their call of constitutional duty and to those who provided them with comfort in doing so, to you, nothing but shame.

But as is the case with each dark cloud in the sky above, there rests behind it a beautiful, warm ray of light, which although cannot always be seen, shines bright.

So let it be known that these historic times are also of the best of them.

To all of you distraught over this injustice, please, let not your heart be troubled. There is goodness to be seen, if only we have the strength to look to it. There were those who refused to excuse these crimes, and fought for what was right.

There is one group, though, that deserves the most gratitude this day. To the 13 House trial managers who prosecuted the president in the Senate, you have shined brighter than all others. Against it all and armed with only the truth, you battled courageously to protect what is good. A group who, having little to gain and everything to loose, marched forward in the name of justice.

And so in this debt of enormous gratitude, I dedicate this column, and each one I have presented in the past and will do so in the future, to these 13 American patriots. Henry Hyde, James Sensenbrenner, Lindsey Graham, Asa Hutchinson, James Rogan, Ed Bryant, Bob Barr, Bill McCollum, Chris Cannon, George Gekas, Steve Buyer, Charles Canady and Steve Chabot, all I can say is thank you.

In his first Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson said of our nation that "I believe it is only one where every man, at the call of the laws, would fly to the Standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order at his own personal concern." I cannot help but think that somewhere within his great mind, he had thoughts of you.

But now, just as Chairman Hyde said, you go quietly into the night. And while you do so on the short end of the vote, you do so with your honor unmatched.

Today, President's Day, while we look ahead, we must not forget those who have come before. I ask you to do something this day to pay respect to one of our past presidents who has been dishonored by this ordeal. Taking just a moment from your day, if only by stopping in the library and picking up a book, clicking through the Internet, or asking a professor a question, learn something that you did not know about one who has served before. It is in their memory that this battle was not fought in vain.

So now, while we put this behind us, we must never forget. Because there will again be a day when we shall be called upon to stand up for what is right.

And when that day comes, we will again push on for what is good. And most importantly, we never, never give up, so long as we have the truth on our side. Because in the end, it shall, it always shall prevail. And like that bright ray of light now hidden behind these dark clouds, it will one day shine again.