How and why did you get involved in politics?
"I first ran for public office in 1992. I had never run for office before; and, in a miracle, got elected. It truly was a miracle.
"My feeling was there was a real need for reform in Washington, and I had a real interest in being a part of that. And I think we accomplished some of those things: balancing the budget and that sort of thing. There's a long way to go, and there are some crucial issues that have not been addressed. The one that's playing out right now is whether there's any truth or whether everything is relative. And really whether America now is a post-modern state where my truth may not be your truth, and somehow we hold those irreconcilable thoughts as consistent.
"I went off to law school, as a Christian, very interested in politics, not interested in the law. As a matter of fact, I thought that the law was a back-up. First year of law school, two things happened that were a surprise to me. First, the law was much more interesting than what I thought it would be. The second was that I came to the real conviction that my only motivation in getting involved in politics was ego gratification. The means of that was a bunch of Christians at University of Virginia who had lived in Washington, worked for Senators, who had really thought through the application of truth to public policy. I had to admit that I hadn't done that. . . . So, my wife and I really swore off politics, moved to Savannah, Georgia, and lived there for two years. And during that time in Savannah, another change occurred, which is the Lord worked deep in our hearts what I believe is the agenda of the Christian in politics."
How would you characterize that agenda?
"Number one, honor God; and number two, respect His creation.
"And honoring God, I think, means understanding that He is the blesser of every soul-not the government, not an insurance company, not anyone here in this world. Rather it's that God is the blesser of every soul. And this is borrowing heavily from Chuck Colson, in Kingdoms in Conflict. He says there are two views in Washington. One is that God is the blesser of every soul, the other is that the government is the blesser of every soul. On this great 'continental divide of politics', if you're a secular humanist, then the government will do as god. It's big enough. And you need to make it bigger. If you're a believer, then you see God as the blesser of every soul, and government should have as de-limited a role as possible. And leave people in liberty and not become so large-as Theodore Roosevelt said, If government is big enough to give you everything you want, it's big enough to take everything you've got.
"Point number two is respecting His creation. And I think that means a whole bunch of things: obvious things about wise stewardship of the earth and its resources. It's why the deficit we were running was not a financial problem, it's a moral problem. The debt really is also a moral problem-it's a question of how much we're going to pass on to a future generation.
"But respecting His creation clearly means respecting it in its highest form, which is human life. And that, I think, means respecting human life in all its stages, from pre-born to old age, and stating the truth that human life is intrinsically valuable because it's made in the image of God. And that is not a utilitarian ethic. And where we are today in our post-modern culture is completely accepting a utilitarian ethic about usefulness of life, rather than the intrinsic value."
From where do you derive your political philosophy?
"Chuck Colson has had a significant impact on my life. His writings have been particularly important to me in my understanding of government.
"Also significant has been a whole lot of good preaching along the way, including that by Skip Ryan and Charlie Drew at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville while I was in law school. You know, it is interesting how much I rely on those sermons. How much Skip's ministry and Charlie's ministry has meant to me and my wife. I was just talking yesterday about Skip's sermon on stealing from the Ten Commandments. Paul Settle and Rod Clay at Second Presbyterian in Greenville, South Carolina, were helpful in equipping us prior to our time at Clemson Presbyterian-I sincerely appreciate their impact on my life as well. A tremendous resource for us now is Clemson Presbyterian, where we are members. Tim Lane has done a wonderful job of helping us. The interesting thing about Clemson Pres, being in a college town, has to be relevant to the culture. It has to address the culture. Not change the truth to accommodate that culture, but confront the culture with the truth. And that has been particularly helpful to me, the equipping of going out and doing the work that I've been doing."
How would you evaluate the political philosophy of your Democrat opponents on the House Judiciary Committee?
"I think it's really disappointing. Perhaps a story would tell it best. Mr. Boucher [D-Va.] is maybe representative of their view-and I think, unfortunately, it is the majority view of Americans. There was a time when I didn't think that. And then November 3, 1998, came and went, and I've decided the polls are probably right. In the midst of the impeachment discussion, Rick Boucher was the mover of the censure resolution. And I had the opportunity to ask him a question. 'Mr. Boucher, you say in the resolution that the President is guilty of misleading statements and various other things. Were any of those statements made under oath?' And, of course, he realized what I was trying to do. And he backed up, and said, 'These words are a vessel. And you will assign meaning to those words that may be different to the meaning that I assign to them. For you, the words will mean that he committed perjury. For me, the words will mean something different.' I thought, If people could have just heard the exchange, the lights would have gone on and the fog would have cleared of what we're facing. I believe this is a perfect illustration of this post-modern thought that two things can be completely inconsistent, but somehow held consistent. The words don't have any meaning. There is no truth. And I think that is just a real window into the soul of the opposition to impeachment. I think it's startling. And, unfortunately, I think it's where we are as a culture."
In the opinion of many observers, many of the Democrats in the House of Representatives made fools of themselves in attempting to defend President Clinton. What is your evaluation of their performance? And do you think they really believe their own defense of him?
"I can't believe that they really believe their defense. I think it's really shameless. And his performance at this point is utterly shameless. There is no shame in the man. There is no honor. There is no honor to be shamed. There is no integrity to cause him to be capable of a true confession. It's baffling.
"And on the Democratic side, the Democrats had a very good strategy. From the start, they decided to attack the proceedings as partisan. Now the beauty of that strategy is that you hold within yourself the ability to make that true. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have the ability to fulfill it by being partisan. So, from the very start, they decided, We are going to attack this thing as partisan. We're going to say it's all about politics, it's all partisanship. And then they proceeded to launch a vitriolic attack on Chairman Hyde, on Ken Starr, on all the rest of us who were seeking the truth-on anybody that was calling to reveal the truth. The tragedy is that although it's an excellent political strategy, it's really an embarrassment to the Constitution, to our form of government.
"As one of my partners here at the law firm told me yesterday, 'I'm just depressed. I'm depressed that you lost [the Senate race-Ed.]. But I am just depressed at the state of our culture.' And that's where we are. They [the Democrats] played it very well."
Were you put under any pressure whatsoever to vote a certain way on the articles of impeachment? Were any Republican Congressmen put under any pressure in this regard?
"I can't speak for everybody. I never was asked how I was going to vote by any member of the leadership. I never was encouraged to vote in any particular way. There was simply no contact.
"The interesting thing is: there was a lot speculation in the wake of the election that this whole thing was simply going to go away. In the vacuum created by the fall of Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde had an opportunity to operate as an unencumbered Chairman.
"Quite often what you'd find in the House is that the leadership of the Speaker's Office and others would work quite closely with the chairman to make sure that the product of the committee is consistent with what the leadership wanted to bring forth. But in this case, the leadership just was not there. Newt was going out, Bob Livingston was maybe coming in, and then Bob Livingston was going out. So Henry [Hyde] was unfettered.
"But actually I would say that even before that, Henry didn't seem to be getting much pressure from anywhere. We on the Committee were really pursuing truth, without much comment from the leadership or the Republican Conference. Which is the way it should have been."
Do you think that there is a clear moral, even religious, divide over the question of impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton? For instance, do you believe that the remarks and/or written testimony of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., reflect a view totally foreign to yours and that of the Founding Fathers?
"Absolutely! I think it's an excellent question. I didn't mean to get Arthur Schlesinger upset, but afterward one of my colleagues told me that the man was shaking! I had quite a few people who had been his students told me afterwards, 'I don't think anybody has ever spoken to him that way!' I don't think I was rude. Actually, one of my colleagues on the Committee had drawn my attention to his written comments, where he had said, All gentlemen lie about sex; only a cad would tell the truth. After I had heard all this testimony about all this sophisticated logic, about why it was that wrong was right, there is no truth, and everything is relative-I just decided, You know, we don't have to take this! Why do we sit here and take this from these people? They're wrong! And we're on solid ground with the founding of this country. They're the reactionaries! They want to make us the reactionaries. We're in the heritage of this country in insisting that there's truth. He's a reaction to that. He's a reactionary. He's talking about everything being relative. He's talking about abandoning the search for truth and saying, Well, it doesn't matter. So, I decided, Why do I take this? So I sat up and started to ask him questions! And the rest is a small moment in my history. And he sort of took offense at it. Maybe it was the only time anyone ever questioned him."
In December, you made what you described as what was possibly your last speech on the floor of the House. What were your feelings as you made that speech?
"It was sad to think that my last speech was to be on Bill Clinton. It's a rather depressing note to end on. But on the other hand, the vindication of the rule of law made it meaningful. I decided, You know, actually, if you see what we're doing as vindicating the rule of law and participating in the search for truth, then it's a good way to end."
Describe what it was like to be on the Judiciary Committee and in the House for the impeachment proceedings.
"Well, it was a very busy time. We got to know each other a lot better than we had before. We spent a lot of time together as a committee. There was a real sense of history being made. And a real sense of an opportunity to save the truth and to vindicate the rule of law.
"That's the thing that just unfortunately seems lost on a significant segment of the population. I think, in part, it's because some part of the population is very concerned that what this is all about is sex. It is! But it also is about perjury. And had the President not committed perjury, he probably would remain.
"What I'm concerned about is that a whole significant part of our population is responding to where they are because they're thinking, they don't want anybody asking questions about their own lives-their lives may not be all that different from that of the President."
Do you think that this is the baby-boomer generation come to fruition?
"The guy I mentioned earlier, the law partner I was with yesterday, said that this [the scandal and the reaction to it] is the result of the thinking of my generation. I think he's right-that this may be the full-blown thinking of that generation. That there are no standards. That marriage is not a terribly valuable institution. Free sex, free love-what that generation was about in the sixties.
"This is so far beyond Bill Clinton and whether he gets another two years. Gary Bauer is right when he says that Bill Clinton is a cultural oil spill, and the sludge is going to wash up on the shores of America. There are tremendous consequences to this-we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg."
Is there any way for America to get educated or re-educated regarding civics? You mentioned this is one of the reasons why you lost to Fritz Hollings in the U. S. Senate race on November 3, 1998.
"Well, of course, that's not the only reason why we lost. There were a lot of reasons, including video poker, and a governor's race that was going south. . . . There were some things I could have done better in articulating our message. Our national leaders followed the maxim that 'All politics are local,' and that's a sure winner for Democrats and a sure loser for Republicans-because you can't out-Democrat a Democrat. A Democrat, left to his devices that 'All politics are local,' will get a bridge named for themselves, will get an overpass named for themselves, will get a senior center named for themselves, and beat you at retail politics every time.
"One of the ways to help people understand the form of government we have is to get them to understand that this is not a democracy. In the Democrats' world-view, democracy is a better form of government from what we've got, because what they're talking about is power unconstrained by principle, and that works fine in a democracy. Because if you've got a majority, you've got power, and you get to set the principles. And that is really in essence what they are saying about the President. He's got power, and therefore he gets to set the principles.
"The problem for them is that that's not the form of government we've got. But the problem for us that understand that that's not the form of government we've got, is making sure the American people understand that we're a constitutional republic, which means that we send representatives. Of course, it also means that the representatives and every one in the system is constrained by the principles contained in the document we call the Constitution. And it's all about whether you believe those principles, and whether they're enduring, or whether if you get fifty percent plus one, you can change the principles."
With regard to the genesis of this lack of adherence to the Constitutional system, we could look at post-modernism. Or, we could look at the Great Society by Lyndon B. Johnson, or the New Deal by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some historians would look at the War Between the States as the Second American Revolution. Is it fair to say that Abraham Lincoln started it? That with his violations of the Constitution, he put into effect the problems we have today? So that the problem doesn't go back merely fifty years, it goes back a hundred and thirty years or more?
"I don't know. The place I would date it to would have more to do with Oliver Wendell Holmes and judicial realism, around the 1930s or so, with this thought: We must abandon this search for truth, there is no truth out there. I think I remember this right from my Legal Thought classes in law school. The concept of the law and of being a lawyer was that you searched for the truth and then you tried to apply it in a situation here. Oliver Wendell Holmes comes along and says, There is no truth to search for, so let's just do relative justice among people.
"It's really interesting, I was maligned in the Washington Post along with one of my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee. I think it said 'Inglis and Buyer [R-Ind.] are no Oliver Wendell Holmes.' I took it as a great compliment! I thought it was great! I thought, You're right! I'm not! Anybody who wants to abandon the search for truth, that says there is no truth, I don't want to be that.
"I don't know about Lincoln. I'd have to study on that."
Do you fear the imposition of tyranny? We think of Y2K, and the possibility of terrorism.
"I fear the imposition of tyranny of ignorance. We seem to be missing as a people the point about us being a constitutional republic instead of a democracy. We seem to be missing the point that there is truth, that everything is not relative. We're missing the point that fairness includes not just procedural fairness for the accused, but also a requirement that all be treated equally under the law. And we're missing the point that if this matter ends with the abandonment of the search for truth, in the case of William Jefferson Clinton, then what we're saying to our culture is that there are no principles and constraints.
"I don't think that we as a people understand that. I mentioned to another partner I was having lunch with today that all of the work we do in contract will be meaningless in a system of thought where there are no principles, there is no truth. How do you run any legal system in that kind of environment?
"There are countries in the world where there isn't this respect for rule of law, there isn't respect for contract. This is really an English common law kind of concept that we are blessed with here-that really, I think, traces itself more to a Biblical understanding of principles. The contract is sacred. If you say that you are going to sell that quantity at that price, you must perform. And if you don't, even if the price is changed and it is to your detriment, you must perform. There are some countries in the world, particularly in Eastern thought, where you can say, Well, that was my contract yesterday-it's no longer my contract today. That's where we're headed.
"The divide that is often talked about in the Republican Party, between social and economic conservatives-you can see how both need each other. The economic conservative needs to understand that these matters of truth are the very basis of that economic system that they are operating in."
Do you think that they understand that?
"I don't know. Maybe the Clinton trial will be a blessing, in causing people to focus in on that."
Will he be removed?
"I don't think so-and I think it's tragic."
Will there be a majority to remove him? Do you think it will break down on party lines?
"I hope we get all the Republicans! I'm pretty sure that Bill Clinton has at least thirty-four votes, and that's all he needs to remain in power. And unlike other people-back to what I said earlier-if the man had honor, he would leave if he got, say, thirty-seven votes [for acquittal]. I think if he ended up with a bare number to remain in office, I don't think that would trouble him at all. I can't imagine any other President in our history staying after such a vote!
"Richard Nixon, whom the left so loves to malign, would have crawled out of the White House with a bag over his head, long ago, and left no forwarding address. I just can't imagine anybody, other than Bill Clinton, being able to face people, except people in this generation who accept that kind of thought."
Do you think that Mr. Clinton should be impeached over the scandal of selling significant technology (including missile technology) to the People's Republic of China, and receiving campaign contributions in return?
"We didn't delve into that as a matter of proof in the Committee. I am concerned about the allegations that are surfacing there, but I haven't had an opportunity to test their credibility."
If they were true, is that impeachable?
"Without a doubt! That is a specifically enumerated grounds for removal, called treason. I once had lunch with a very liberal Democrat, a friend, and a guy whom I enjoy talking to. This guy put it very succintly, as he said to me: 'Nobody understands Whitewater. Nobody cares about Monica. But everybody understands treason. If he's done that, he's out of here!' I think he's right. Nobody understands Whitewater. It's a complex series of transactions. A clear majority don't care about Monica-sixty-five to seventy percent, whatever it is, don't care about Monica."
Is that perhaps reflective of the fact that in the case of treason, we would be at risk as a nation in terms of our security and finances? It's not because of principle-it's because it affects us personally.
"Once you depart from a principled system, there's no end to the degradation. You have a wholesale acceptance of the utilitarian view of human life. In that way, I keep reminding myself that we can't be very surprised about being in this situation. We've watched the murder of millions and millions of babies in this country. So, is it really so surprising that we wouldn't care about this principle? It's not that surprising, which is what's so scary."
Do you agree with Bob Livingston's decision to step down from potential Speakership and from the House? And do you think that someone who is unfaithful to his wife should hold high political office?
"Yes, I think that Bob Livingston was right to leave the Speakership. And I think he's a wonderful example."
Did you know ahead of time he was going to do that?
"No. As a matter of fact, I missed the dramatic moment. Mike Crapo [R-Ida., who was elected in 1998 to the Senate] and I were having breakfast downstairs in the Capitol. We got detained somewhat by a reporter from a paper in New Jersey. Unfortunately, in that couple of minutes, we missed it! Because we walked up on the House floor . . . and I sat down next to a Judiciary Committee member, pulled out my script about who was going when, and I said, 'So, where are we?' And he said, 'Do you not know what happened?!' And I said, 'What happened?' Later Jim Talent [R-Mo., another PCA Congressman] came on the floor and he was obviously not aware of it, either. And so I said to him, 'You didn't hear what happened, either, did you?' He looks at me-and he immediately goes to find verification from another Congressman! . . .
"He [Bob Livingston] did the right thing. If a person is unfaithful to his spouse, how can we expect him to be faithful to his constituents? If you'll break the promise that you have to a spouse, how will you not break every other promise that you make?
"Now, does that mean that there's no room for forgiveness? No, absolutely not. I think we've got to hold out the hope of forgiveness, which means that if somebody confesses that wrong, confesses that to his spouse, deals with the consequences of that, then they can be restored. So they're not forevermore barred from office. But it has to be clear that there's been that sort of process: seeking and receiving forgiveness, and dealing with the consequences. And that, of course, is where the President is not understanding. The President wants the cheapest of grace. His concept is just sort of, Well, I'm terribly sorry I ran into your car. And you say, Oh, well, Bob, you're forgiven. And I say, Well, see you later! Now, you would say at that point, No, no, we're not finished here: you've got to fix my car. There are consequences to Bill Clinton's actions he should face."
How would you summarize this impeachment matter?
"It all boils down to whether there is truth or not-whether there are principles or whether everything is governed by those who hold power at the moment. And I hope that we will re-find our moral compass and be guided by the principles contained in the Constitution; and that it will be a teaching opportunity for my children and for our whole culture. Bill Clinton could actually do great service to the country by saying, I am resigning. I should not have done this, I cannot continue, I have violated the trust that you have placed in me, and I am now leaving. He could yet teach, if he would."