December 21, 1998
In a weekend filled with words like surreal, unreal, eerie, split-screen, etc., those pronounced by the house speaker-elect, Bob Livingston, and by Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, respectively the House majority whip (a.k.a. the Hammer) and the House majority leader, both from Texas, epitomized the hypocritical neo-realism of the conservative wing of the republican party as well as its intellectual incoherence.
Dropping his bombshell in a mercurial tone, the speaker-elect said, "I was prepared to lead our narrow majority as Speaker, and I believe I had it in me to do a fine job. But I cannot do that job or be the kind of leader that I would like to be under the current circumstances. So I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. I will not stand for Speaker of the House on January 6."
Tom DeLay, his voice broken, literally eulogized the resigning Speaker-elect. "There is no greater American in my mind, at least today, than Bob Livingston," he said. "Because, Mr. DeLay continued, he understood what this debate was all about. It was about honor and decency and integrity and the truth; everything that we honor in this country. It was also a debate about relativism versus absolute truth."
Dick Armey for his part said, "Mr. Speaker, Mr. Livingston, you set before us today an example. It breaks our heart. It breaks our heart for your wife, Bonnie, for your family. It confuses some of us. But the example is that principle comes before person, and it's an example we must all hold to ourselves."
Honor, decency, integrity, truth, absolute truth, (good) example, principle... Take each and everyone of these words and replace them by their antonyms and you know they were talking about their opinion of President Clinton... Dishonor, indecency, dishonesty, lie, absolute lie, (bad) example, corruption...
Appearance: n. 3. The outward aspect of someone or something (The American Heritage Dictionary).
Mr. Livingston "had it in [him] to do a fine job." He had it in him until he learned that Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, was going to disclose that Mr. Livingston had had extra-marital affairs with at least four women in the past decade. As long as his private life remained in the closet (where it should have stayed) he had it in him. With his personal life disclosed, his resolve dissolved like a pebble of salt in a glass of water. Hmm...
Integrity: n. 1. Rigid adherence to a code or standard of values; probity. 2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness. 3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness. (The American Heritage Dictionary).
Question: Does adherence to a code or standard of values depend on the condition of anonymity of one's actions? Of course not. Mr. Livingston's soundness did not change with the revelation. So?
Hypocrisy: n. 1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; insincerity. (The American Heritage Dictionary).
Mr. Livingston talked about the pain he had inflicted upon his wife, his family, his friends, his country. He talked about the need to be an example for the country. And an example he believed he was before the disclosure; he certainly did not believe that his marital infidelity was in any way or form an impediment to his probity. If not he would have resigned a long time ago.
Coward: n. One who shows ignoble fear in the face of danger or pain. (The American Heritage Dictionary).
However, nowhere did he mention in his speech the conversation he had had with Representative Zach Wamp, another Southern conservative Republican. Mr. Wamp let him know that a minority of influential conservatives would most probably vote against him for Speaker on January 6, 1999. The die was cast and he bailed out.
Everything else, all the words and the sanctimony, the theatrics, the sadness, the gravity of the situation were nothing more than a circumstantial spin from a spineless individual who after having cast his vote will turn around and become a $500k a year lobbyist.
Courage: n. The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery. (The American Heritage Dictionary).
Had he shown one ounce of character he could have delivered a succinct speech on the floor of the House like such:
"Mr. Speaker, the embarrassing revelations about my private life have caused great pain to my wife Bonnie and to my friends. I deeply apologize to her and to the American people. These past two days have forced me to reconsider my position with regard to the matter at hand. I have been thinking long and hard about Bonnie and the excruciating pain that the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, must have been feeling for the past twelve months. Enough is enough. To quote the House minority leader, my good friend Dick Gephardt, '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, in decency which rises above what has come before.' The president may have had a deplorable conduct, he may have induced great pain to his family and all of us, he may even have misled the American people and fudged the truth. However, until proven otherwise, misleading the American people and fudging the truth is not lying under oath and it's not a perjury. Yes, enough is enough. Accordingly, I will vote against the articles of impeachment and I respectfully appeal to my colleagues on this side of the aisle [Republicans] to heed my words and follow my vote. Next January, I will ask my colleagues to elect me as the next Speaker. I am even more convinced today than I was three days ago that I have it in me to do a fine job to heal the country and to help this House I so profoundly love and respect go back to doing the legislative work of the country. If I am not elected, I will remain a back-bencher for a period of six months, upon which time I will ask my governor to select my replacement. Let me finish with another few words from my good friend, Dick Gephardt. 'May God have mercy on this Congress and may Congress have the wisdom and the courage and the goodness to save itself today...' "