- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Editor's note: Following are reprinted excerpts from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate Sept. 3, 1998. On the day of his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for vice president, our readers may find it valuable to compare what Mr. Lieberman thought of President Clinton's personal conduct at the time.

Mr. President, I rise today to make a most difficult and distasteful statement. For me, probably the most difficult statement I've made on this floor in the 10 years I've been a member of the United States Senate… .
To begin with, I must respectfully disagree with the president's contention that his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and the way in which he misled us about it is nobody's business but his family's, and that even presidents have private lives, as he said. Whether he or we think it fair or not, the reality is in 1998 that a president's private life is public. Contemporary news media standards will have it no other way. And surely this president was given fair notice of that by the amount of time the news media has dedicated to investigating his personal life during the 1992 campaign and in the years since. But there is more to this than modern media intrusiveness.
The president is not just the elected leader of our country. He is, as presidential scholar Clinton Rossetter observed, and I quote, "the one-man distillation of the American people," and as President Taft said at another time, the "personal embodiment and representative of their dignity and majesty." So when his personal conduct is embarrassing, it is sadly so not just for him and his family. It is embarrassing for all of us as Americans. The president is a role model who, because of his prominence and the moral authority that emanates from his office, sets standards of behavior for the people he serves. His duty, as the Reverend Nathan Baxter of the National Cathedral here in Washington said in a recent sermon, is nothing less than the stewardship of our values. So no matter how much the president or others may wish to compartmentalize the different spheres of his life, the inescapable truth is that the president's private conduct can and often does have profound public consequences.
In this case, the president apparently had extramarital relations with an employee half his age and did so in the workplace, in the vicinity of the Oval Office. Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral. And it is harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family, particularly to our children, which is as influential as the negative messages communicated by the entertainment culture. If you doubt that, just ask America's parents about the intimate and frequently unseemly sexual questions their young children have been asking them and discussing since the president's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky became public seven months ago. I have had many of those conversations with parents, particularly in Connecticut.
And from them I conclude that parents across our country feel, much as I do, that something very sad and sordid has happened in American life when I cannot watch the news on television with my 10-year-old daughter anymore.
I believe that the president could have lessened the harm his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky has caused if he had acknowledged his mistake and spoken with candor about it to the American people shortly after it became public in January. But, as we now know, he chose not to do this. This deception is particularly troubling because it was not just a reflexive and, in many ways, understandable human act of concealment to protect himself and his family from what he called the embarrassment of his own conduct when he was confronted with it in the deposition in the Jones case, but rather it was the intentional and premeditated decision to do so. In choosing this path, I fear that the president has undercut the efforts of millions of American parents who are naturally trying to instill in our children the value of honesty.
As Teddy Roosevelt once explained, "My power vanishes into thin air the instant that my fellow citizens, who are straight and honest, cease to believe that I represent them and fight for what is straight and honest. That is all the strength that I have," Roosevelt said. Sadly, with his deception, President Clinton may have weakened the great power and strength that he possesses of which President Roosevelt spoke… .
Mr. President, I said at the outset that this was a very difficult statement to write and deliver. That is true, very true. And it is true in large part because it is so personal and yet needs to be public, but also because of my fear that it will appear unnecessarily judgmental. I truly regret this. I know from the Bible that only God can judge people. The most that we can do is to comment without condemning individuals. And in this case, I have tried to comment on the consequences of the president's conduct on our country.

Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, is a nominee for vice-president.

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