At 80, former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici is not a candidate for father of the year. Not by any standard.
His admission Wednesday that he fathered a son outside his marriage in 1978 was a bombshell.
Domenici was 46 when he fathered the child of Michelle Laxalt, who was 24. She is the daughter of former U.S. senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada.
History tells us a bit about Republican Domenici's decades of deception. Here is some of what Domenici said in February 1999 about then-President Clinton, who was impeached after an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky:
I HAVE LISTENED carefully to the arguments of the House managers and the counter-arguments by the White House counsel during this impeachment trial. I have taken seriously my oath to render impartial justice.
While the legal nuances offered by both sides were interesting and essential, I kept thinking as I sat listening, that the most obvious and important, but unstated, question was: What standard of conduct should we insist our president live up to?Only by taking into account this question do I believe that we in the Senate can properly interpret our founding fathers' impeachment criteria comprised of "bribery, treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Clearly, the Constitution recognizes that a president may be impeached not only for bribery and treason, but also for other actions that destroy the underlying integrity of the presidency or the "equal justice for" all guarantee of the judiciary.
All reasonable observers admit that the president lied under oath and undertook a substantial and purposeful effort to hide his behavior from others in order to obstruct justice in a legal proceeding. My good friends and Democratic colleagues, Senators Joe Lieberman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Bob Kerrey, Dianne Feinstein and Robert Byrd, among others, have bluntly acknowledged that the president lied, misled, obstructed, and attempted in many ways to thwart justice's impartial course in a civil rights case. The sticking point has been: Does this misbehavior rise to the level of impeachable offenses?
I have concluded that President Clinton's actions do, indeed, rise to the level of impeachable offenses that the founding fathers envisioned.
Lying under oath is an "insult to the divine being. It discolours and poisons the streams of justice and saps the foundations of personal and public Rights."
... HOW CAN ANYONE, after conceding that the president lied under oath and obstructed justice, listen to this quotation and not conclude that this president has committed acts which are clearly serious, which corrupt or subvert the political and governmental process, and which are plainly wrong to any person of honor or good citizenship?
We must start by saying that this trial has never been about the president's private sex acts, as tawdry as they may have been.
This trial has been about his failure to properly discharge his public responsibility. The president had a choice to make during this entire, lamentable episode. At a number of critical junctures, he had a choice either to tell the truth or to lie, first in the civil rights case, before the grand jury and on national television. Each time he chose to lie. He made that fateful choice.
Truthfulness is the first pillar of good character in the Character Counts program which I have been part of establishing in New Mexico. Many of you in this chamber have joined me in declaring the annual "Character Counts Weeks." This program teaches grade school youngsters throughout America about six pillars of good character. Public and private schools in every corner of my state teach children that character counts; character makes a difference; indeed, character makes all the difference.
Guess which one of these pillars comes first? Trustworthiness. Trustworthiness.
So what do I say to the children in my state when they ask, "Didn't the president lie? Doesn't that mean he isn't trustworthy? Then, senator, why didn't the Senate punish him?"
Let me quote one of the most critical passages from Charles L. Black, Jr., and his handbook on impeachment, one of the seminal works on the impeachment process. He ponders this question: What kinds of non-criminal acts by a president are clearly impeachable? He concludes that "high crimes and misdemeanors" are those kinds of offenses which fall into three categories: "(1) which are extremely serious, (2) which in some way corrupt or subvert the political and governmental process, and (3) which are plainly wrong in themselves to a person of honor, or to a good citizen, regardless of words on the statute books."
Well, there you have it in my judgment. The president lied under oath in a civil rights case, before a grand jury, and he lied on national television to the American people.
Regarding Article II, obstruction of justice the House managers proved to my satisfaction the following facts:
1) The president encouraged Monica Lewinsky to prepare and submit a false affidavit; 2) He encouraged her to tell false and misleading cover stories if she were called to testify in a civil rights lawsuit; 3) He engaged in, encouraged or supported a scheme to conceal his gifts to Monica Lewinsky that had been subpoenaed in the civil rights lawsuit; 4) He intensified and succeeded in an effort to find Monica Lewinsky a job so that she would not testify truthfully in the civil rights lawsuit; 5) He gave a false account of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky to Betty Currie in order to influence Ms. Currie's expected testimony in the civil rights lawsuit; 6) At his deposition in a federal civil rights action against him, William Jefferson Clinton allowed his attorney to make false and misleading statements to a federal judge characterizing an affidavit, in order to prevent questioning deemed relevant by the judge. Such false and misleading statements were subsequently called to the attention of the judge by his attorney; 7) He lied to John Podesta, Sidney Blumenthal, Erskine Bowles and other White House aides regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky to influence their expected testimony before the federal grand jury.
In this day and age of public yearning for heroes, we criticize basketball, football and baseball players, and actors and singers who commit crimes or otherwise fail to be "good role models." One of those celebrities said a few years ago that he was only a basketball player, not a role model. He said in essence: "Want a role model, look to the president."
Do not underestimate, my friends, the corrupting and cynical signal we will send if we fail to enforce the highest standards of conduct on the most powerful man in the nation.
...The president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, in violation of his oath of office. He lied under oath. He obstructed justice. His behavior was unworthy of the presidency of the United States.
Thus, I sadly conclude that the president is guilty of the charges made against him by the House of Representatives and I will vote to convict him on both counts before the Senate.