Impeaching the Truth

Nearly 25 years ago I sat in the witness chair facing the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon. It was hardly a happy day for me because I was there to testify under oath about all the transgressions we now know as Watergate. I left the hearings that night knowing I was going to prison, despondent because I knew that my friend President Nixon would soon be out of office. But, in a sense, I had a renewed confidence in the American system. Why? Because the congressmen seemed genuinely concerned about upholding the law. Even the Republicans, mostly partisan defenders of Nixon, recognized that the integrity of the presidency was on the line, and what was right had to take precedence over politics. Even though I was on the losing end, I was reassured that the American system was stronger than any man or partisan interest. Well, if Watergate proved the system worked, Whitewater has proven that it may be broken. Last week, I tuned in to watch Judge Ken Starr as he sat in the very same chair I'd sat in 25 years ago. But after watching the hearings—or at least as much of them as I could stand—I have to conclude that this is a different America, a different political climate, than it was in 1973. Judge Starr presented what is a prima facie indictable case for perjury and obstruction of justice against the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States. He presented six counts in which he could demonstrate that the president had chosen deception over truth. After Starr presented a meticulous, lawyerly analysis, how did the judiciary committee respond to the charges? They didn't. Instead, the Democrats simply attacked Ken Starr—a man who, prior to becoming special prosecutor, was considered by Democrats and Republicans alike to be one of the most fair-minded judges in the country. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying they ought to impeach. I'm simply saying they ought to consider the evidence soberly and get the truth out. These are serious charges. Starr is not the issue—the President violating the law is. What's happened to the idea that we are to preserve the rule of law? Where is the concern for protecting the institution that I witnessed 25 years ago? I'm afraid last week's hearings were nothing but a comic farce, and the outcome appears to be already determined. Public opinion polls are going to govern, not the public interest. But there will come a time when we will regret this—when we will be shamed to remember that we once considered anything more important than truth and integrity. Consider: a recent study shows that half of all American kids already think it's okay to lie, cheat, and steal. That's staggering! But why ought we e surprised? After all, kids see adults, even national leaders, refusing to take the law seriously. What these hearings are teaching kids chills me to the bone. But there is no point in wringing our hands and giving in to despair. I've got one good suggestion. Parents and pastors, grandparents and youth leaders, gather the kids around. Tell them that what they are seeing on television is a great lesson in what they ought not imitate, that this is politics at its worst. And tell them that, as Americans, we ought to care about the rule of law. In other words, use this as a teaching occasion to tell them honestly what's wrong with the political system and the public's indifference. Teach your children that, regardless of what the Judiciary Committee is teaching them, truth does matter.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary