By Quin…

Twenty years ago Wednesday, former Rep. Bob Livingston provided the single most dramatically unexpected congressional moment of our lifetimes.

Now Livingston has released a memoir that for the first time fully details that moment as he lived it, while also providing a winningly candid, engaging, and authentically personal look back over a remarkable career. The voice and writing style are clearly his own (no ghostwriters here!) and the unfiltered nature of his reminiscences is fascinating, at times even charming.

Livingston, already chosen by his Republican colleagues as the incoming speaker of the House, was launching the final debate on the motions to impeach President Bill Clinton on Saturday morning, Dec. 19, 1998. Rocked just 40 hours earlier by reports emerging about long-ago hiccups in his marriage, Livingston made a compelling plea for Clinton to resign because of lies and obstruction of justice related to the president’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Livingston portrayed resignation as necessary for honor and national healing.

With Democrats yelling at Livingston that his own past sins made him a hypocrite, Livingston stunned everybody by following up with this message to Clinton:

“I can only challenge you in such fashion if I am willing to heed my own words.”

With that, he announced he would not assume the speakership, and would soon resign from Congress entirely.

Livingston was widely liked in the Capitol. Affable, approachable, unpretentious, and respectful of colleagues, he was seen as an old-school legislator’s legislator, one who would fight hard for his solidly conservative principles but not make it personal. Even his political adversaries esteemed him. As he left the House chamber to stunned silence, observers witnessed the incongruous sight of young liberal Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. hurrying behind him into the corridor outside the chamber, tearfully begging him to reconsider.

It was the rather tragically climactic public end to what had been a career of stellar achievement…. [The full column is at this link.]

In another column on impeachment, this explains it all, for those who forgot….

Clinton impeachment wasn’t about sex, but about public corruption.

 

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