Read Eliot Cohen on how the Republican party abandoned conservatism
Lynne Brookes, another Yale classmate, accused Kavanaugh of “blatant lying.” She said that “while at Yale, he was a big partier, often drank to excess,” and that “there had to be a number of nights where he does not remember.”
Should Kavanaugh’s alleged perjury matter? It should—if lawmakers follow the Graham Rule.
Senator Lindsey Graham is among Kavanaugh’s most ardent defenders and will likely vote to confirm the judge no matter how many lies he may have told. Back in the 1990s, however, when he was in the House, Graham was at the head of the Republican brigade that came close to bringing down President Bill Clinton for having lied about his affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Graham blasted those who dared to pretend that perjury didn’t rise to the level of a “high crime or misdemeanor,” and strongly suggested that lying under oath merited removal for any high-level government official, not just a president.
As the debates got started in the House Judiciary Committee, Graham maintained that Clinton’s behavior was not simply a personal matter. “If this is just about sex with an intern,” he said on November 8, 1998, “and being caught off guard and making false statements but not really having a criminal heart about it, then that’s one thing. But if it’s really about grand-jury perjury, then we’ve got to say, given the context of the situation, is the political death penalty warranted?”
The political death penalty, he said, is impeachment.
Further reading: Women are furious. Now what?
To make their case for impeachment to the House, Graham and other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee held a nine-hour meeting on December 1, 1998, about the consequences of perjury. They hosted two women who were punished for lying under oath about sex. One, Pam Parsons, a former women’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, had been imprisoned for four months after a perjury conviction related to a civil libel lawsuit. A second witness, Barbara Battalino, was a psychiatrist for Veterans Affairs who lied in a civil deposition about a sexual relationship with a military veteran who came to her for help. She was still serving under house arrest when she appeared in the House.
Feeling their pain, Graham implored the president to consider the two women’s plight, “real people who’ve suffered real consequences for something that we’re all wrestling with.”
Most House Republicans agreed with Graham’s arguments about perjury. According to then–House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois: “When the president performs the public act of asking God to witness his promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that is not trivial. Whether it’s a civil suit or before the grand jury, the significance of the oath cannot and must not be cheapened if our broad boast that we are a government of laws and not of men is to mean anything.”