During President Clinton's impeachment trial in 1998, it was revealed that Dr. Jekyll—I mean Mr. Hyde (who was also the unabashed leader of the Clinton Impeachment Movement) had had (during the 1960s) a nearly four-year adulterous affair of his own. Dismissing the story until the Sun Times came out with pictures of Hyde and the Hairdresser, Henry then changed his tune by saying it was merely "dirty politics," that it should have nothing to do with the impeachment process, concluding "the statute of limitations has long since passed on my youthful indiscretion."
This is where Henry lost me forever. Up until then, I had idolized Hyde, as both a family man and a Catholic politician with convictions, but at that moment I felt like Jimmy Stewart's character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when he found out his hero and mentor, Sen. Joe Paine, was a crooked deal-cutter like (almost) everyone else in Congress.
Yes, conservatives can bring out the hollow argument that the Clinton impeachment was not about Bill having sex with Monica Lewinsky, but his lying about it under oath. Yet, I'm sure Henry knew that without a juicy issue (for example, if Bill pretended he remembered Hillary's anniversary under oath, no one would have cared), the impeachment process would have never gone forward. But Henry's flippant "youthful indiscretion" comment sealed the deal of Hyde's infidelity insincerity. For Hyde's affair was not a quick, post-college fling, but a four-year choice that occurred while he was in his forties and had already been married for over fifteen years. And, of course, committing adultery is one thing, but not apologizing? (Perfect) love may mean never having to say you are sorry, but sin is not. A heartfelt apology here could not only have saved Henry's Hyde but his career as well. Instead Hyde finished out his terms as a second-rate conservative, with not only Henry's much-desired Clinton impeachment derailed, but his own moral status in Congress greatly diminished.
I will always be grateful to Henry for the "Hyde Amendment"—the bill he sponsored in 1976—that banned federal funding for abortions and was the first big post-Roe-v-Wade pro-life political victory. But I cannot agree with the Chicago Tribune editorial epitaph, "The Principled Henry Hyde." Henry lost that distinction not only when he committed adultery, but when he failed to show public contrition for it. Heck—even Bill did THAT much. And when his time comes, you are not likely to find the word "Principled" on the headstone of one William Jefferson Clinton!