Friday, Jan. 09, 2009

Rep. Henry Hyde

Then: Probably remembered as one of the House of Representatives' most stalwart conservatives, Illinois Republican Henry Hyde waged battles to defeat federal abortion funding, partial-birth abortion, flag-burning, doctor-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage. But his most notable battle — and loss — was the fight to remove President Clinton from office.

Early on, Hyde is said to have not taken the possibility of removing Clinton very seriously because he considered it sexual misconduct and not a concern of Congress. That changed, however, after Clinton testified before the House Judiciary Committee, of which Hyde was chair, that he had not had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky — before evidence emerged that there had in fact been sexual contact. Clinton was accused of perjury and the House voted to impeach him and pursue his expulsion from the White House, with Hyde leading the charge.

When Clinton was tried in the Senate in early 1998, however, Hyde and his Senate allies were not able to muster enough votes to convict him. Clinton was acquitted of the charges and served out the rest of his term. Hyde continued to lead the House Judiciary Committee until 2001, then moved on to the House International Relations Committee, where he remained for the rest of his tenure.

Now: Ironically, Hyde turned out to have been guilty of his own extramarital indescretions. In a September 1998 article, reported that Hyde had carried on an affair with a married woman named Cherie Snodgrass during the 1960s, a story the Congressman later acknowledged was true. The admission dogged him for the rest of his political career and he was repeatedly criticized for his zeal in prosecuting Clinton while failing to mention his own transgressions.

As Foreign Affairs chair, Hyde gave his support to the war in Iraq in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, although he remained a critic of what came to be known as the "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive military action. "The broad sweeping pledges made by the President have bumped into reality," Hyde told TIME in 2002. "To talk in terms of the globe, when it comes to ferreting out terrorism, is to bite off more than can be chewed or certainly digested."

In 2006, Hyde retired after more than 30 years in Congress having taken ill while in office. President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom soon after his retirement. The next year, after open heart surgery and a lengthy illness, Hyde died at age 83.