Three Republicans for Impeachment

Of all the members of the House Judiciary Committee, none faced tougher decisions than Republicans who recommended impeachment of the President. The three on these pages were once ardent supporters of Richard Nixon. Yet all three of them voted against him. In the weeks ahead, they—and the nation—will be waiting to judge the consequences of their anguished decisions.

Lawrence J. Hogan

Maryland’s Larry Hogan felt his moment of truth came late one night as he was driving home. “All the way I began sifting the thing through, then I dictated some thoughts in my own head,” he recalls. “Then I came home and said to my wife, ‘I’m going to vote for impeachment.’ ”

Hogan’s wife was not the only person startled by that news. He was the first Republican on the Judiciary Committee to break with the President and perhaps the most unexpected. A former FBI agent and a law-and-order conservative, Hogan had zealously supported the Nixon Administration on everything from abortion to busing.

A three-term Congressman from one of the nation’s fastest-growing districts, suburban Prince George’s County, Hogan, 45, is now campaigning to unseat Maryland’s incumbent governor, Marvin Mandel. The President’s supporters argue that gubernatorial politics explains Hogan’s turnabout, a charge that Hogan vigorously denies. After gauging the initial reaction to his impeachment decision from his constituents, he admits that he may well be better off now than the day he made his announcement. Even if he loses the governor’s race, there is a consolation: having voted his conscience, he will be content to go into private legal practice with his wife, Ilona, who is also a lawyer.

Tom Railsback

“Every time someone gave his vote, it was boom, boom, boom—like a bell tolling.” Thus did Tom Railsback recall the Judiciary Committee’s vote to recommend impeachment. He might also have been thinking of his own future in a rural, northern Illinois district where Republicans would rather burn their crops than vote against their party.

A thoughtful, articulate lawyer and onetime state legislator from Moline, Railsback had been watched from the start as potentially the Judiciary Committee’s most influential member. At 42, the most moderate of the committee’s senior Republicans, he has been at the head of the GOP’s reform movement and is widely regarded as one of the party’s future leaders.

Railsback says that the impeachment decision kept him awake nights until, after an intensive weekend reviewing the evidence he had meticulously boiled down into two black notebooks, he reluctantly concluded “what the President should have done, what he actually did do, and what his involvement was.”

The decision to vote impeachment was particularly painful for Railsback because Nixon had campaigned for him during his first Congressional race in 1966. “I regard Richard Nixon as a friend,” he says. “He has treated me decently and kindly. He’s signed autographs for my daughter.”

Though a husky tennis player and golfer, Railsback says that he is now “emotionally spent” and worries about a tough election this fall against a strong Democratic challenger. Yet Illinois voters seem to have taken a liking to him. In 1970 he won nearly 70 percent of the vote and in 1972 ran unopposed. “A lot of conservatives in the district are upset about Tom’s statement on impeachment,” says Moline mayor Earl Wendt, “but I would say that no matter what Tom does he will still be ours.”

M. Caldwell Butler

In the gentle hills of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, they say that Congressman M. Caldwell Butler, 49, has “never been a man to suffer fools gladly.” The sharply outspoken first-term Congressman is a descendant of John Marshall, the nation’s fourth Chief Justice, and is no less independent of mind. When he first joined the Judiciary Committee, he viewed the members as “a bunch of crazies” out to lynch the President. But by the time the voting on impeachment began, he had developed some warm relationships and confessed that he “wouldn’t mind being locked up on a desert island with them for a day or two.”

Butler was equally blunt when he changed his mind about the President. He was elected in 1972 from the Roanoke district that gave Richard Nixon the largest majority in Virginia. He loyally supported the Nixon administration’s programs and earned a reputation as a precise, thoughtful conservative. But after the Judiciary Committee’s hearings began, he became increasingly appalled by the evidence of wrongdoing in the White House.

“We could not walk away from it,” he explains. “We have to establish some standard of conduct for the President of the United States, and if he doesn’t measure up to that standard, then it is an area in which the House of Representatives may, in its judgment, impeach.”

Like the other representatives, Butler did not suffer from a lack of advice. His staff and the eldest of his four sons urged him to vote for impeachment. His wife June took to reading aloud at bedside from Bernstein and Woodward’s All the President’s Men. But in the end, he says, the decision, and the consequences, are his to bear alone, however unpopular it may be. As he told one Virginia newsman, “I don’t feel they’re saving a little niche over there at the Capitol for Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson and Caldwell Butler.”

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