On an evening late in April in Washington, some three hundred and fifty survivors of what they saw as a fight for the soul of the republic gathered at the Mayflower Hotel to honor Representative Henry J. Hyde and the twelve House managers who, under his leadership, had carried the charges of impeachment to the floor of the Senate. C-SPAN caught the distinctive, familial fervor of the event, which was organized to benefit the Independent Women’s Forum, an organization funded in part by Richard Mellon Scaife and the “women’s group” in the name of which Kenneth Starr volunteered in 1994 to file an amicus curiae brief arguing that Jones v. Clinton should go forward.
Live from the Mayflower, there onscreen were the familiar faces from the Sunday shows, working the room amid the sedate din and the tinkling of glasses. There were the pretty women in country-club dinner dresses, laughing appreciatively at the bon mots of their table partners. There was the black-tie quartet, harmonizing on “vi-ve la vi-ve la vi-ve l’amour” and “Goodbye My Coney Island Baby” as Henry Hyde doggedly continued to spoon up his dessert, chocolate meeting mouth with metronomic regularity, his perseverance undeflected even by Bob Barr, leaning in to make a point.
The word “courage” was repeatedly invoked. Midge Decter, a director of the Independent Women’s Forum, praised Henry Hyde’s “manliness,” and the way in which watching “him and his merry band” on television during the impeachment trial had caused her to recall “whole chunks” of Rudyard Kipling’s “If.” Robert L. Bartley, the editor of The Wall Street Journal, had found similar inspiration in the way in which the managers had “exposed truths to the American people, and they did this in the face of all the polls and focus groups, and they were obviously doing an unpopular thing, and I think that is why they deserve our greatest credit.” The words of Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt were recalled by Michael Novak, as they had been by Henry Hyde in his closing statement during the Senate impeachment trial, but on this occasion adapted to “our Prince Hal, our own King Henry”: “He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand at tiptoe when this day is named…. Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words, Henry the King, Rogan and Hutchinson, Canady, Cannon, McCollum, Lindsey Graham, Gekas, Chabot, Bryant, Buyer, Barr, and Sensenbrenner.”
This evening could have seemed, for those who still misunderstood the Reagan mandate to have been based on what are now called “social” issues, the last redoubt. Familiar themes were sounded, favorite notes struck. Even the most glancing reference to the depredations of “the Sixties” (“…according to Sean Wilentz, a scholar who exemplifies all the intellectual virtues and glories of the Sixties…”) proved a reliable crowd-pleaser. In deference to the man who had not only sponsored the Hyde Amendment (banning Medicaid payments for abortions) but who had a …