WASHINGTON Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett Jr., R-Frederick, blasted President Clinton’s “arrogance” for delivering a State of the Union address Tuesday while facing an impeachment trial in the Senate.
Bartlett, among the first congressmen to demand the president’s impeachment, called the address an attempt to “tamper with the jury” and said it was a “thumb in the eye of … all senators” on the same day that White House lawyers launched their defense of the president in the Senate.
The address also came exactly one month after the House voted to impeach Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice.
“The speech … is a continuation of Clinton’s decision to put his own personal desires ahead of his duties and responsibilities to the people of the United States,” Bartlett said in a prepared statement before the speech Tuesday night.
The Western Maryland Republican noted that the Constitution only requires the president report to Congress from time to time. It would have been just as effective for him to deliver the address in writing, as was the custom for most of the 19th century, he said.
A White House spokeswoman had little to say about Bartlett’s comments Tuesday.
“The president continues to believe that each person is entitled to his or her own opinion,” said Julie Goldberg, the spokeswoman.
Bartlett said he attended the address only because his respect for the office of the presidency remains undiminished “despite its present occupant’s actions.”
“This is a judgment call,” he said. “It’s a judgment call whether to go out of respect for the institution or to stay away out of respect for the institution. I decided to go.”
Before the speech, Bartlett criticized the president’s appearance as an effort to improve his poll numbers. Afterward, he had little good to say about the proposals the president outlined in his speech.
Bartlett said he heard “too little talk about decreasing taxes and too much talk about increasing government regulations.”
“I had trouble keeping track of the times the president spent the surplus, but I know it was more than once,” he said.
Although pleased that the president plans to put additional money into defense, Bartlett said that $6 billion Clinton proposed in his speech still falls short – by half — of what the president’s own staff has suggested.
Bartlett said he liked Clinton’s emphasis on school quality, accountability and choice, since those initiatives “sounded like a page from a Republican speech.” He predicted that the president would find himself in trouble with his teachers’ unions as a result of his proposals.