Clinton accused: What the papers say about fishing, 'bimbo eruptions' and big-game blonde hunting

Click to follow
Washington Post: This time, it's different: The allegations against President Clinton are allegations of extremely serious crimes. If they are true, they cannot be argued about as to that and cannot be expected to dissolve in an "everybody does it" cloud of ambiguity. The allegations are that President Clinton urged a White House intern with whom he had an affair to lie about their relationship in a sworn affidavit ... If the allegations ... prove true, they are of a different magnitude from any of the other myriad charges Mr Clinton has fought back since taking office.

Chicago Tribune (John Kass): When you get married and have kids of your own, you've got a choice. You can go out hunting with some of your pals for big- and small-game blondes, brunettes and redheads. You can pretend you're President Kennedy at night, and Mr Family Values during the day, and remain a boy.

Or you can go fishing.

Bill Clinton should have gone fishing. The worst thing that could happen is that you tell fish stories. No one will accuse you of perjury for telling whoppers about your lake trout. You won't have to use weasel words and talk like a slippery lawyer when you're asked if you ever seduced a young female employee, or if you told her to lie about it under oath. You won't have to vaguely deny anything. You don't have to send your henchmen out on damage-control missions to tell reporters that the girl is "mentally unstable."...

Clinton long ago developed a national reputation as a hunter of lusty and carnivorous women like Gennifer Flowers, with the long red fingernails and the interesting telephone technique. During his 1992 campaign for the presidency, his top aides joked about "bimbo eruptions".

We knew it. He bluffed his way through. His defenders told us to concentrate on the man above the belt. Jay Leno made his sexual escapades a regular feature on the Tonight Show monologue, and we all laughed. Our economy was good, our bellies and our gas tanks were full. So we elected him anyway. Twice.

New York Times: There is a general reluctance to have the private life of any president become a matter of public inquiry. In some quarters there is a willingness to believe that Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater Independent Counsel, has a vendetta against this President and that the far right's backing of Paula Jones is designed to destroy his Presidency. Yet the political good will that normally flows toward the White House is constantly being blocked in Mr Clinton's case by reports, unproven, but disturbingly persistent, of unrestrained personal behaviour and of fund-raising that flouted the law. More seriously, this Administration repeatedly forces its supporters to choose between loyalty and respect for the law ...

The writ for self-indulgence that might cover a candidate or the governor of a small state is not likely to cover a sitting president. If Mr Clinton's denials do not hold up, his Presidency will be thrown into a disabling political crisis. There is, therefore, a patriotic impulse to hope that the Republicans' calls for impeachment remain as premature upon full investigation as they sounded yesterday on the breaking of the news that Mr Starr had received Attorney General Janet Reno's permission to investigate this matter.

The pressure on Mr Starr is as great as that on Mr Clinton. As strong supporters of the Independent Counsel Act, we have lamented Mr Starr's political entanglements. The burden on him in this case is to prove he had reason to pursue this line of inquiry. He must also show that he did not exceed his mandate or abuse his prosecutorial powers through entrapment or the use of biased or delusional witnesses ...

In such circumstances in the past, the White House has relied on two principal weapons, stonewalling and attacking the reputation of the women who allege sexual contact with the president. This approach may have prevented settlement of the Paula Jones case, and thereby helped bring a Presidency that ought to be at the height of accomplishment to the gates of crisis.

It has also undermined public faith in Mr Clinton's truthfulness about his private conduct, and if clung to, it may destroy the White House's plea that this President be judged by his public performance rather than the rumours and accusations that have haunted his career and will follow him into history. All the wisdom of the nation's recent past is that lies and public-relations assaults breed wreckage in piles. Truth, although painful, is always a president's best defence. Much depends, of course, on what that truth is and who tells it first.