Clinton approval leaps six points

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The Independent Online
THE WHITE House is planning a new offensive to put President Bill Clinton's case against impeachment, as evidence mounts that the broadcast of his videotaped testimony to Kenneth Starr's inquiry may have done him some good.

An opinion poll for CNN/USA Today by Gallup showed that his approval rating has risen to 66 per cent after Monday's broadcast, six points higher than it was on Sunday, with the same percentage opposing impeachment. Most people believe that he definitely or probably lied, but those favouring impeachment fell from 35 per cent to 32 per cent. A poll for ABC News showed 70 per cent supported the President's reluctance to discuss his private life, and 59 per cent thought that prosecutors were wrong to ask the questions that they did.

The US press gave Mr Clinton a slightly softer ride yesterday. This was "an ordinary man defending the ordinary lies he had concocted to hide an ordinary affair," said the New York Times. "The four-hour tape of his August 17 grand jury testimony will not destroy Mr Clinton straightaway, and as an exercise in boil lancing, it may help him."

Part of the problem for those who want the President removed from office was that the videotape had been vastly oversold by those who had seen it. It was far from being the conclusive proof that he had lost control, and the President appeared, for the most part, dignified and direct.

The White House is making new moves to take control of the situation, including telephoning Congressional Democrats to ask them to press for some lesser punishment than impeachment. Democrats have previously suggested that Congressional censure, rather than impeachment, though there is no sign so far that Republicans are prepared to take this up. The White House is also said to be "actively considering" the appearance of the President at the House Judiciary Committee, a step that has been urged by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Asked whether the affair had hit bottom yesterday, Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, said: "It's been stuck at the bottom for quite some time."

Reports that Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State, was on the point of resignation yesterday were denied by the White House, but with some hesitation. "I don't have any reason to believe that's true," said Mr McCurry. Ms Albright had been one of those who vociferously backed the President after a January Cabinet meeting, when he had told them none of the allegations were true.

The President has tried to maintain a detached air about all the proceedings. "Believe it or not, I haven't read the report or my lawyers' replies," he said yesterday in New York.