Clinton enemies turn fire on his morals

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton appears to have figured, with much of Washington, that his "bimbo" torments are over.

But even as he strives to do what he keeps on insisting he most wants to do - put his troubles behind him and "get back to work for the American people" - his enemies are mounting a vigorous rhetorical rearguard action.

Before a judge threw out Paula Jones' sexual harassment case last week, the Republicans kept strangely quiet. Now the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Dick Armey, has weighed in with an assault on Mr Clinton's morals. "If it were me that had documented personal conduct along the lines of the President's, I would be so filled with shame that I would resign," he told pupils at a school in Texas. "This President won't do that. His basic credo in life is, `I will do whatever I can get away with'. I believe that he is a shameless person".

No Republican leader has spoken harsher words against the President in the two months since the Monica Lewinsky affair unleashed the media furies against him. The Republicans' caution has obeyed the logic of a party eager to preserve its majority in mid-term elections in November and is fearful of antagonising the electorate, most of whom like the job the President is doing and turn a blind eye to his personal faults.

In the main it has been the bomb-throwers on the political margins of the Republican Party who have had the courage to vent their true feelings. Like the Rev Jerry Falwell, the far-right Christian founder of the Moral Majority. "If the President has a sex addiction ... he needs to ask for help. Don't deny it," Mr Falwell told a congregation.Mr Armey seemed to go further when he described Mr Clinton as a man whose "ideology begins and ends with himself".

His words seemed ill-timed for more reasons than one. On Monday Mr Clinton acted with some courage when he said he had told the Department of Justice to consider heeding a call by the widow of Martin Luther King to form a national commission of inquiry into his assassination. Coretta Scott King believes her husband was the victim not of a lone racist gunman but of an FBI plot.

Should her proposal show any sign of becoming reality, the President may have to contend with enemies more dangerous, and more knowledgeable of his secrets, than his political rivals on Capitol Hill.

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