President's four-hour video nasty

THE WHITE HOUSE was bracing itself for further damage limitation last night as Congress prepared to release a highly embarrassing videotape of President Bill Clinton.

Mr Clinton's image, already tarnished by revelations of his sexual habits and alleged cover-up efforts, will be ripped to shreds as Americans see a usually calm and avuncular man quarrelling with his accusers, losing his temper and avoiding difficult questions.

The tape is a record of Mr Clinton's testimony to Kenneth Starr's inquiry into his sexual misdoings and attempts to cover them up. It shows the President as evasive and angry, far from his current public persona of a man who is contrite about his past behaviour. He wavers over definitions of sexual acts, refuses to answer some questions, argues about others, which he says criminalise his private life, and is generally unhelpful.

He was, of course, conducting his defence in a legal context, but the appearance will do him grave damage. It will harm his image, and most importantly, confirm the view that he sought to avoid the truth.

The tape runs for four hours, covering the afternoon of 17 August which the President spent in the White House Map Room under questioning from Mr Starr's assistants. The President had spent the morning being briefed on planned missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan, a bizarre juxtaposition that cannot have helped his temper. He was also arguing with aides about the terms of a televised broadcast that evening to the American people on his misdeeds, a broadcast which at the time was deemed by many to be insufficiently contrite, and which indeed criticised Mr Starr.

The cable networks - CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel - plan to air all four hours, virtually unabridged. They were scrambling to decide on the precise arrangements yesterday. In particular, there may be scenes or words that they do not wish to air, and some may use a tape delay. The main networks - CBS, ABC and NBC - will show excerpts, but probably not all of the tapes. All are aware that the timing - the tapes will probably be released this morning - means that they will have little time to review all four hours before they air it.

The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives met yesterday to approve the release of the tape. There was strong resistance from the panel's Democrats, but they are in a minority. The Republicans say it is important people see how the President tried to evade questions, as part of an effort to show he is guilty of perjury.

It is not just the videotape that is at issue: there are 2,500 pages of appendices to the report as well as 17 boxes of other material - transcripts, videos and audiotapes. Some of it is dynamite, containing highly personal revelations by witnesses, and some of it may never be released.

The committee started off by claiming that it would be a bipartisan effort to decide whether to launch impeachment proceedings: that has very quickly come to grief, and things are now little better than a bar-room brawl. "They talk about wanting bipartisan co-operation but so far they have just been rolling over us," said Maxine Waters, a Democrat on the committee. "They have the votes and they can do that."

The possible consequences of recent events led the Congress to forge a unique agreement yesterday that neither party would use smears against the other in forthcoming elections. It followed revelations that Henry Hyde, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had been unfaithful to his wife more than 30 years ago - raising fears in both parties that the Clinton revelations would trip off a "sexual Armageddon", where every politician's dirty laundry was washed in public.

John Linder, chairman of the Republican campaign committee, and Martin Frost, his Democratic counterpart, agreed that neither organisation would fund candidates who use personal attacks.

"Initiating a personal attack on anybody running for office is simply off limits," said Mr Linder. "We are soon going to have no one of any stature willing to put themselves through this wringer, and it is sad for America."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss