Clinton: Republicans should apologise over Monica

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The Independent US

Bill Clinton may so far have been the dog that is not allowed to bark on the presidential campaign trail - but back in Washington and in the pages of the glossy magazines he is lambasting the Republicans more vigorously than ever.

Bill Clinton may so far have been the dog that is not allowed to bark on the presidential campaign trail - but back in Washington and in the pages of the glossy magazines he is lambasting the Republicans more vigorously than ever.

In an interview in the latest issue of Esquire magazine, the President said that, unlike himself, the Republicans had never apologised for their role in turning the Monica Lewinsky affair into the national trauma of impeachment hearings.

"While I've apologised to the people, the Republicans never have," Mr Clinton said in a first salvo of his own campaign to rehabilitate his reputation. "What they did was about politics and power, not about what people care about, but they've never apologised for all these things they've done."

As those words appeared, Mr Clinton locked horns with the Republican-controlled Congress by threatening to veto a $240bn package of tax cuts. Ostensibly the reason is disagreement over several education and healthcare provisions in the measure. But the President also wants to bolster his own party's case that this is a paralysed "do-nothing" Congress, as the Democrats bid to win the seven additional seats they need in order to recapture the House of Representatives.

None of this, however, solves Vice-President Al Gore's dilemma of how to use the talents of the best American campaigner in modern times while not allowing himself to be overshadowed - and not reminding undecided swing voters of the personal sleaze and scandal of the Clinton White House.

Mr Gore's advisers now seem prepared to permit Mr Clinton to make specific pitches to the traditional Democratic voters - blacks and Hispanics in particular - but little more. The President is expected to travel to California, and yesterday he held a conference call with black religious leaders, advising them how to get out the vote in states where a small boost to the tally may be crucial to the outcome of the election.

This is especially important in places such as Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Even so, the effect of these votes may be less than in past elections, as George W Bush, with his message of "compassionate conservatism," has not come across as the sort of threatening, adversarial figure who drives his opponents to the polls.

Two things, however, are certain: Mr Clinton will not appear at the same meeting as his Vice-President, nor will he be unleashed into white suburban areas where fresh reminders of the Lewinsky saga will only play into the hands of the Republicans.

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