Hillary Clinton concedes 'missteps'

WASHINGTON - Breaking her silence over the allegations arising from the Whitewater affair, Hillary Clinton this weekend conceded that there had been 'missteps along the way' and that she had misjudged how others would respond to it, writes David Usborne.

The First Lady, widely cast as the villain in the putative scandal, made these first hints at regret in separate interviews with both Time and Newsweek magazines. She blamed the media for getting carried away with the story, which centres on an obscure land deal in Arkansas, called Whitewater, and its links with a failed savings bank, Madison Guaranty.

'Clearly there were lots of missteps along the way. I'd be the first to say that,' she told Newsweek. 'I never would have participated in the investment in the first place.'

Suspicions have centred on Mrs Clinton both because she looked after the family finances when the President was governor in Arkansas during the period under investigation but also because, as a Little Rock lawyer, she represented the Madison bank that eventually collapsed with massive debts.

She had been famously reluctant to surrender records relating to Whitewater, or publicly to defend herself. 'I get my back up every so often,' when the family's private affairs are demanded for public inspection, she told Newsweek. 'If you choose to run for public office you give up any zone of privacy at all.'

James McDougal, the Clintons' partner in the Whitewater scheme and former owner of Madison, offered yesterday to take a polygraph test on live national television to deny all knowledge of wrong-doing by the President.

In new polls, published yesterday, Mrs Clinton's standing has started to erode, with her unfavourable rating at 42 per cent.

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