Leading Article: A kiss is just a kiss...

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He smoked but he didn't inhale. Now it seems the President and Monica Lewinsky kissed but didn't have an "improper relationship". Although the White House denies it. The same White House whose spokesman said there was "nothing innocent or simple" about Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica. That spokesman, Mike McCurry, then said he must have been "out of his mind" and that he was "in the doghouse" as a result of what seemed like a welcome outbreak of straight speaking. But neither statement, it has been noticed, amounted to a denial.

It cannot be long now before the tissue of half-truths and leaks is stripped away and something resembling the truth is told. The American press have been forced on to the defensive by an aggressive campaign by the White House, but not a single thing reported so far has been shown to be untrue.

Maybe it should not matter what the President gets up to in Oval Office alcoves, but it has become part of a pattern of slipperiness from which Mr Clinton nearly escaped when he left the Arkansas governor's mansion, but against which he will now inevitably be judged.

He smoked but didn't inhale. They had a "physical relationship" but it wasn't sexual. He spoke but we couldn't hear. He is in office, but not in power.

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