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Newspapers Speak Out About Clinton

September 13, 1998 GMT

Editorials calling for President Clinton to resign appeared in weekend editions of newspapers in some big cities and small towns. Others called on Congress to carefully weigh the evidence before reaching a conclusion.

In the president’s home state, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock said:

``The copy of the Starr report in today’s edition ought to come with some mouthwash to get rid of the taste _ though nothing could. It is not a pleasant duty to deliver the news when it’s the kind that once could safely be left to the supermarket tabs. ... Congress is now to decide whether all this lowness amounts to high crimes and misdemeanors. Only then will we put this behind us. As mom used to say when she gave us the castor oil that no amount of orange juice could disguise: ``Here. You’ll feel a lot better soon.″

Excerpts from editorials in Saturday and Sunday editions of other newspapers:

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The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Bill Clinton should resign.

He should resign because his repeated, reckless deceits have dishonored his presidency beyond repair.

He should resign because the impeachment anguish that his lies have invited will paralyze his administration, at a time when an anxious world looks to the White House for surefooted leadership. ...

He should resign because that is his best hope to preserve shards of sympathy and respect from the verdict of history, to which he has devoted so much self-absorbed worry.

He should resign because that is the best hope for sorely needed national catharsis.

He should resign because it is the honorable thing.

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San Francisco Examiner:

He’s a liar. He’s an unfaithful husband. He’s tarnished the White House. And he’s the president of the United States. For the moment at least.

He’s also a world class actor who admitted the truth only when he found his lies no longer worked.

So what else is new?

Voters knew most of the worst about Bill Clinton when they elected, and re-elected, him president. A few historical notes testifying to Clinton’s lack of veracity: Gennifer Flowers, the draft, ``Don’t ask; don’t tell.″ ...

What’s good for Bill Clinton no longer counts: He abused our trust and ripped to tatters our faith in him. As far as we’re concerned, he can swing in the wind. The institution of the presidency deserves better than to be held hostage to Clinton’s fate, happy or sad.

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Daily News of New York:

The task before Congress and all Americans is fundamental to our nation and to its government. It cannot be jeopardized by raw emotion or salacious allegation. ... The challenge for Congress is clear: to weigh both sides in a process that is not only fair, but appears fair. ... The American public must reserve judgment. As in ordinary trials, the prosecution goes first, the defense follows. Only then is the verdict rendered.

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The New York Times:

Whatever the outcome of the resignation and the impeachment debates, the independent counsel report by Mr. Starr is devastating in one respect, and its historic mark will be permanent. A president who had hoped to be remembered for the grandeur of his social legislation will instead be remembered for the tawdriness of his tastes and conduct and for the disrespect with which he treated a dwelling that is a revered symbol of presidential dignity. ...

This page has long held a similar view of the sanctity of law, but we grant that the magnitude, complexity and, yes, the oddness of this case require deep deliberation.

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The Cincinnati Enquirer:

Thanks to a historic vote by Congress yesterday, all of America has a front-row seat to view the evidence and judge President Clinton for ourselves, based on solid evidence, not steamy conjecture.

Some of the report is shocking and explicit. But Mr. Clinton made such sickening details unavoidable by insisting his dishonest denials of sexual contact were ``legally accurate.″

Mr. Clinton has had his chance to tell his side from the most powerful pulpit in the land. He chose to lie instead. Now it’s time to hear the bitter truth.

Congress has given the nation a chance to see what the Starr report has gathered and judge the President _ not by rumors, fragments and unconfirmed leaks, but from a primary-source document of history.

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San Francisco Chronicle:

It should be clear that the independent counsel’s findings _ however excruciating _ are still only allegations that must now be vetted by the House of Representatives. ...

In coming days, Congress and the American people will hear the case against Clinton as well as his defense. It is imperative that the president gets a fair hearing and receives every benefit of the doubt.

But when all the evidence has been heard, the nation will be faced with a fundamental question: Is Bill Clinton fit to be president of the United States?

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The Daily Dispatch of Douglas, Ariz.:

We believe the time has come for President Clinton to resign for the good of the country. ...

Mr. Clinton is a philanderer and a liar. He has contributed to an unfortunate perception that all politics is sleaze. It is not so, and must not be allowed to be so.

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The Tennessean of Nashville:

Clearly, the issues believed to be included in the report involve serious rules of law. Congress must make its decisions not just on information in the report but be mindful of the context of its broad responsibility under the Constitution.

The release of the Starr report, as the investigation itself, is an historic moment for the nation. The way Congress handles the information and the way the American people react will say much to the world about this nation, its regard for the constitutional process and its character.

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The Reporter of Lebanon, Ind.:

President Bill Clinton should resign.

It is too late for the president to make amends for his outrageous conduct with apologies. Those apologies should have come months ago, when it first became evident that he was embroiled in a tawdry affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter. ...

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Chronicle-Tribune of Marion, Ind.:

Clinton, like Nixon a generation ago, should realize the position he has put his country in. He should realize that the country and the office he holds have been distracted and damaged enough.

He should resign.

And if he does not, Congress has the duty to proceed, calmly and rationally, with the impeachment and trial process.

Clinton can be forgiven for his indiscretions, and he should be. But he must also suffer the consequences of his actions. The country already has.

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Detroit Free Press:

``There was a time not too long ago when the Bill Clinton story was truly an inspiration _ a dirt-poor kid in Big Boy jeans from a place called Hope who fulfilled an improbable dream to become president of the United States.

Now he is truly an embarrassment _ a powerful man who cheated on his wife with an employee less than half his age, and got caught lying about it. ...

Now, Clinton should resign and go home to Arkansas, although that is completely out of character. While we have supported many of his policies, we cannot say we would be devastated, since his effective days are well past gone and his judgment and veracity will be forever suspect.

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The Deseret News of Salt Lake City:

The deliberations occupying the House at the moment can hardly be considered a constitutional crisis, as some are saying. They are instead an example of the Constitution at work. They are necessitated by the Constitution.

President Clinton has asked for forgiveness, and he ought to be granted that request freely by each American. But Congress must decide whether his mistakes have piled up enough consequences to disqualify him from holding office and those are two completely separate considerations.

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The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.:

Seeking forgiveness is a virtue, and the president’s mea culpa is welcome, even if it has come late, and after some pointed criticism of his earlier speech even from loyal allies. The American people are inclined to forgive, and the president deserves the same compassion that anyone else truly repentant would deserve. ...

The presidency will survive this trauma. Bill Clinton’s tenure may or may not. But the gravity of even considering the removal of a president through impeachment, or his resignation because of circumstances that render him ineffective, is simply incalculable. That’s why the next weeks must be as painstaking as they will be painful.

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The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer:

Bill Clinton has terribly, perhaps irreparably, damaged his presidency. His sordid affair with a White House intern, his disregard for the consequences of his actions, his months of lying to his family, his staff and the nation _ those actions are inexcusable. ...

The nation is not endangered by having Bill Clinton in the White House. Our economy is not collapsing, we’re not under attack, there’s no threat of a coup. Surely the worst that can be said of him has been said. ...

There is ample time for Congress to consider Mr. Starr’s report and to receive a detailed reply from Mr. Clinton, and then decide what course to pursue.

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Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser:

President Bill Clinton should resign from office. It remains to be seen whether he will face impeachment, but even if he survives he will be so sorely wounded that any hope of being effective as president will have vanished. ...

In many other nations, when a political leader has acted in a manner that brings shame to his or her administration or to the nation, it is a tradition that the leader will step aside.

President Clinton should do the same.

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The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee:

There is shame, specifically, for a president exposed as self-indulgent, duplicitous and deceitful _ a man whose appetites appear to have ruled his reason and led him to lies and behavior that have forever cheapened Bill Clinton and diminished the office to which he was twice elected.

There was shame, as well, over a special prosecutor who delivered a salacious report that seemed to delight in providing details of sexual encounters between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. And there is also the shameful judgment of members of Congress who released the material before they had seen it themselves. ...

Despite his admissions, Clinton surely is entitled to something like due process in this proceeding. More important, so is the country. A democratic nation should not reverse the electoral judgment of the people except through a deliberative constitutional process. The right judgment cannot and certainly should not be rendered in the hyperventilated tones of Friday’s disclosures.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The American people have been doomed to a guided tour of hell, exposed against their wishes to the details of a particularly seamy presidential scandal.

Only one person can spare us further heartache. By resigning, President Clinton would be surrendering the office he worked his entire life to achieve and would hand his enemies the victory they have long sought. No one as proud and stubborn as the president could take such a step easily.

Yet, by making that sacrifice, Clinton would save the nation from a protracted trauma that will otherwise cripple the presidency and Congress and still further discredit a political system already held in low esteem. A president more concerned with the national interest than his own preservation would realize that resignation is his only responsible option.

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Sunday Freeman of Kingston, N.Y.:

Clinton will be doing his nation a favor if he resigns. In Watergate, it was `What did the president know and when did he know it?′ In this affair, it’s `What did the American people know about the president and when did it matter?′ ... It matters now. A public office is a public trust, be it the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, or the highest office in our land. The president has lost our trust.

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The Seattle Times:

Having grudgingly faced the truth of his misconduct, Bill Clinton must now face his duty and resign. ...

He lied to the country. He lied to members of his cabinet and let them continue the falsehoods for his personal benefit. He used other officials and spent tax dollars to stonewall, delay, deny. He took the lie into American homes, into Congress and to the U.S. Supreme Court where, pushing a bogus argument for presidential privilege, he forced the Secret Service to take a legal bullet.

It’s not about sex. It’s about misconduct and abuse of his high office. ...

The allegations are credible, but enough damning facts were known before Starr’s report to conclude that Clinton, by his own belated admission, has dishonored the presidency and destroyed his moral authority.

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Tulsa (Okla.) World:

It is a shame that a president can be driven to resign over matters that, offensive as they are, might or might not amount to impeachable offenses. It is a shame that the country has allowed a situation to develop in which a special prosecutor can target a president and more or less stalk him in search of sin.

But Bill Clinton has no one to blame in this matter but Bill Clinton. His own appetites and recklessness have ruined his presidency. Even if the Lewinsky matter were dropped today, Clinton could not regain the moral stature to lead the nation in days of domestic turbulence and foreign dangers. ...

Resignation is the only step the president can take to validate his repentance and bring reconciliation with the nation.

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Saint Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press:

There must be no rush to judgment, in Congress or the nation at large, as to whether Clinton’s misdeeds require his removal from office. The president’s defenses against these charges must be heard in full and with open minds.

But the allegations against Clinton are grave. Lawmakers face a clear duty to determine whether the president has so thoroughly and clearly betrayed his oath of office that his credibility here and abroad is devastated and his presidency must end.

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The Miami Herald:

Call it revolting or merely shameful, it isn’t the sexual activity, per se, that has so ensnared the president. It’s his subsequent actions. ...

Once, presidents were judged primarily in the arena of their official duties. Today, with an omnipresent media and shifting mores, good private behavior is as much a part of public duty as is political acumen. To find where that fault-line now lies, Congress and the public must show the calm dispassion that, thus far, neither Mr. Clinton nor Mr. Starr has been able to muster.

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The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La.:

Just as Congress must carefully weigh the information provided by Starr and make an informed judgment about the behavior of President Clinton, so too must the American public make an informed decision about Clinton’s conduct. ...

By providing the American people with information they need to make an informed judgment, the House has performed a service. That’s the American way, and speaks well for the strength of our form of government.

And lest someone forget, that government is still perking along quite nicely, even with an embattled, morally challenged president, and dealing with the day-to-day foreign and domestic issues so important to the whole world.

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The Dallas Morning News:

Many Americans have waited to hear more than angry words from their president. His address Friday also represents his first substantial acknowledgment of the moral context of the horrid situation in which he has placed the country. ...

Skepticism hung heavy around the president’s Friday speech. The Clinton White House spins, polls and counterattacks better than any modern White House. Was the president’s confessional simply a preemptive strike? ...

The House of Representatives should not concern itself, though, with White House motives or the president’s heart. The House Judiciary Committee must instead proceed deliberately and prudently in pursuing the grave legal task it has inherited.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The removal from office of the nation’s highest executive is not something that should be done in haste, out of a desire to gain political advantage, out of fear of political loss or in a burst of righteous indignation.

It should be done only if the facts unambiguously warrant such extreme action. The special prosecutor and his staff believe they have amassed enough evidence to that effect to justify the initiating of impeachment proceedings. The House Judiciary Committee will determine if that is so. We believe the committee will elevate itself above partisanship and make that determination objectively.

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The Kansas City Star:

Under the Constitution, politicians in the House of Representatives will have no alternative but to determine if the offenses alleged in Starr’s report merit removing the president from office. The standard that has to be met now is a political one, not a purely legal one like that which might have prevailed in an O.J. Simpson-type circus. ...

It’s our view that it is highly likely that readers who see the weight of the evidence against the president will reject the legalistic dodges that the Clinton defense team has tossed out.

If that happens, massive public revulsion toward the president’s unconscionable behavior and his subsequent groveling must be balanced against the enormity of removing a twice-elected president from office. That should not be done lightly. ...

The president has abused the public trust and cannot be permitted to escape without appropriate penalty. Congress should act swiftly to determine what that penalty should be.

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Tampa (Fla.) Tribune:

The president of the United States has become a laughingstock, and if he has concern for either his country or his esteemed office, he will cut short the painful impeachment process and promptly resign. ...

In his recent betrayal of the trust of his own supporters, this president has managed to tarnish even his own dull reputation. It is a measure of his blind arrogance that he tries to reassure us that he can still govern effectively. ...

We believe the president when he says he’s sorry. He’s sorry that he can no longer stall, sorry that the independent prosecutor found so much to investigate, sorry that a young woman who worked for him talked too much and saved certain evidence, sorry that sending his Cabinet members out to lie for him backfired, ... sorry that he can think of nothing glib to say to set things right _ and very, very sorry that he got caught.

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Bradenton (Fla.) Herald:

We must deal with the constitutional crisis that Clinton’s dishonesty and apparent sexual addiction have brought upon the country. The best way to do that is by honoring the system set up by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. ...

As Clinton’s lawyers quickly pointed out Friday after the Starr report’s release, the document represents prosecutors’ conclusions only. The president deserves and will have a chance to present his side in the impeachment proceedings that lie ahead. ...

Until both sides are heard and all of the evidence is weighed, it is premature to judge the president guilty of the charges or to discuss resignation. The process should go forward promptly, with deliberate speed but not undue haste.

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The News-Journal of Daytona Beach, Fla.:

It would be mockery of justice in any legal proceeding if a jury were to give a verdict the moment the prosecutor finishes his first summary of evidence. Yet that is what happened Friday. Senators, representatives and commentators seem divided only on whether the president should resign now or be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate.

That’s premature. It demonstrates a heedless and antidemocratic willingness to nullify an election by the people. ...

No matter how tawdry this president’s behavior, we owe it to every future president that he not be prematurely rushed from office on legally insufficient grounds.

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Chicago Tribune:

Turning one’s head and covering one’s ears may be acceptable for children but not for adults in a democratic republic. Not for citizens when our elected representatives must make one of the gravest decisions that they are charged with: whether to set aside the results of a popular election and remove from office the president of the United States. ...

Over the coming days and weeks, members of the House of Representatives will decide whether his offenses rise to the high threshold required for impeachment. They will be looking to the facts, as rendered in the Starr report and the Clinton rebuttal. But they’ll also be looking to their constituents, because this is, ultimately, a political decision.

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Albuquerque Journal:

The (Starr) report makes clear that the concealment started as the mutual resolve to be discreet, which is an integral element of any marital infidelity. Other than the sleazy details, made more prurient by the dry investigative legal prose, the finished product offers little beyond the sum of the leaks to date. ... And, conspicuous by its absence is any suggestion of any transgression, impeachable or otherwise, committed in Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, the Vince Foster case, or any of the other more substantial allegations Starr pursued over the course of his $40 million probe.

If the U.S. economy falters during a prolonged paralysis caused by the impeachment question, it is likely the Lewinsky affair probe will share in the blame. Democrats and Republicans alike could find themselves standing in November before voters who fear that the good days are gone and the lawmakers responsible are the incumbents.

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Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader:

It’s tempting to want President Clinton to just go away. We don’t want to wallow in the Starr report’s lurid details, have Congress preoccupied with it or to allow this scandal to become even more of an international joke. And no more apologies, please. It’s unlikely Clinton could get more self-flogging than he did at Friday’s White House prayer service.

But do those boxes of documents unloaded in funereal decorum at the Capitol contain any bombshells or even anything we hadn’t already heard or surmised through a long summer of leaks? Apparently not. ...

At some point _ perhaps soon _ his problems may render him incapable of governing. But until then, this country has embarked on an orderly Constitutional process that should be allowed to work. Clinton, after all, was elected to the presidency twice.

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The (Baltimore) Sun:

Kenneth Starr’s much-anticipated report tells, with more salacious detail, what the American people already knew. It confirms that the leaks were accurate while many of the rumors were not. The nation is embarrassed, President Clinton is diminished. But at first reading, the test of impeachable crimes is not met. ...

The investigation weakened the nation without approaching grounds for impeachment. It contains nothing that was not generally known when the American people told pollsters that they wanted all this to go away.