Panetta Says Clinton Should 'Go To The People'
Ex-chief of staff says if charges are true, Gore should
CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. (AllPolitics, Jan. 24) -- Leon
Panetta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, said
Clinton should "go to the people" soon to answer questions
about his relationship with former White House intern Monica
Lewinsky. And if the charges are true, Panetta said, Clinton
should step aside to let Vice President Al Gore lead the
Panetta, who is considering a run for governor in
California, made the comments in an interview published today
by the San Jose Mercury News.
"This thing has got to be resolved quickly," Panetta
said. "I'm one of those who believe that when faced with
this kind of issue, the president has to go to the people."
Clinton aides have said it is unlikely the president
would hold a news conference or interview to discuss the
allegations until after Tuesday's State of the Union address.
Panetta disagreed with that decision.
"He should do it before the end of the State of the
Union," Panetta said. "If he doesn't, people will continue to
raise more questions. You can't sidestep an issue this big
in terms of seriousness."
Panetta warned Clinton could face impeachment.
"This is not going to go away ... " he said. "You're dealing
with a Congress that is likely to move against him in the
Judiciary Committee. And unless he's got a clear resolution
of this matter, Congress itself is going to be paralyzed."
The scandal also threatens the Democratic Party, he said.
"If these are baseless charges, it'll be OK. On the other
hand, if there's something there, and it leads to him having
to step out of office, it may be time to do some repair work
and that may not have the consequences you would expect,"
If the charges are true, Panetta said, it would be better for
the Democratic Party "if Gore became president and you had a
new message and new individual up there. The worst scenario
is if there's substance to it and it drags on."