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Panetta Says Clinton Should 'Go To The People'

Panetta

Ex-chief of staff says if charges are true, Gore should take over

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 country.

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," Panetta said.

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."

In Other News

Saturday Jan. 24, 1998

Clinton Supporters Say Lewinsky May Have Fantasized A Relationship
Panetta Says Clinton Should 'Go To The People'
White House Scandal At A Glance
Flowers: Not Surprised By Clinton Cover-Up Allegations





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