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Public greets Starr report with weariness, distaste

Americans
  

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 12) -- As Americans digested the report of Independent Counsel Ken Starr Saturday, they were reacting with a mixture of distaste -- at both the details and President Bill Clinton -- and weariness over a scandal many of them want to see brought to an end.

At a parade in Poolesville, Maryland, Republican Rep. Connie Morrella got an earful from many of her constituents about Clinton.

One told the congresswoman, "Impeach, impeach," while another said, "What he has done is unforgivable in light of his particular position in this world and in light of what he did [and] where he did it."

But in another part of the state, her colleague, Democratic U.S. Rep. Albert Wynn, found his constituents decidedly more forgiving. Many were saying that what happened between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, while disappointing, was a private matter between the president and his wife.

"Most of my folks are firmly behind the president. People are disappointed. They don't approve of the president, but they believe that this is a personal matter," Wynn said. "They still like his policies and like the work he's done as president."

'We ought to be forgiving'

Americans respond to the Starr report:

" ... leave Bill Clinton alone ... "
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" ... unforgiveable ... "
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" ... no rush to judgement ... "
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" ... a sad situation ... "
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(124 K / 11 sec. audio)
" ... impact on his role as president ... "
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" ... not interested ... "
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" ... he lied ... "
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In the American heartland, at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, the Starr report came up in a debate between the two men seeking that state's governorship.

Though Democratic challenger Tom Sawyer called Clinton's behavior "immoral," he suggested that Congress rebuke Clinton's alleged lechery but stop short of impeachment.

"I think we ought to be forgiving. The president said he's sorry. I think we need to have a proper punishment -- maybe censure by the Congress -- and move on and deal with the problems facing this county," Sawyer said.

The incumbent, Republican Gov. Bill Graves, countered that "character does matter in the way you conduct yourself in public office."

But he, too, reflected the weariness that many Americans have been expressing over this scandal as it heads into its eighth month.

"We spend way too much time in politics ... playing political 'gotcha,' and we don't spend enough time focused on the problems and troubles of our country and of our state," Graves said.

'He just stood and lied'

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Along the State Fair's midway, many seemed unimpressed by the president's admission that he "sinned" but didn't perjure himself, or by his lawyers' contention that Starr was simply out to politically damage the president.

"I can't forgive him, because he lied," said Beverly Ann Hankins of Arkansas City, Kansas. "He just stood and lied."

But in New York City, many people, although repulsed by the president's behavior, still remained unconvinced it should cost him his job.

"On a personal level, what he's done is terrible. I don't want to condone it at all," said one man. "But does it have any impact on his role as president? At this point, I don't think it does."

"I think my constituents' view is very simple -- no rush to judgment, don't be hasty, don't do anything too quick," said U.S. Rep. Charles Schumer, a Brooklyn Democrat who is running for the Senate.

However, others worried that the scandal could affect America's international standing. "I think we're the laughingstock of the world," said one woman in New York.

Correspondents Jonathan Karl, Cynthia Tornquist and Charles Zewe contributed to this report.


Investigating the President

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Saturday September 12, 1998

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