"I Misled People"
In apologizing, Clinton declares his family's pain a private affair. Is this just another clever evasion?
By Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
(TIME, August 31) -- When Chelsea Clinton was six years old, her parents used to make
her cry in hopes that they could make her tough. Dad was in the
middle of an especially ugly re-election fight, his enemies were
drawing blood, and so they all tried a game at the dinner table:
Chelsea would pretend that she was her father, making speeches
about why people should vote for her, and then he would attack
her, say really mean things, so she would learn to protect
herself. At first the exercises reduced the little girl to tears:
"Why would anybody say things like that?" But after a while,
Hillary later wrote, "she gradually gained mastery over her
emotions"; she came to understand people's dark motives; and,
finally, she would come back fighting, fully prepared to handle
the wicked lies that enemies might tell.
What would it take to prepare her, so many years later, for the
possibility that this time, the enemies were the ones telling the
truth? And what would it take to prepare us?
If we Americans watched and weighed Bill Clinton more closely
this week than we ever have, we may have been watching Hillary
even more carefully. Before the drama could play out in prime
time, it had to play out in private, and at times it felt as
though she invited us into her kitchen to role-play some more.
You think this has been hard to discuss with your children? she
would say. Imagine what we have had to say to our own. You hate
this coarse and vulgar story? You at least can turn off the TV;
you don't have to sleep with it.
Since last weekend, the Clinton circle has been betting that
Americans would take their cues from Hillary. They put out the
word that the First Lady did not know about her husband's
betrayal until late last week. By Saturday she had disappeared.
On Sunday morning she went to church with him. On Sunday night
she said a prayer for him. On Monday she lit a fire under him.
And on Tuesday, after her office issued a statement that
"clearly, this is not the best day in Mrs. Clinton's life," she
and her daughter took him by the hand and walked across the South
Lawn into the most interesting summer vacation we may never hear
But there was, of course, a crucial difference for us. Hillary
Clinton's decision about whether to believe him or not, forgive
him or not, was born of their life and her vows. We didn't marry
him; we hired him. She signed on for better or worse. We elected
him to make things better.
When he decided three weeks ago to testify before Kenneth
Starr's grand jury, Clinton was agreeing to make three of the
hardest speeches of his life: to his wife and daughter, to the
grand jury and to the rest of us. Before that was over, the
Commentariat would also need to be fed, to satisfy its hunger
for a story line with drama and pathos and a denouement, perhaps
a body or two, certainly some blood and guts. By last Sunday,
when the speech was nearly at hand and the predictions were
buzzing like cicadas over the capital, there came a moment when
private pain could even solve a political problem, and Clinton
could argue that he had already suffered enough and should be
released on probation with credit for time served.
In the days leading up to Monday's confession, the mystery of
what he would say to the nation was never as compelling as what
he would say to his wife. Clinton had apparently found it easier
to lie to 269 million Americans with Hillary at his side than to
sit her down and tell her the truth. There are people at the
heart of the White House who swear up and down that going into
this weekend, Hillary Clinton still did not know, really know,
the truth about Monica Lewinsky. Such ignorance in a very smart
woman, they argue, is born of a mix of decision and denial: an
unusual career--the brilliant Yale lawyer who gave up her work to
make her husband better at his--and an unusual marriage, in which
his serial infidelity was taken for granted by everyone except
Clinton took his first step on Wednesday night, Aug. 12, a sort
of out-of-town opening for the performances that would follow. He
tried out a lawyer's redacted version of a confession, not on
Hillary but on a friend whose reviews he could trust. He said the
relationship had begun during the 1995 government shutdown; it
strayed across the line, and it made him ashamed. What really
worried him, now that he had to face the grand jury, was how he
would prepare Hillary for the next four days.
That talk came the next night, Thursday, when Chelsea was out
with friends and her parents had some time to be alone. How it
went is the only thing that is sure to remain between Bill,
Hillary and their God.
Friday was an endurance contest. The New York Times brought the
curtain up with the news that Clinton might admit to a sexual
affair with Lewinsky. The fact that this had been assumed for two
weeks did not dilute the drama of the paper of record's stating
what he would do and how he would do it: the legalistic parsing
of definitions of sex that would let him admit to lying but deny
perjury--a nifty legal trick. As if that were not enough, some
observers suggested that the story had been leaked to give
Hillary the bad news that Clinton might not be able to deliver
himself. Hillary, her lawyers and just about every White House
official with a telephone would deny the report at least once
that day. And in the meantime, Hillary had her own surprise to
spring--an early birthday party for her husband on the South Lawn,
complete with spice cake and the Marine Band and everything short
of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.
Then the White House went dark. There's nothing so rare at the
Executive Mansion as a quiet Saturday, when people can relax and
Presidents actually get to play. But this was a whole new kind of
quiet--hollow and grim. Clinton was looking, simultaneously, at
the most dangerous prospect of his public life and the most
devastating chapter of his private one. He canceled his plans for
the weekend to prepare for his testimony; Hillary went into
seclusion. She virtually locked herself in a room upstairs,
forswearing visitors and talking to no one other than her mother
and other family. Chelsea was nowhere to be seen either.
White House officials later announced that Hillary had "learned"
over the weekend, which naturally raised the question of what
she had been thinking for the past seven months. Denial is a
wonderful thing; it can stretch to contain an awful lot of
evidence that looks hostile. A friend said her free fall had to
do with the fact that in many ways, the Clintons' marriage has
gone so well since they arrived at the White House six years
ago. Some marriages would blister under such hot lights, but
theirs flourished, partly because Bill was under what amounted
to house arrest. What trouble could he get into there, right
under her nose, not to mention the Secret Service's?
Not before Sunday morning would Hillary show any signs of where
she had landed. It's possible that hatred can be a comfort when
the alternative is grief. At least a part of her anger at her
husband was not about lying or treachery but about handing their
mortal enemy a weapon to use against them both. She had stood by
her husband when his character was in question, for dodging the
draft and whether he had inhaled, through Gennifer and Paula. But
prior to Ken Starr, her own morals had never been questioned.
It was Starr who had challenged her judgment, investigated her
law firm, friends and partners for four years. The Clintons have
always believed in a conspiracy to topple them--they did when they
were in Arkansas; they did when they ran for President; and they
have since they've gone to Washington. By Sunday morning, says a
friend, Hillary pulled on her boots and went to church. Then she
prepared to go to war. "She didn't want Ken Starr to kill her
husband," says the friend. "She wanted him alive so she could do
Whenever things go terribly wrong, it is always Hillary who leads
the way out of the wilderness. By Sunday afternoon she was
huddled with the lawyers, shaping the strategy. And though the
White House has carefully framed the entire scandal as one
immense invasion of privacy, by Sunday the First Family decided
to turn on the lights in the mansion so we could see the shadows
through the shades. In the middle of the most painful weekend of
her life, Hillary invited into her home for comfort the one
clergyman in America better known for his pulpit at CNN than at
the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side.
It was hard to know what to make of the family's late-night house
call by Jesse Jackson. Jackson has a way with people, and he
certainly seemed to have a way with Chelsea. He had been at the
White House to watch the Super Bowl back on the first horrible
weekend of scandal, and he and Chelsea got along great. It was
mainly for her that he was invited back last weekend, family
friends said, to help talk her out of her funk.
But if the Clintons know their Bible, and they do, they know that
Jesus made a point about prayers: the real ones are done in
secret, not on the street corner, to make an impression, but in a
closet, just you and your God. But that is not where Jackson
lives. He was actually live on CNN right up until he scooted off
to the White House around 10:30, entering through the side door.
He met Hillary on the second floor. She was dressed casually, in
some sort of warm-up suit, and she and Jackson and Chelsea
embraced. "We began to talk about one's faith and the storm,"
Jackson says. When Clinton came in, they greeted each other and
chatted, but the President went into the third-floor solarium for
a meeting with Harry Thomason, Clinton's old Arkansas friend,
making it clear he wanted Jackson to spend time in the family
quarters with Chelsea.
Then, Jackson says, he talked to Chelsea about Adam and Eve. "Of
course, at the age of 19 or 20, she knows about sex. She's seen
videos, watched television, listened to music. She knows what is
expected in marriage and knows what, in fact, happens." It was
when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, he explained, that all
the cover-ups started. "The moral here is, 'You should have
stopped talking to the snake in the first place.'" Later he
prayed with the family, and before he left, Chelsea said, "I love
Dad. I'll handle it." Both women, Jackson said, knew what they
had to do: Chelsea's "mission is to lift her dad up." And if
Hillary was, as he said, bruised and humiliated, she was also
standing by her man and holding to her vows and joining the legal
team for the first time in weeks.
Jackson held a press conference the next day and hit every
network, presenting the tableau that the drama had been missing:
the repentant father, the angry mother, the isolated daughter.
The story needed its cleansing ritual of contrition and penitence
and absolution. That was a high bar for Clinton to clear: a
coerced confession doesn't count as much as a voluntary one, but
he very deliberately chose not to give that back in January, when
there was still a chance the lies might work. Still, if Clinton's
sex life was his own business and not ours, then the subtext was
that it was up to Hillary and Chelsea to punish him, up to them
to forgive him. Whatever righteous indignation we may feel was
Hillary's to express; any crockery we feel like breaking was hers
to throw. And if she can put this behind her, the thinking goes,
surely we can too.
Not everyone bought it--not even the people inside. Some top aides
in the White House could not fathom the possibility that Hillary
did not know much more than the story line of the weekend
allowed. "That doesn't seem real to me," said one. "They have no
secrets," argued another. "They know each other. They know each
other backward and forward." She had to profess ignorance, in
this view, because the alternative to being a trusting sucker was
being a cold-blooded liar. A longtime Democratic official, who
has never been in Clinton's camp, watched the mopping-up
operation and marveled at the way the Clintons had used their own
misery, if that's what it was, to grow new arms and legs. "Do I
think she may have been hurt? That it was potentially a much more
graphic thing than she ever expected? That it questioned the
validity of their marriage? Sure. But they are working hard to
cast it not as a presidential issue but as a personal one. His
numbers will stay high as long as they isolate it to a sexual
family matter," he said. "That's what they are trying to do."
But since the damage clearly went beyond just the President's
immediate family, the circle of victims had to be widened; at
least that way Clinton could be seen as paying a price. By
Monday, White House reporters were being fed tales of the
President's other painful conversations. The word for the weekend
was "betrayal"; the scene was of the President taking his loyal
aides aside one by one and apologizing to them for what he had
put them through. This was essential, since his willful abuse of
the people around him was becoming a matter of public record.
There were career civil servants, secretaries, Secret Service
officers who do not have rich consulting fees in their futures,
just high legal bills, courtesy of their visits to the grand
Then there were Clinton's political aides, the ones who talked
while he did not, who became household names thanks to Larry King
and Charlie Rose, defending the President, insisting that he was
not being cute with language when he denied the affair, insisting
that this was taking so long because Starr was asking questions
he shouldn't, not because Clinton was simply refusing to answer
them. By telling the truth now, the President was about to make
liars out of them.
The story of betrayed aides' being treated to one-on-one
apologies continued to circulate through the weekend and all day
Monday. But within the White House there was a strange echo
chamber. The more the TV reporters spoke of his private
contrition to colleagues, the more bemused aides were rankled
about being out of the apology loop--until they called around and
found that there was no loop. It was hard to find anyone who had
talked to Clinton for more than about 30 seconds, and that time
was usually used, pre-emptively, to say, "Mr. President, we don't
have to have this conversation now."
It was really not until Tuesday, when the stories of these
painful presidential conversations had made the front pages, that
Clinton actually decided to have some of them. The Washington
Post would later report that aides drafted talking points for
colleagues on how to answer questions about their own reactions
to Clinton's deceptions. "Do you forgive him for misleading you
and the country?" read a sample question. The talking points
suggested the following answer: "It's been said that 'He who
cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass
himself.' Of course I do."
In the meantime, there was another audience to prepare for, and
that was the prosecutors. Starr had many more choices to make
about how Monday would go than Clinton did. It would have been
unwise for Clinton's lawyer David Kendall even to consider
allowing his client to answer direct, graphic questions about
his conduct with Lewinsky. The President had, after all, not
only denied having an affair with her in his Paula Jones
deposition; he couldn't remember ever having been alone with
her, an assertion that does not allow much room for elaboration.
So there was very little leeway for Clinton to change what he
intended to say to Starr.
That meant that what mattered was what Starr would ask. If the
White House held out an olive branch to the prosecutors, it
could hope that perhaps he would stand down a bit, not provoke a
constitutional crisis, focus on the most relevant questions
about obstruction of justice and subornation of perjury and not
press the graphic sexual material too far. White House aides
were quietly drawing reporters' attention to a hot scoop: "You
know, the story no one has written..." The White House, they
said, was backing off on Starr, hadn't attacked him for weeks.
And of course, if none of that worked, if Starr came in with
guns blazing, as every bit of his conduct to date suggested he
would, the White House had some cover for fighting back.
That was enough to give the commentators plenty to chew on
through the long wait on Monday. The day began with an NBC poll
showing Clinton's job approval at an all-time high, 70%. The
markets were happy too: the Dow jumped 150 points. The weather in
Washington was baffled, raining and shining and raining again
through air that defied you to breath it. On "Monica beach," the
50-yd. stretch of White House gravel where the TV reporters do
their stand-ups, 35 bright umbrellas sprouted like mushrooms, and
the pressroom was packed despite a complete absence of news.
Outside the White House, a man was arrested after he cut his
throat with a screwdriver in front of the mansion, shouting, "Why
do you care about Lewinsky? Bad things are happening in Iraq!"
For once in his life, Bill Clinton was early: he showed up for
his testimony at 12:59 and didn't even wait for the first
question before speaking. When he sat down in the White House Map
Room, with the grand jurors watching on closed-circuit TV and
Starr and his six prosecutors spread out before him, he had a
statement all prepared so he could tell his story before they had
a chance to ask. Yes, he had had an "inappropriate" relationship
with Monica Lewinsky. He had indeed been alone with her, but he
didn't really consider it alone, since stewards and assistants
were always hovering just outside the office, within earshot, as
he suggested during the Jones deposition. He presented a brief
history of the relationship and gave dates and places of their
On most issues the President's account of the affair generally
matched Lewinsky's. He admitted giving her the gifts--the hatpin,
the book of poems and a T shirt--that he had difficulty
remembering when Jones' lawyers asked about them back in January.
And he explained how the two had promised to keep the affair
secret, though he stressed that those discussions did not occur
after she was subpoenaed in the Jones case.
But when it came to talking about the actual sexual encounters,
the two stories went their separate ways. Just as the previews
promised, the President claimed that he did not commit perjury
back in January because under the definition of sexual relations
that the Jones lawyers put on the table that day, he did not
consider his behavior with Lewinsky to count as sex. During that
deposition seven months ago, a source familiar with his testimony
told TIME, "he construed things narrowly. He was accurate but not
helpful. That was his goal, and that's what he did. That's why he
That line of defense, of course, made the whole question of what
he did and didn't do with Lewinsky relevant, especially since by
her sworn account, what happened between them qualified under any
definition of sex. Lewinsky, sources close to her defense said,
had told the grand jury that Clinton fondled her breasts and
genitals--the kind of activity covered by the Jones definition of
sexual relations. Unless the President gave detailed testimony,
there was no way for prosecutors to reconcile the discrepancy.
But when the prosecutors tried then to ask the specific
questions, Clinton revolted, invoked his right to privacy, and
refused to answer. Discussing the sexual-relations definition
used in the Jones case, Clinton was asked about various
activities that might fit the definition--and the President said
oral sex did not make the cut. Yet he did not acknowledge
engaging in it with Lewinsky. Starr and his team huddled, came
back and proceeded to ask Clinton specific questions the
President had just ruled out of bounds. The prosecutors pushed
harder, drawing on the details they had from Lewinsky's
testimony. He refused to budge, trying to screen out what his
legal team described as questions of a "graphic and offensive"
nature. Clinton's team insists these were the only questions he
refused to answer--a strategy apparently aimed at making it appear
that any further pushing by Starr would be an effort to get into
the salacious details that no American would want to volunteer
and that the country doesn't want to hear anyway.
With prosecutors pressing for answers and Clinton balking, the
tone started out tense and got worse. Starr's team reminded
Clinton of his obligation to answer, implicitly threatening that
they could issue a new subpoena at any time. At one point,
Clinton told the grand jury members that they and Starr had done
their homework, but he was not going to change his story no
matter how long they asked. Starr himself asked a few questions,
but most of the grilling was left to his more seasoned deputies.
Nearly the entire session focused on the Lewinsky affair, with
questions also coming up about Kathleen Willey's allegation of
being groped in the Oval Office. When the agreed time of four
hours had elapsed, Starr asked to extend the session. The
The meeting broke up at 6:25, and attorney Kendall appeared
outside the diplomatic entrance to say there would indeed be a
speech that night. He then invoked the "four years, $40 million"
mantra against Starr. That was a sure sign that the olive branch
The last part of Clinton's triathlon was always supposed to be
the easiest; at the very least, he is usually a good talker.
Public opinion hadn't budged in seven months: we know you did
it, we like you anyway, please just make it go away. He never
had to offer much more than a simple explanation and a genuine
apology, and in the final days leading up, people competed to
lower the bar for him. Yet the greatest irony in a year of
ironies would be that the speech in which he had to admit he had
been lying went bad because, for once, he said what he honestly
No one even wanted to confirm that there would be a speech at
all, just in case things went too late or horribly wrong, or
Clinton just couldn't pull it off after wrestling with Starr.
Begala had begun working on a draft at home on Saturday. He
tapped away on Sunday on a White House computer, without knowing
anything about what the President was going to say under oath. He
knew that an important element of the speech would be to say
something about Hillary, but he had to leave that section blank
for Clinton to fill. Begala's version centered on the President's
own contrition, with no attack on Starr. Various friends sent in
suggestions. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason helped with the language.
The next morning, Clinton turned over his draft to Begala to hone
through the afternoon. After Clinton entered the Map Room to
begin his testimony, longtime adviser Mickey Kantor convened a
meeting in White House counsel Charles Ruff's office that
included Clinton's top political aides. At this point, the phrase
"legally accurate" as a way of describing a lie that does not
count as perjury had not yet entered the lexicon.
Clinton's proposed draft was circulated, and his advisers were
alarmed at the language and the fury he directed at Starr. Though
Starr is unpopular, if the polling had made anything clear at
all, it was that public forgiveness was conditioned on an
apology. To try to skip that step seemed an unnecessary risk: it
might cost Clinton a lot to say that he was a liar, but it would
only help to say he was sorry for it. Kantor, chairing the
meeting, was clear about where the boss stood. Everyone who was
trying to keep the President from going after Starr was wasting
Another meeting convened in the solarium about two hours before
the speech, and it was a contentious scene. Aides kept arguing
against an attack on Starr, and Clinton kept arguing back. Starr
is the only prosecutor who would have delved into his personal
life, he said, adding that not everyone in America knows this,
and this would be an opportunity to tell them. He said there was
an an anti-Starr group out there that would welcome his
criticism. The aides persisted. Hillary turned to her husband and
said, "It's your speech. You say what you want to say." Then she
left the room, and the arguments continued.
It is too soon to know whether, as the millennium approaches,
Monday night was the moment the Spin Decade ended. Clinton's
sharpest sword has always been his ability to persuade. And even
as the speech approached, it was hard to know whether to root for
or against the man from Hope, to wish that he might seize what
the office affords him in grace and redemption: to apologize and,
with just the right mix of candor and contrition, to make himself
new again. Or wish that he wouldn't.
After so much criticism of his promiscuous use of language,
Clinton made his basic points very directly. "It was wrong." "A
personal failure." His observation that even Presidents have
private lives was compelling and legitimate--most Americans agree
that what goes on in a President's bedroom is no one's business
but his. It skipped right past the problem that the conduct he
admitted to occurred not in his bedroom but off the Oval Office,
with a junior employee, an act disgraceful enough that any
manager in any other job would lose it.
But he was tripped up by his anger at Starr and the collapsing
weight of his own double-talk. He essentially did not say he was
sorry for what he had done; he was just sorry he got caught. The
reason he lied was to protect himself, protect his family
and--this was the biggest error of all--because the cops were after
him. And then he appealed for us to make it all go away.
The language also had that Clinton smell. Seven months of lies
and the famous finger wag somehow amounted only to an admission
that he "gave a false impression." As for defending answers as
"legally accurate," most people think something is accurate or it
is not. The idea of establishing some new zone of semitruth
immediately brings to mind another phrase, the one that still
haunts Al Gore: "no controlling legal authority." That too was
one supplied by lawyers. This may have been a necessary way of
avoiding admitting perjury, but the whole speech said the
opposite: I was lying then, I'm telling the truth now, but I
never perjured myself.
The speech played beautifully to an audience of one. But other
than Hillary, the instant reviews started out surprised and went
down from there. The polls were generally neutral, didn't move up
or down; but the editorial pages were blistering, and, more
important, the Democrats lifted scarcely a finger to rally round
their man. Democratic leaders on the Hill grew more incensed
after White House officials, acting on Kendall's guidance, called
Monday evening to report that the President's testimony had gone
In the postspeech recap, the commentators hit Clinton hard for
going after Starr and turning what was supposed to be a sacred
moment into a profane one. But a White House insider argued
otherwise: "It was a great piece of bait, and the Republicans
took it." Instead of focusing their fire on Clinton's lying or
misconduct in the Oval Office, he noted, they are using their
sound bites to defend the most unpopular man in America. That may
not pull Starr up much, and if the Democrats have any luck, it
may pull down the Republicans. And it certainly is a diversion.
Starr's team lost no time in signaling that it was not about to
back down because of a four-minute speech. On Tuesday morning the
independent counsel was back in his office by 5:30 and issued
another call for Lewinsky to testify. The plan is apparently
designed to test the President's latest testimony for perjury, by
contrasting her detailed story with the President's evasive
account. Far from receding in any way, the confrontation between
Starr and the President seemed to raise the stakes and send both
men back to their corners more ornery than ever.
Starr and his team still have the option of subpoenaing Clinton.
The President defied them, refusing to answer their questions
fully. "No prosecutor would accept that from an ordinary
witness," says John Barrett, a former Iran-contra prosecutor now
teaching at St. John's University School of Law in New York City.
"You'd get a subpoena the next day and ask specific, pointed
questions until you got answers, or you'd indict the guy." But
the Chief Executive plays by different rules.
Legally, Starr would almost certainly win a subpoena
fight--Clinton already conceded the grand jury's legitimacy by
testifying--though appeals could take months if the Supreme
Court chose to hear the case. The harder prediction was
political. Would the public blame Clinton for dragging out a
subpoena fight now that he's admitted sex and lies, or Starr for
continuing to hammer away on more Monica minutiae?
Starr's first steps after Monday showed awareness that restraint
gave him strength in a war of attrition. Instead of picking an
immediate subpoena fight with Clinton, he was apparently
weighing whether the smarter course might be just to finish up a
few remaining witnesses and send the House his report "of any
substantial and credible information...that may constitute
grounds for an impeachment." Along with other important
evidence, the transcript of Clinton's answers and evasions could
be included for the Judiciary Committee to make its judgments,
and could help Starr's case. But Clinton seemed to relish a
gallop to Congress, where those big approval ratings and the
thought of a promotion for Gore have the Republicans paralyzed.
By Tuesday morning, the First Lady's office, which never breathes
a word without permission, officially notified reporters that
"this is a time that she relies on her strong religious faith.
She's committed to her marriage and loves her husband and
daughter very much and believes in the President, and her love
for him is compassionate and steadfast. She clearly is
uncomfortable with her personal life being made so public but is
looking forward to going on vacation with her family and having
some family time together." With that, the Clintons were walking
hand in hand in hand to their helicopter, heading off to Martha's
Vineyard on a vacation that insiders said over and over was
likely to be awful.
On the plane, Clinton worked on the New York Times crossword
puzzle. At one point he sat back and smiled, bemused at 46 down,
a four-letter word for "meal for the humble?" "Well," he said,
"here's one that's appropriate for today." (Answer: crow.) When
the plane touched down, the crowds were waiting, eager and
therapeutic, waving handmade signs that called WELCOME BACK and
MV LOVES BILL. At the bottom of the steps to greet him with a
bear hug when Air Force One touched down in Edgartown, Mass., was
As they came into the crowds, Chelsea was, perhaps for the first
time since her public life began six years ago, on center stage.
She smiled with grace. She worked the rope line. She knelt and
talked to the children, a bright-eyed American echo of other
countries' princesses. No matter what designs lay behind those
pictures, what sympathy they were designed to generate, there
were some undeniable realities. The night before, she had had to
watch her father admit to something hideously painful. It may
not have been a surprise to her, but that makes it no less of a
tragedy. Her ability to come back and fight for him, to walk
with him and smile for him and throw herself before the cameras
aimed at him, was an act of generosity and love that speaks
better for Bill and Hillary Clinton than anything they could say
or do in whatever public life remains to them. The whole family
lingered, but the President had to pull Chelsea away when it was
time to go. All that role playing had taught her well.
--Reported by Margaret Carlson, J.F.O. McAllister, Karen
Tumulty, Michael Weisskopf/Washington, Julie Grace/Chicago and
Jay Branegan/Martha's Vineyard
--President Clinton admitted on
television to having an "inappropriate
relationship" with Monica Lewinsky
and misleading people about it. Are
you satisfied or unsatisfied with
what Clinton said?
--Did Clinton go far enough in
explaining his relationship with
Far enough 59%
Not far enough 35%
--Do you believe him when he
Didn't ask anyone to lie?
Didn't ask anyone to hide or
--Clinton said he regretted misleading
people, but did not explicitly say
he was sorry. Should he have used
the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize"
in his speech?
--Was it appropriate or not appropriate
for him to criticize Ken
--Should Clinton be impeached or
removed from office?
--Is Clinton's sexual relationship with
Lewinsky a private matter between him and
his family, or is it a legal matter to
be explored further in public?
--Which do you favor?
Ending the independent counsel's investigation
of the President's sexual behavior 58%
Continuing to investigate whether Clinton
lied under oath or covered up evidence 39%
--Do you approve or disapprove of the way
Clinton is handling his job as President?
--Regardless of how you feel about his
political views, do you
--Do you have a favorable impression of:
Bill Clinton 51%
Hillary Clinton 60%
Ken Starr 30%
Monica Lewinsky 15%
From a telephone poll of 1,042 adult Americans taken for
TIME/CNN Aug. 18 by Yankelovich Partners Inc. Sampling error is
+/-3.2% "Not sures" omitted.
WHAT HE SAID, AND WHAT IT REALLY MEANS
Clinton's "apology" contained classic examples of Billspeak--the
artful dodge, the pointed reference, the deniable implication.
Following are excerpts and interpretations:
As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions
about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers
were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information.
WHAT IT MEANS
The annoyingly Clintonian "legally accurate" bit prompted a
great national cringe: another "I didn't inhale." It indicates
he believes that if Monica performed oral sex on him, he didn't
technically have sex with her, at least according to the
definition of "sexual relations" used in the Paula Jones case.
I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter
gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my
WHAT IT MEANS
A weaselly way of saying "I lied," without the legal and moral
baggage carried by the actual words. Also, bringing Hillary into
the mix is a clear play for sympathy and privacy: Leave us alone
to mend our marriage; it's not your business.
In addition, I had real and serious concerns about an
independent-counsel investigation that began with private
business dealings 20 years ago, dealings, I might add, about
which an independent federal agency found no evidence of any
wrongdoing by me or my wife over two years ago.
WHAT IT MEANS
"I hate Kenneth Starr with every fiber of my being." But Clinton
also has a good point: it seems Starr hasn't been able to dig up
anything specifically about him on Whitewater, which started
this whole mess and which has always been too confusing to rile