By Elizabeth Weinstein/Dora Slaba/Annie Hillar
Prague, 31 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press today discusses how the American people are responding to a White House sex scandal. Editorials say that U.S. President Bill Clinton's strong showing in opinion polls could be precarious depending on his grand jury testimony next month. Commentators say Clinton's famous media savvy will have to be better than ever.
Meanwhile, the investigations into drug use by cyclists in the Tour de France also receives widespread attention. Opinion writers question whether the use of performance-enhancing drugs is ruining the "purity" of international sport.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The public has grown weary of the Clinton sex scandal
An editorial in The Arizona Republic calls U.S. President Bill Clinton an "accomplished performer before the camera." The paper says that so far, the American public has forgiven Clinton in the face of Monica Lewinsky's allegations that she had sex with Clinton. But the paper says forgiveness has its limits.
The Arizona Republic says: "The public has had its fill of this sordid chapter, in between being titillated and repulsed as each episode has been reported. Clinton's charm and a booming economy have served as a buffer against a concerted public outcry, but even his most ardent supporters have grown weary and impatient with a man who seems perfectly incapable of telling the truth."
It continues: "Will Clinton come clean and tell the truth in a few weeks? Given his powers of persuasion, Clinton could go before the country today, tomorrow, and confess to having a sexual relationship with that woman," and many would likely forgive and move on.
The Arizona Republic concludes: "Clinton has an opportunity, yet one more time, to be open with the American public and tell the truth. Judging from an increasingly weary public, that door is closing."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Clinton forced into a risky defense strategy
An opinion by Stefan Kornelius in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung says Clinton will spend the time before his grand jury testimony "intensively reading the newspapers." Kornelius says public scrutiny may be just as damaging to Clinton as Lewinsky herself.
He writes: "The president depends more than ever before on the support of the silent majority in the United States who want to see him escape from the masterly trap set by Kenneth Starr. If Clinton had refused, mistrust would surely have grown with Americans asking themselves if he really does have something to hide. And, on the wider issue, if he lied to the people."
Kornelius says Clinton will have to balance personal scandals and presidential duties delicately. He writes: "Clinton is in an awkward situation. Any reasonable defense counsel would advise his or her client to remain tight-lipped - even if innocent. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution after all."
"But Clinton cannot stick to this rule for political reasons. While he is not on trial, he is under the steady gaze of a judgment-happy public. Without the public's sympathy a president cannot rule easily, especially if he forces his policies through a majority opposition in Congress. So he has been forced into a possibly suicidal defense strategy."
WASHINGTON POST: Presidents private behavior has public consequences
An opinion piece by E.J. Dionne Jr. in today's Washington Post laments that the scandal's "biggest casualty" is the "promise the Clinton presidency once held." Dionne says Clinton will have to show he can still do his job as the probe into his personal life deepens.
Dionne writes: "Clinton began the year with a chance to make that case. But six months have been squandered and cannot be recouped. It's not clear how Clinton can restore his authority to lead the effort he began."
"Yes, you can blame that in part on the president's enemies. But at the very least the president fell into the trap they set. For that he is responsible. In our age especially, the private behavior of presidents has, ineluctably, public consequences."
COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE: President must sacrifice private life
In the current issue of Commonwealth magazine, Rutgers University professor Wilson Carey McWilliams reminds readers that the price of holding as powerful a responsibility as the American presidency may be the president's willingness to sacrifice his or her private self while in office.
He writes: "Perhaps that's too austere a standard. But whatever it takes --from future presidents and from their enemies-- the country should never have to go through something like this again."
IRISH TIMES: Scandal will affect Clintons image abroad
An editorial in The Irish Times today says the scandal will affect Clinton's ability to handle business abroad. The Irish Times says: "If Mr. Clinton is badly weakened by this affair, the prospects of handling effectively such issues as the Asian economic crisis, the transition to the Euro, relations with China and Russia, the Middle East peace process --not to mention the one in Northern Ireland-- would be affected. It is very much to be hoped, therefore, that this business can be swiftly and clearly resolved by the due legal process that is now in train."
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Lying is the rule of Clintons presidency
Today's Wall Street Journal Europe carries an editorial which cites past scandals in Clinton's travel office, his former law firm and the Whitewater land deals which lead to jail time for three of Clinton's former business associates. It says lying is the rule, not the exception, of Clinton's presidency.
The Wall Street Journal says: "This has been a story about lying as a philosophy of life and a philosophy of government. Monica Lewinsky is but one character in the cast attached to the personal and political tragedy of this presidency."
The Journal concludes: "Preceded by a great number of adults who in the orbit of the nation's highest office acted with less honor than Monica Lewinsky, this young woman, with her immunity and under oath, will presumably speak the truth. If so, she will speak for many."
Other press commentary today focuses on the scandal over the alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs by cyclists in Tour de France. Today, Dutch team TVM pulled out of the race in connection with the controversy, reducing the original 21-team field to just 14 teams. Opinions differ over whether some drugs should be allowed in international sporting events.
LIBERATION: Tour de France cyclists angry about searches, not drug use
An opinion piece by Gerard Dupuy in France's Liberation today says cyclists are caught between a quiet professional trait of the past and the anti-drug sentiments of the present.
Dupuy says cyclists "are much more indignant about the police searches than the doping, as if the real problem were the constant bother of the judicial investigations rather than the existence of the common but secret practice of taking performance enhancers."
Dupuy concludes: "The rebellion of the racers doesn't hide their desire for conservation, their nostalgia for a code of silence that permitted doping to become a cultural trait of professional cycling, and in particular, to become a tacit social establishment for the participants of the Tour de France."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Olympic Committee president wrong to shorten prohibited substances list
German newspapers focus heavily on the drug allegations against cyclists. An opinion piece by Hans-Joachim Waldbroel in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch was wrong to say that the list of prohibited substances in sports should be shortened.
Waldbroel writes: "Antonio Samaranch has typically called for a radical reduction of the list of forbidden drugs. Only those dangerous to health are to be banned and no longer those that affect performance."
"Samaranch, by making light of the matter, has turned upside down his right to leadership of the Olympic movement that represents the top-most rule of law. And he has put the words into the mouth of every fatalist, who, when it does not suit him, demands the tolerance for doping."
Waldroel continues: "Children and up-and-coming athletes either will be drawn into the doping racket or will be deterred from top sport by responsible parents. Apart from this, one should not forget the principles of fair play and equal chances for all. If doping is tolerated, then everyone will be forced to join in - or will be forced to the sidelines as competitors without a future."
EL PAIS: All of the Tour has come under suspicion
Finally, an editorial in Spain's El Pais questions how far the issue of drug use should be taken in international sport. It asks who is to blame.
El Pais says: "The judicial investigation, along with the astonishment that it produces, follows the logic of the facts. The fact is that the judges have demonstrated the practice of doping on the team is generalized. But they also reveal that it wasn't exclusively the cycling team. The deeds follow a tangled web: directors, then medics, then runners, then ex-cyclists... The confessions are each adding more to the number of implicated people and suspects, until all of the Tour is under suspicion.
It concludes; "The question now, with the tour in such bad shape, is whether it is necessary to criminalize doping, to convert athletes into assumed drug addicts and their technical support into drug traffickers."