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Western Press Review: All Of Washington Has Been Transformed

By Don Hill/Dora Slaba/Annie Hillar

Prague, 10 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- "Finally it arrived." Writer Mary Leonard began with those words her analysis yesterday of the delivery to Congress by independent counsel Kenneth Starr his report on alleged misbehavior in office by U.S. President Bill Clinton. There was little doubt that any U.S. reader would fail to know what "it" made reference to. The Clinton affair dominated virtually every newspaper in the United States.

L'EXPRESS: Prosecutor Starr is behaving with an assurance bordering on scorn

It also drew a smattering of comment in the European press, even though Starr's unexpected action came too late for many newspapers on the continent. The Swiss French-language daily L'Express says editorially today that Bill Clinton's wounds appear mortal.

L'Express said: "The unease at the White House is growing because the Democrats, who are supposed to support the president, are not hiding their disappointment. Certain ones, and not the least powerful, have put themselves squarely in the accusers' camp."

The editorial concluded: "For the moment, prosecutor Starr is behaving with an assurance bordering on scorn. Witness his refusal to send beforehand to the White House a copy of his report destined for Congress. From now on, and whatever the decision of the American Congress, the authority of the President seems to have been dealt an irreparable blow."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: The President has truly brought this upon himself

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung editorializes today that the U.S president is severely weakened, whether or not he is impeached. The German daily goes on: "In his election campaigns, Clinton promised he would lead America into the new millennium. (But now) only little is left of Clinton's erstwhile vigor and optimism, and even less is tangible. He has not been shredded to pieces by the opposition, he has not been checkmated by powerful extraneous circumstances. Where and how he stands today he has truly brought upon himself, by his big and small weaknesses, and above all his fundamental misunderstanding that a President Clinton is not measured by different criteria than a student who cheats.'

The editorial says: "Maybe there will be no impeachment motion against Clinton; Congress could draw up a bill which could stop at a rebuke, maybe, maybe not. In any case the man involved in the affairs will find it hard as the object of pre-, main and post-investigations to find the time and the majority for his policies."

TIMES: Mr. Starr's action is seen as a piece of grandstanding

In The Times of London, Washington writers Bronwen Maddox and Ian Brodie, analyzing Clinton's speech of apology yesterday to Florida Democrats, contend: "Mr. Clinton's remarks showed that he had taken to heart the message of eight Democratic leaders (that) he must make repeated displays of contrition and regret."

Maddox and Brodie also wrote: "The delivery of the report to the Capitol, under full view of television cameras, was widely seen as a piece of grandstanding by Mr. Starr, who had rebuffed White House requests for a preview of the documents."

NEW YORK TIMES: A more somber legal and constitutional vocabulary has been brought into play

In the U.S. press the commentary was scathing. The New York Times anticipated the viewpoint of many of its brother newspapers by emphasizing in an editorial today that the Clinton travails are of Clinton's own making.

The Times says: "Can Bill Clinton apologize rapidly and completely enough to prevent the contents of those boxes from destroying his presidency? We will not know the answer for a while, but there is no mistaking that this week has brought a more somber legal and constitutional vocabulary into play."

The editorial says: "The abrupt delivery of the Starr report caught congressional Democrats and the White House off guard. It also speeded up the political clock for Clinton." And concludes: "At this portentous moment, this president who has had so much trouble with the truth did produce one sentence of indisputable veracity. 'I have no one to blame but myself for my self-inflicted wounds.' "

WASHINGTON POST: Starr's surprise delivery changed the American political landscape

A Washington Post analysis today by Ruth Marcus says simply of Starr's surprise delivery of his report: "Yesterday, with barely a few minutes warning, two vans from Starr's office arrived on the Capitol plaza and changed the American political landscape."

BOSTON GLOBE: Washington has been transformed

David M. Shribman, writing today in a Boston Globe news analysis, describes the event in similar terms: "With stunning abruptness, all of Washington has been transformed."

He writes: "Now Kenneth W. Starr is no longer simply an investigator but a prosecutor, Congress is no longer simply a legislative body but a judge of another branch of government, Clinton is no longer simply the chief executive but, politically if not yet legally, a defendant, and Washington is no longer simply a political capital but the setting of a great constitutional drama."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Congress' language on the Clinton scandal has changed

So does Doyle McManus, in today's Los Angeles Times: "Somehow, invisibly but tangibly, a line has been crossed in the debate over the fate of President Clinton."

McManus writes: "In less than a week, Congress' language on the Clinton scandal has changed unmistakably -- reflecting a deeper, more important change in the way the question is being framed. It is no longer the 'Starr investigation,' as it was earlier this year, when the White House managed to focus attention on the apparent excesses of the independent counsel. Nor is it 'the President's troubles,' as some sympathetic voices tried to frame it during Clinton's initial attempts at apology. (Now it is the) Judiciary Committee considering the application of Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution: impeachment."

NEW YORK TIMES: Nobody flinches; nobody rushes; nobody quits

Political columnist William Safire, a Clinton antagonist, argues in today's New York Times that U.S. democratic institutions remain afloat and in robust health, despite the foundering of Bill Clinton.

Safire says: "Nervous-Nellie candidates, hand-wringing opinion mongers and parents doing a national slow burn should stop calling on President Clinton to resign. Quitting under 36 boxes of evidence is not The American Way. Nor is it in Bill Clinton's character. The most authentic moment of his presidency was his defiant assertion last month of wrongdoing and victimhood. With no phony lip-biting or spurious apology, he delivered his essential message: I regret that I was caught, but it's my private life so get over it."

Safire concludes: "Just as in the armed forces, where the uniform and not the person rates the salute, Americans will continue to respect Clinton the President no matter what they think of Clinton the man. After years of contemptuous stonewalling, followed by months of salacious lip-smacking, a sense of solemnity is settling over the capital. Impeachment is too profoundly political for politics. Our elected officials and press and public can digest and act upon the Starr report while running the country and leading the world. Nobody flinches; nobody rushes; nobody quits."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Too little. Too late.

A recent Chicago Tribune editorial seemed to be an early political obituary for Clinton. It said: "Eloquence -- rhetoric infused with wisdom, compassion and conviction -- is rare these days, even in 'the world's greatest deliberative body,' the United States Senate. But (last week), Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and a longtime political ally of President Clinton, delivered one of the most eloquent -- and courageous -- speeches the Senate has heard in many years, and one the country desperately needed to hear."

The editorial quoted Lieberman's widely noted sentence: "Such behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral." And it concluded: "Lieberman's courageous speech wrung from Clinton (the following day) something that was characterized as an apology. Too grudging. Too little. Too late."