What the foreign papers are saying.
Jan. 25 1998 3:30 AM

Even the newspapers of the French and German intellectual establishments-- Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine--faced up Friday to the fact that President Clinton could be in real trouble, and allowed the Monica Lewinsky scandal onto their austere, photograph-free front pages. Under the headline "Clinton in Need," printed in small Gothic script, the German paper said in an editorial that the scandal had the makings of an American nightmare that could do as much damage as Watergate.


In Le Monde columnist Pierre Georges said, with Gallic hauteur, that it was "extraordinary" that the greatest democracy in the world should permit itself the luxury (via Paula Jones) of "a universal media course on the president's anatomy." He added: "One can't altogether rule out that these young women may be showing off or lying. For women, too, can sometimes lie."

An editorial in the liberal Paris newspaper Libération said that, "as usual, lots of French people will guffaw over all this fuss about a few indiscretions." But it said the French should understand that the scandal was not about sex, but about truth. "We can trust American freedom of expression--and the First Amendment which supports it--to ensure that we are not spared any detail, whether spicy or not, of the relations between Bill and Monica," it added. "Let's laugh, if we want to, or let's wax indignant; but let us not forget to understand."

In a front-page comment in Milan's Corriere della Sera, columnist Ennio Caretto spoke up for Clinton's presidential record, saying he had corrected the capitalist excesses of Reaganism and that, although he stood accused of betraying the liberal traditions of the Democrats, he had at least--by moving to the center--kept the Right in Congress at bay. "His suspected relationship with Monica Lewinsky may generate sarcasm and evoke comparisons with that between Lolita and Humbert, but nothing can take away from his success," Caretto added.

In London, the conservative Daily Telegraph, which is normally hostile to Clinton, said in an editorial that the president should not step down until his guilt of either obstructing justice or suborning perjury "has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt." "As was illustrated by Watergate, the republic can certainly survive such traumas," the Telegraph said, "but at a tremendous cost, especially to America's foreign relations. (South Vietnam fell largely as a result of the paralysis of the presidency.) The stakes are scarcely lower today, with foes such as Saddam Hussein continuing to menace the international order."

The Times of London urged Clinton to follow the examples of Nixon and Reagan, who had tried to restore their reputations during the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals by throwing themselves into foreign affairs. "Mr. Clinton has to prove to Americans and to the world that there is a purpose to his presidency. Foreign policy is the proper forum for him to do so," it added. Whatever the impact on his reputation of the present scandal, "Mr. Clinton should seek to mitigate it with international accomplishments. As Harry Truman argued, a president is what he has achieved, not what others think of him."

The Financial Times said that "what the US needs above all, and what it is probably not going to get, is a rapid resolution to this unhappy affair." It said that a president under siege couldn't give the world the leadership it needed. "The whole build-up to next Tuesday's State of the Union speech has already been thrown off course, and this may be just the beginning," the FT said. "The media frenzy in Washington has been extraordinary to behold: there can be no rational discussion about the great policy issues so long as this lasts."

The liberal Guardian said the talk of impeachment was premature. "Impeachment is a deadly serious matter, best reserved for deadly serious offences," it said. "That 'droit de seigneur' White House tradition of serial infidelity, as established by John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, may be as gross as it is foolish. But it is not yet the stuff of impeachment."