Maybe-a-culpa

Maybe-a-culpa

Maybe-a-culpa

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 18 1998 7:23 AM

Maybe-a-culpa

Every paper leads with President Clinton's four-minute maybe-a-culpa. But, because Clinton linguistically bobbed and weaved so much, their headline descriptions of what exactly took place vary. According to the Los Angeles Times slug, the president fessed up to an "inappropriate relationship." The New York Times says it was the "Lewinsky liaison." The Washington Post sees the "Lewinsky Intimacy." The USA Today headline probably reflects what most people heard: "Clinton: Affair was 'Wrong'"--but it's not what Clinton said, because, as the NYT's James Bennet points out in the second paragraph of his paper's lead story, the president never used the word "affair."

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Nevertheless, in its lead, USAT pithily sums up what was and was not said: Clinton said he "misled people" and "gave a false impression," but he didn't say he lied. And he described his relationship with Monica Lewinsky as "wrong," but never used the word "sex." The LAT observes that the speech was not an apology to the American people, and the WP adds that Clinton never even used the words "sorry" or "apology." USAT notes that Clinton insisted last night that his sworn deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit was "legally correct" even though in that deposition, he testified he couldn't recall being alone with Lewinsky.

USAT claims that in the session with the grand jury, Kenneth Starr handled some of the questioning of Clinton, while the WP says he left that entirely to his lieutenants. The papers report that, according to one of Clinton's private attorneys, David Kendall, Clinton testified truthfully but refused to answer some questions he found too personal. This despite, the NYT reminds us, Clinton's earlier pledge to testify "truthfully and completely." The Post says some sources have told it that in the grand jury session, Starr told Clinton he may subpoena him to get all his questions answered.

Given the subject matter, a certain amount of waffling was to be expected, but what, according to the papers, surprised many (including some White House aides who'd hoped for political reconciliation) was how much of Clinton's speech was given over to attacking Starr's investigation. Indeed, USAT describes the speech as contrite words in a defiant tone. And the WP says Clinton's statement "was flavored with as much anger as remorse," and quotes Sen. Orrin Hatch as being "personally offended" at this aspect of the speech. USAT reports that later, on television Hatch called President Clinton "a jerk."

The other big story of the day, making all five fronts, is Boris Yeltsin's decision to devalue the ruble and to default on billions of dollars in debt. The move was made, says the Wall Street Journal, to forestall the flight of investors from its emerging markets and to bolster confidence in Russia's abilities to pay its bills. Devaluation and partial default, explains the Journal, means the overall amount of debt is reduced and terms for repaying it become easier. But the move strikes at Russia's solidest post-Soviet economic accomplishments: a stable currency and low inflation. And given the increasing connections between markets, there is the threat posed to the currencies and interest rates of other emerging economies, such as those in Latin America and Eastern Europe and even to stronger, more established ones, like Hong Kong.

Inside, the papers report that authorities have arrested five people for questioning about last Saturday's bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland that killed 28 people. The five have not yet been publicly named, but one is said to be the son of a prominent Irish nationalist opponent of the recently brokered peace accord.

The NYT and USAT run inside stories claiming that the man recently arrested in Pakistan and transported back to Nairobi to be questioned further about the Kenya embassy bombing has, according to U.S. authorities, neither admitted responsibility for the attack nor implicated anybody else. This directly contradicts yesterday's WP dispatch, which appears to have relied exclusively on Pakistani authorities' accounts of the man's statements.

The WP columnist James Glassman says the Lewinsky matter is mostly just pseudo-events, and offers the following list of alternative real issues citizens have a much greater need to know about: 1) How serious is the Asian economic crisis? 2) Have defense cuts made us vulnerable? 3) How broad is the current prosperity? 4) Why is crime falling? 5) Why do some schools fail and others succeed? 6) Why is there a federal surplus? 7) How good and how widespread is health care? 8) How is welfare reform working?

Back to the speech: Clinton repeated that he had never asked anyone to lie, but USAT's list of the administration's prior but now inoperative Lewinsky statements includes one made by Mike McCurry. Are we to suppose that McCurry made that denial without being asked to by his boss? Well no, we can't because McCurry goes on to say, "[T]he president was quite firm about me making that statement."