Voices PRESIDENT CONFRONTS CRISIS

August 18, 1998|By Jean Marbella, Scott Shane and Dennis O'Brien

The thing that is most upsetting is he lied about it initially and put everyone through this for seven months and wasted everyone's time. If he had admitted it right out, we could have gone on from there. I was not impressed with what he said tonight.

Susan Elgin, family practice lawyer and president of Women's Law Center, a Towson-based women and children's advocacy group.

"I worry a lot about young people who don't want to go into public service because they feel its no longer, a field of honor and respect. I think we need to reassure young people that civic service is worth their best effort and there are appropriate lines between what is public and private."

Judy Jolley Mohraz, president of Goucher College.

"My reaction to the talk was 'Gee, he did his best to say he was sorry and I think he persuaded me that he certainly is a sorry person.' By that I mean it seems he's full of contrition, that he's been humiliated and dragged into this humiliating position. He's just been so humiliated.

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, professor of psychiatry and director of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

"He was the main speaker at Morgan's commencement on May 23 of 1997, I remember the date exactly because it was just such a big day in Morgan's history. To have that experience and then to find out he had done this and brought the presidency down to one of the lowest points it's ever been at, I just feel terribly betrayed.... and disappointed. Disappointed and betrayed are the two words that describe how I feel."

Ernest Silversmith, professor of chemistry at Morgan State University.

The important part was the distinction he tried to draw between private wrongfulness and public performance. I thank that can be a valid distinction, but the lines blur when you make representations to the public. The public has the right to rely on and believe in its president, so therefore if an issue which would ordinarily be private becomes a public issue I think the president has an obligation to tell the truth about it.

Benjamin R. Civiletti, former U.S. attorney general

It's a terrible time in the life of the United States. I feel very sad for what has occurred. ... Just think of much time we've spent dealing with this man's faults and failures and avoiding the real issues. The real issues have to do with poverty and hunger and the lack of education for children. We have spent $40 million in this instance, money that could have been spent on important things.

The Rev. Marion C. Bascom, Baltimore civil rights veteran, retired pastor of Douglas Memorial Church in Baltimore.

I thought it was very much like Clinton -- it was a very political speech. It was sincere but also manipulative, forthright but also evasive. It started out as a confession and then it moved into an attack, which I guess shows the depth of his personal and political antagonism toward Starr, which isn't going to help end this. Even though it was a tremendously difficult statement to make, it was very calculated. ... I don't think he'll be driven from office, but there's a real question about his effectiveness. If he can't command respect or have people trust that he'll follow through on what he says, he could be ineffective.

Thomas R. Pegram, Loyola College historian

I thought the president did what he had to do, which is to apologize to his family and to the country and to take full responsibility -- to acknowledge what he'd done and to move on to the challenges the country faces. I think he handled it gracefully, but it's excruciatingly painful. I don't think we've seen a situation in which someone's very private life has been under such extraordinary scrutiny. There is no excuse, as the president said. But human beings are weak and I think he observed correctly that when one is under attack by a politically motivated independent counsel that one is less apt to be open and honest. I think he will recover. He's done great things for the country. I think people understand that you don't elect perfect human beings.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, lieutenant governor

It is time we take our attention off the muck and mire and move on to the serious business of setting this country right. If he's committed an impeachable offense, let the process move forward. If not, we need to drop our preoccupation with scandal. He has to do his own accounting with his own God, but that's his personal responsibility. If we're looking to the political arena for moral guidance, we're looking in the wrong place.

The Rev. Douglas Miles, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore.

FTC

It's a tragedy on both a national and personal basis. But I think the cause of it is the Supreme Court decision in the [Paula] Jones case that the president would not be unduly occupied with the civil lawsuit going forth while he was still in office. This is ridiculous: The world is burning and here we're watching a soap opera.

Rabbi Herman Neuberger, president of Ner Israel Rabbinical College

Pub Date: 8/18/98

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