'Smut factor' in politics dismays area 'soccer moms' Clinton should resign, say some members of prized voter group

September 13, 1998|By Michael James and Dail Willis | Michael James and Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

Kate McShane, a soccer mom from Rodgers Forge, calls it "the smut factor."

"It's the big thing nowadays in America," said McShane, standing on the soccer field yesterday at Stoneleigh Elementary School in Baltimore County with her 6-year-old son David. "Everybody's after the smut on everybody else."

For McShane and thousands of other soccer moms, once considered the nation's most sought-after voter group, the Clinton-Lewinsky debacle is a lesson in how smut has become a factor in not only politics but everyday life. For many, it's shaken their confidence in the president.

"I think it's a disgrace. I think he should step down," Kathy Hahn, an Ellicott City mother of three, said while watching a match at the Clemens Crossing Elementary School soccer clinic. "Would I vote for him again? No."

Several of Maryland's soccer moms, generally accepted as women ages 25 to 49 with children, said yesterday that being a mother has brought added stress lately.

"I had a talk with my 9-year-old son about it, to explain to him that Mr. Clinton had done something bad and that he may be impeached," said Linda Lotz, a mother of two from the Wiltondale neighborhood of Baltimore County.

"I did that because he hears things and he needs to have some understanding of the situation. But I wish I didn't have to. It's not something I want my son to be hearing about at age 9."

Many Maryland parents are expressing concern over the explicit sexual topics covered in independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report, released Friday, and the easy Internet access to it.

Throughout Maryland, thousands of people -- including children -- flocked to public computer stations at libraries, cafes and schools to read the report.

News blackout

Some parents said yesterday that they have imposed a form of limited censorship on their kids for a few days. That means no televisions or radios turned on in the house, no newspapers lying around, and no Internet.

"I don't want my daughter subjected to that," said Howard County resident Linda Carroll, who was at the Clemens Crossing field. "We're trying to encourage them to read the newspaper, watch the news on TV -- but this is too vulgar."

That concern was also expressed by a visiting soccer mom and dad from overseas, whose children watched President Clinton's 4-minute apology speech last month.

"Dad, what is ?"

"My son's English is not good. But the president spoke so slowly and so clearly that my son could understand. He asked me, 'What is a sexual relationship?' " said M. K. Park, a professor from Seoul, South Korea, who is living in Howard County while he teaches at the University of Maryland. "I don't want to see that on TV. Graphic words are not good."

Carol Tankard of Columbia said she can't imagine how Clinton can run the country, considering the mess he created with the Lewinsky affair.

But she expressed some sympathy, too, saying that perhaps the demands of the presidency were a factor.

"This was not an affair," she said. "Maybe he was just tense? Ultimately, I think he does respect women. I think maybe he's just conflicted. It's been around since the dawn of time -- infidelity."

Many of those on the soccer fields yesterday said they needed time to digest Starr's 400-plus page report, which, even with a high-speed Internet provider, can take hours to wade through.

Several of those interviewed said they hadn't had a chance yet to look at it -- and some said they won't.

"I've made a conscious effort not to follow it," said McShane, of Rodgers Forge. "It's not where I want the country to be focusing its attention."

At one point, Starr's office reported that its Web site containing the report was receiving 300,000 visitors per minute -- making it one of the most instantly popular sites in the relatively short history of the Internet.

Some of those following the Starr report have turned against the president, including the soccer moms that the Clinton administration had targeted as key voters in the last election.

Women voters provided Clinton with his margin of victory in 1996. While men split their votes evenly between the candidates, a majority of women wanted Clinton re-elected, favoring him 54 percent to 38 percent for Bob Dole.

But yesterday, in the heart of Maryland's suburbia, the mood toward Clinton was not so favorable.

"I'm just totally disgusted," said Jean Higinbothom of Towson, who has four children ages 6 to 11 in Towson Recreation League soccer.

"Morally, he's a great disappointment to America. The image he's presenting to the world is very poor. I'm sure other countries are laughing at us."

Michelle Reid, who was at Clemens Crossing, said that no matter what happens to Clinton, his image is likely to be permanently tarnished.

"He could have done wonderful things," Reid said. "But how are we going to remember Bill Clinton? We're going to remember that he had a zipper problem."

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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