Whirl of responses after reading Starr report

September 17, 1998

The release of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report to Congress has stirred comment around the world. Here are some samples of commentary from newspapers and cartoonists:

Sunday Telegraph,

London

More perhaps than any politician in history, [Bill Clinton] has the guile and stamina [to survive]. But if he does, it will be a victory for the political art rather than a victory for honor.

The Straits Times,

Singapore

Mr. Clinton now stands exposed as a reckless, irresponsible cad, willing to betray his principles for sophomoric thrills, heedless of the trust of his supporters, cavalier in his regard for the truth. He may deserve forgiveness -- as a human being; he may still merit some admiration, for his accomplishments in office are not inconsiderable, but he has forfeited the moral right to lead.

Irish Times,

Dublin

Never in the future will Bill Clinton be able to regain his dignity. He may -- and probably will -- cling on as president, but his presidency, with all the term implies about authority, gravity and greatness, is over.

The Age,

Melbourne, Australia

If the president eventually follows Richard Nixon in ending his term early and in dishonor, it will be because, like Mr. Nixon, he has put so much energy into denying what cannot be denied. Had Mr. Clinton sought to disarm Mr. Starr at the outset, by publicly admitting his affair . . . the chances are that future historians would only compare him with his adulterous predecessors in the Oval Office.

Frontier Post,

Peshawar, Pakistan

Mr. Starr is said to have spent $40 million worth of public money in pursuing and targeting Mr. Clinton. This speaks of the robustness of the American system of accountability. This could be the only redeeming feature of the Clinton saga, something that is worthy of emulation by the rest of the world.

Irish Independent,

Dublin

The probability is that there is more and worse to come. Bill Clinton may or may not be forced to resign, but it is inconceivable that he should be able to restore the trust or authority of his presidency.

South China Morning Post

The time has come for Bill Clinton to stop apologizing and resign himself to the fact that his fight for survival has reached its end.

Robert Scheer,

Los Angeles Times

We're talking voyeurism on the very highest level here. I mean Starr's got the president of the United States under constant surveillance, capturing every detail, like when Monica Lewinsky first flashes the thong underwear to get the president's attention, and that bit about taking a phone call from a congressman while the perp is still in the act, but how much of that does an audience really want to see? Most people have experienced wilder things in their own marriages -- hey, this is the age of the Victoria's Secret catalog, kinky Internet sites and the Fox network.

Richard Reeves

I think Bill Clinton will get away with this. It is a campaign for survival now. And he is, after all, the most gifted politician of his generation. The story of his ascension from the hills of Arkansas was akin to a miracle. It was the mirror image of the selection of a Dalai Lama. In those parts, monks go into the mountains to find the baby to rule. In our country, the baby came out of the mountains himself and found us.

Simon Jenkins,

The Times, London

To seize an initial lie about his sex life to trap him on an escalator of mendacity does not require much ingenuity. The trick is familiar to any tabloid journalist or tort lawyer . . . What we should care about is the ease with which a president can have the trick played on him . . . The process is claimed as constitutional, but every well-tooled coup claims that.

Anthony Lewis,

New York Times

Urging resignation is a way to avoid the hard question of impeachment. But for a president to resign because he is politically weak would do terrible damage to the role of the presidency in our constitutional structure. It would move us toward a parliamentary system. It would encourage the forces of demagoguery to attack any president. It would intensify the already corrupting criminalization of our politics.

David M. Shribman,

Boston Globe

National crises almost always swing power to the president. This crisis is different. The power is flowing east on Pennsylvania Avenue -- a wrenching shift for Bill Clinton, for Congress and for all Americans.

Josef Joffe,

Suddeutsche Zeitung, Munich

Europeans don't really understand the exotic tribal habits of their cousins from across the sea -- but, then, how many Americans can fathom this daily soap opera revolving around Ken, David, Monica and Bill? If Europeans crow, they crow softly. They take pride in their worldlier ways . . . and their magnificent museums. But they know that the fate of the world, now rattled by too many crises large and small, rests on the shoulders of Mr. Big.

Cho Se-hyon

Korea Herald, Seoul

To many outside the United States, the investigation by the independent counsel over the past four and a half years, including those of the Whitewater and Paula Jones scandals, do not really deserve the time, human energy and expense they required, no matter how much Americans value their pursuit for the truth . . . Americans could ask themselves what they have earned from the costly probe other than worldwide opprobrium of the U.S. presidency, and cynicism that was fueled unexpectedly by the exposures of sex scandals involving some of the most vehement critics of President Clinton.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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