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Why Clinton won't say he's sorry

Posted By David M. Bresnahan On 09/08/1998 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Bill Clinton will never give the direct, simple, apology that many
have urged him to give because any such admission could be used against
him in impeachment hearings and legal proceedings, say White House
sources.

The demands for an apology have grown since Aug. 17 when Clinton
addressed the nation after giving historic testimony to the grand jury
investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair. In that statement he failed to
say, “I’m sorry” to anyone, and he attacked the Kenneth Starr
investigation.

Clinton spoke to reporters about the incident on Sept. 2 during his
trip to Moscow, but he failed to make the awaited apology. Russian
President Boris Yeltsin was by his side in the Kremlin when Clinton
said, “It’s time for us to now go back to the work of the country,” a
theme he also used in his first address to the nation.

“I have acknowledged that I made a mistake, said that I regretted it,
asked to be forgiven,” said Clinton in his Kremlin speech. His comments
only got him in deeper trouble with critics who pointed out that he
claimed to have asked for forgiveness when his actual address to the
nation did not include any such request.

Although Clinton used the words, “I’m very sorry,” when he spoke to
reporters in Dublin, Ireland recently, those words were structured to
appease critics without actually apologizing for his “inappropriate”
relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-CT, denounced Clinton Sept. 3 from the floor
of the Senate. His criticism forced a response from Clinton the next day
during a photo session with reporters in Ireland. Clinton was standing
next to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern when he was asked to respond
to the comments by Lieberman.

“I can’t disagree with anyone else who wants to be critical of what
I’ve already acknowledged is inappropriate,” said Clinton in a carefully
worded comment. A source close to Clinton’s advisers claims the words
were carefully chosen on a legal basis.

“His choice of words were just like everything else in this deal,”
said a White House source who requested anonymity. “Clinton makes sure he’s always technically and legally correct. It’s fairly obvious.”

Clinton went on to say, “There’s nothing that (Lieberman) or anyone
else could say in a personally critical way that I don’t imagine I would
disagree with since I have already said it myself, to myself, and I’m
very sorry about it, but there’s nothing else I can say,” said Clinton,
however those words do not mean he is sorry for his admitted
indiscretion with Lewinsky.

“What he technically and legally said was that he was sorry for the
criticisms he’s receiving from Lieberman and others,” said the source.
“He has not said he’s sorry for his indiscretions with Lewinsky, and he
never will.”

Reports from within the White House also indicate there is a major
division of opinion between the Clinton legal team and the Clinton
political consultants. The legal eagles, headed by first lady Hillary
Clinton, have insisted that Clinton must never directly apologize or say
he’s sorry for the Lewinsky affair. “Hillary has taken total control and
no one moves without her say so,” the source explained.

Political advisers have argued that Clinton must apologize to end the
criticism he is receiving in the press. Many White House staff members
have also been reported to be in favor of a full apology from Clinton.
The legal team believes the polls show the public approve of Clinton and
he must remain legally accurate.

A car accident was given as an example of the legal orders Clinton is
following. If two cars are in an accident and one driver says to the
other, “I’m sorry,” it can be used in court to show the driver admitted
guilt or fault for the accident. Such a statement by Clinton can also be
used to show that he has admitted guilt.

In his now famous address to the nation on Aug. 17, Clinton mentioned
that he was “legally accurate” when he gave his deposition for the Paula
Jones case.

“He’s trying to sound like he’s sorry to quiet the critics, but he’s
not sorry, won’t say he’s sorry, and the critics can see right through
it,” explained the source who added that tension among the White House
staff is “so thick you can cut it with a knife.”

“He’s protecting himself from all sides,” said the source when asked
if Clinton is guarding his words to avoid contempt charges in the Jones
case, which was dismissed and is now being appealed.

Some White House staffers are reported to be so distraught they are
looking for other jobs in government.


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