International Papers

L’Affaire Clinton Makes Prudes of the French


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Thursday, Le Monde of Paris devoted several pages to Flytrap’s possible influence on France. Politicians questioned by the newspaper urged that the traditional French boundary between public and private morality be maintained. Many of them also “wondered if this may not be the start of an evolution affecting all democracies because of the distrust that surrounds political leaders, the latitude permitted to judges, and the pressure of the media,” it reported in its main front-page story. Le Monde quoted the new president of the conservative UDF party, François Bayrou, as saying, “At the root of Clinton’s destabilization is, above all, a meshing between the judiciary and the media, and no democracy is immune from that.”

Several members of the French Parliament used Kenneth Starr as a pretext to protest a proposed increase in the independence of public prosecutors in France. Le Monde pointed out that, until now, episodes involving the mingling of private and public life in France have been extremely rare. The most recent was the revelation, in 1994, in the magazine Paris Match that the late President François Mitterrand had had a daughter by his mistress–a report that had provoked many protests about the intrusion into his privacy. This daughter’s appearance beside Mitterrand’s wife at the funeral generated nothing but emotional sympathy, “demonstrating once again that the French don’t confuse bourgeois morality with public morality.”

Le Monde’s front-page cartoon showed Clinton in bed with a naked woman, blindfolded and holding the scales of justice as he ate little figures of French judges out of a heart-shaped chocolate box and sighed, “Ah, La France!” In London, the Daily Telegraph carried a front-page cartoon of a dog sitting in the president’s chair in the Oval Office and reading with dismay the newspaper headline “Starr Report: Buddy Stole Biscuits on 11 Separate Occasions.”

An op-ed piece in the Times of London called on U.S. Democrats to “unite around an unequivocal policy of opposing impeachment, on the grounds that the ‘crimes’ alleged in the Starr report fall far short of the constitutional requirements for reversing the people’s electoral choice.” This, it said, is in their own interests. “They can go on condemning Mr. Clinton morally. They can vote for public censure. But the Democrats must insist that Mr. Clinton has hurt nobody, except perhaps his family, and has done nothing to warrant impeachment.” The liberal Guardian carried a correspondence on its letters page about whether or not Clinton’s sexual behavior can be explained by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Dr. Rowan Hooper of the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan, wrote that “if Clinton can’t help it because it’s in the genes, then why did he use a cigar?”

The Financial Times, in an editorial Thursday, deplored Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s apparent decision “to revert to a programme of money-printing” and said “it is now hard to see anything but chaos in Russia’s future.” The West can’t justify giving the country any more funds, it said, because such money “would undoubtedly be wasted.” In Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said that, since its financial crisis and the appointment of Primakov as prime minister, the country “is returning to ‘G7 plus one’ with regard to Russian relations with the world powers.” It added, “No-one speaks about the ‘G8’ any more.” Izvestia, commenting on Primakov’s latest Cabinet appointments, said that “the Cabinet now includes politicians of various colors–red, white, and pink.” It concluded that the prime minister had no choice, because no single political party is willing to accept responsibility for the crisis.

In Rome, La Repubblica reported prominently that Rupert Murdoch, having recently acquired Britain’s most famous soccer team, Manchester United, for his Sky satellite TV company, is now attempting to acquire the TV rights for all Italy’s top football matches. The Spanish press led on the decision by the Basque terrorist organization ETA to declare an “indefinite truce” on the lines of the IRA in Ireland.

The Paris daily Libération announced on its front page Thursday that the arrival in Europe of the Viagra pill this week has lifted the taboo on discussion of sexual dysfunction. It published figures showing that “the French suffer more frequently than was thought from sexual failure.”