International Papers

The ?Execution? of Bill Clinton


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The showing of the Clinton videotapes on television was roundly condemned across Europe this week, where the press was as lavish in its praise of the American people as it was contemptuous of their leaders. In Paris Sunday, Le Monde published a front-page cartoon of a cameraman filming inside the president’s trousers, while its editorial, titled “The American Pillory,” condemned Kenneth Starr’s “persecution” of the president and the broadcasting of the grand jury videotapes as the equivalent of “a public execution.” It said the Republicans in Congress have abandoned the principles of justice, “which used to do honor to American democracy, which is ordinarily more respectful than ours is of individual rights.” It concluded, “There is no mystery anymore. The law in this case is no more than a cover for a political offensive working methodically to destroy a man–and, by so doing, to undermine a democracy.”

In an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit, Chancellor Helmut Kohl refused to comment on Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky or on any other aspect of his private life, saying these are the U.S. president’s “own affair.” But he did say that “the way in which the world is following, with hypocritical eagerness, all the most private details on the Internet is something–and I don’t use the expression casually–that makes me vomit. With all the problems that we have, from the financial crisis in Asia to genocide in central Africa and the civil war in Kosovo, I really hope that the Americans can pull their socks up and be capable of acting.”

In La Repubblica of Rome, Washington correspondent Vittorio Zucconi wrote that Clinton’s fate lies in the hands of an “electronic god”: “A democratic president is mortally threatened by the same medium, television, that 38 years ago helped construct the myth of another Democratic president, Clinton’s idol and model, John F. Kennedy.” He added, “The reality of contemporary democracy is this: Everywhere, fewer and fewer voters and more and more viewers.”

In La Stampa of Turin, Gabriele Romagnoli wrote from New York that Clinton’s destiny is in the hands of the “strange, wonderful, deceived American people, who continue to form a dam against the torrent of mud poured out by Kenneth Starr onto the president they elected, onto the TV sets in their homes, onto the screens of their children’s computers.” Their verdict after this “day of shame and passion” will depend on the Dow Jones index and “on the other mysterious variables that pass through the mind and spirit of the people of America, delightful because unpredictable,” he concluded.

In London Monday, the liberal Guardian said that Clinton’s “investigators can no longer claim this is freedom and democracy in action; it is a witch-hunt, pure and simple. No life would stand up to this minute examination, this moment-by-moment dismantling.” In an editorial, it added, “It is painful, pathetic, pointless, serving only to create a flood of McCarthyite smear and counter-smear; the Republicans want blood, preferably blood tested for the President’s DNA. The only people to emerge with any credit from this sordid saga are the American people, who continue to show the sound sense they have demonstrated throughout.”

The same view was expressed on the editorial page of the Sunday Times of London by conservative columnist Ferdinand Mount, who also said it will be “a sad day for the American Constitution if he [Clinton] is forced out of office on the evidence we now have”: “That constitution has its faults (as does our own), but it is the bedrock of America, and the American people know how to appreciate it even if some of their politicians do not.” On the op-ed page, Robert Harris, previewing Tony Blair’s meeting Monday with Clinton in New York, said the British prime minister will unveil “a whole new kind of politics, unlike anything seen before in Britain.” He described a new pamphlet by Blair on “The Third Way” as “potentially even revolutionary”–“either breathtaking, or sinisterly Orwellian, or both, depending on your point of view.” Blair proposes “reconciliating themes that in the past have wrongly been regarded as antagonistic–patriotism and internationalism; rights and responsibilities; the promotion of enterprise and the attack on poverty and discrimination.” This, said Harris, is “synthesis as ideology,” by which Blair “reserves to himself the right to change his policies as circumstances change … not merely as a matter of expediency, but as a matter of principle.” Blair’s term for this approach to politics is “permanent revisionism.” The tabloid Express on Sunday, meanwhile, led with the headline “Blair Rebuke for Clinton,” based on the fact that the British government is publishing a document on family values at the same time the two leaders are meeting in New York.

In an editorial Monday titled “Blair and Clinton,” the Times of London said that while Blair should refrain from offering any more endorsements of Clinton “beyond that which would be considered appropriate by most Americans,” he is “completely right to conduct business as usual” with him.

In Japan, the daily Mainichi Shimbun looked forward in an editorial to the first summit meeting Tuesday between Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. “With the global economy showing signs of coming apart at the seams, it is truly disappointing that the leaders of the two countries who ought to be co-operating to prevent a worldwide crisis are having to struggle for their own political lives,” it said. It added, “Signs of weakness will not be overlooked by the market, which exploits every little blunder to its advantage.”

The Sunday Telegraph of London led its front page with an exclusive interview with Sami Salih, a defector from Iraq who described how he ran Saddam Hussein’s illegal oil smuggling network and how the profits were used to buy arms. Now living secretly in Belgium with his family, Salih said the oil smuggling involved close cooperation between Iran and Iraq, even though they were officially enemies. He also painted a chilling picture of corruption and depravity in Baghdad and claimed to have evidence that Saddam Hussein recently seduced the son of his latest wife, Samira Shabandar.

In Hong Kong Monday, the South China Morning Post reported government plans to give children as young as 2 new “nursery rhymes,” containing warnings about sex offenders who might abuse them. In India, the Hindu devoted an editorial Monday to the TV coverage of the 106th birthday celebrations of two Japanese twin sisters, who, it said, are doing well and enjoying themselves “despite their bent backs and wizened faces.” It commented, “They have [been] featured in the media several times in the recent past, and do not seem to be any the worse for it, unlike some other people.”