This Week

Issue: "Clinton: Capitol crimes?," Sept. 26, 1998

'Net comes of age

Bill Clinton's pain was the Internet's joy. A market research company, Relevant Knowledge, estimated that 5.9 million people read independent counsel Ken Starr's report on the Internet. Only 606,000 people read the White House defense of President Clinton. Many attempts to access these documents failed, as users overwhelmed government computers containing the report. Meanwhile, was selling bound copies of the report for $8 a pop. CNN reported its biggest online weekend ever. said its traffic doubled because of the Starr report. While hundreds of news sites were reaping a harvest of hits, many of them wondered how to handle the explicitness of Mr. Starr's revelations. TV reporters and anchors frequently warned viewers about the nature of the report while steering them to Web sites for complete details. Many sites ran the report verbatim without disclaimers. Many included ads, so Mr. Starr could help bring in needed revenue. Others included warnings. "Some of the language in these documents is sexually explicit," told its readers. The Los Angeles Times included both ads and a warning; in this case, a letter appeared from the paper's editor. "The Times is presenting it on our Web site in full without any deletions, although some of the material might disturb readers. We urge parental guidance for children reading the full report." Donna Rice Hughes, who was Gary Hart's mistress over a decade ago and now works for the anti-pornography group Enough Is Enough, says some information in it is "inappropriate" and should have been kept confidential. "Hey, if I didn't have to read it for my job," she says, "I wouldn't read it."

Statistics of the week

4.4 million
The estimated cost-from Jan. 15 through Aug. 31-of the independent counsel's probe of the Clinton-Lewinsky perjury and obstruction of justice scandal. Members of Congress indicated last week they might demand the president pay restitution to cover some of these costs-which do not include the costs the administration bore fighting fruitless legal battles with Kenneth Starr, the future costs of witness reimbursements, or other aspects of the probe. Former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos said: "It's clear that this private matter had public costs over the last seven months. So, like with Speaker Gingrich, the president should pay a fine for prolonging the inquiry over these seven months for the public costs." Speaker Gingrich was assessed $300,000 for filing misleading documents with the House Ethics Committee. 97
The number of newspapers around the country calling on President Clinton to resign. At least one paper in each of 34 states and the District of Columbia carried editorials suggesting the president leave office voluntarily and spare the nation a bruising impeachment battle. Among those papers were USA Today and eight with Sunday circulations of more than 250,000, including the Seattle Times, the Des Moines Sunday Register, and the San Jose Mercury News.

Nation in brief

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Family tradition
The first woman vice presidential candidate and former television personality Geraldine Ferraro called her political career quits last week after losing a Democratic Senate primary. Gun-control advocate Charles Schumer outpolled Ms. Ferraro in a New York contest to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Alphonse D'Amato. Also last week, Ted Mondale, son of former Vice President Walter Mondale (who chose Ms. Ferraro as his 1984 running mate in the failed bid against President Reagan), lost a three-way primary in Minnesota for governor. Hubert Humphrey III, another son of an ex-vice president, won that Democratic primary. IMF: Insufficient Monetary Fund
The proposed International Monetary Fund bailout for ailing foreign economies was shortchanged last week in the House. Republicans approved only a sixth of the requested amount; the White House seeks $18 billion. The fund, having made $26 billion in new loans last year to prop up failing economies, is running on empty. But Republican strategists hinted GOP lawmakers would be willing to support full funding in exchange for other compromises-such as placing restrictions on abortion funding-when the foreign-aid bill goes to a House-Senate conference. Whose money is it, anyway?
A House committee voted last week not to shortchange the American taxpayer. Using a tiny slice of the projected $1.6 trillion budget surplus, the Ways and Means Committee last week moved a 10-year, $80 billion tax cut one step closer to the president's desk. Senate approval will set up a showdown with the White House, which insists that all the surplus be poured into the Social Security system.

Waiting for the translation

Czech President Vaclav Havel, the poster-boy for democracy movements in Eastern Europe, fell a few paces back when confronted with cowboy democracy in Washington. At a joint press conference with President Clinton, Mr. Havel looked tired and resigned to playing the straight man in Mr. Clinton's first direct encounter with reporters since he admitted to having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. "The situation of the contemporary world is very complicated," Mr. Havel said at the outset. When questioned specifically about whether his views of Mr. Clinton had changed since the controversy broke, Mr. Havel professed difficulties in translation. "Excuse me, I'm a little bit tired. I prefer to speak in my language," he told reporters. He dodged questions about moral authority, on which Mr. Havel, a former playwright, has written extensively, then changed the subject by congratulating baseball sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for real heroics. Then, hesitating and through a translator, he said: "I believe, first, that this is a matter for the United States and for the American people-who will be their president. When I have made a friendship with someone, I remain that person's friend no matter which office he or she holds or doesn't hold." For President Clinton, authority as a world leader is on ice, in spite of feigned confusion from other leaders about his problems at home. Germany quickly nixed a Clinton proposal to coordinate among the Group of 7 nations interest rate cuts, said to be a balm to ailing economies in Asia and Russia. The Journal of Commerce reported that the Clinton proposal "crashed and burned" only hours after Mr. Clinton proposed it in a Sept. 14 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. Bundesbank officials said the plan would not work and they wanted no part of a "reflationary game plan." In addition to rate cuts, Mr. Clinton said G7 nations should "stand ready" with up to $15 billion in emergency loans through the International Monetary Fund, in case the "Asian flu" spreads to Latin America.


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