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Americans Speak Out on Clinton

September 12, 1998

Americans uttered a collective ``yuck″ Saturday _ then turned another page of Kenneth Starr’s lurid account of a president’s sexual trysts in the oval office.

With the release of an eyeball-popping legal brief on the liaisons of a president and a young aide, Americans from the White House gates to the Nixon Library had their say. And in this election year, they hold the power to sway Clinton’s judges in Congress as lawmakers consider impeachment.

Some of the responses hit especially close to home for the president. As Clinton took refuge in the White House, Jeff Taylor stood outside, sipping a Diet Coke and toting a sign calling for his impeachment.

``If we want to still hold our government in high regard, Clinton must resign,″ said Taylor, 32, of Leesburg, Va.

At the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., where Hillary Clinton’s gunnysack wedding dress adorns a display on presidential love letters, visitor Richard Evans didn’t mince words on Clinton.

``He is a disgrace to the country and certainly a disgrace to the presidency,″ said Evans, 69, of Houston. ``I would like to have a bumper sticker that says ’Slick Willie makes Tricky Dick look like a saint.‴

At Beverly Hills High School, where Monica Lewinsky studied for two years, Tara Ardebilchi did not share the former intern’s affection for the president.

``I think he should get impeached,″ the 14-year-old freshman said. ``He’s been doing a lot of things like this for a long time and getting away with it. This time, they caught him.″

The word from Ripon, Wis., which calls itself the birthplace of the Republican Party, was equally damning.

``I think he’s an absolute scumbag,″ said retired veterinarian Albert Seawell, a lifelong Republican who admits to gloating and wants Clinton to resign. ``He isn’t sorry for what he did. He’s sorry for getting caught.″

But in the heartland and in the cities and towns where most of Americans’ votes are cast, response to the detailed chronicle of the president’s affair was mixed. While many voters expressed disappointment with the president, many lamented the salacious details of presidential rendezvous as unnecessary and stopped short of calling for impeachment.

A Newsweek poll released Saturday found that nearly half of Americans believe Clinton’s apology to clergy members was for political reasons. Polls by ABC and CNN/Gallup found Americans are more inclined to believe Starr’s account than Clinton’s, but a majority still approved f his job performance.

``He’s a moral pig,″ Denver salon owner Janet Lombardi said. ``But he’s a damn good president.″

To Joe Achols, Clinton was one of the boys.

``He didn’t do anything any other man wouldn’t have done,″ said Achols, 44, of Richmond, Va., who’s been married half his life. ``If you throw a bone to a hungry dog, he’s going to chew it.″

Even at a campaign rally for House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Marietta, Ga., some were underwhelmed with the report that clogged the Internet after Congress released it.

``The majority of people voted for him and they knew he was a womanizer,″ said Reba Scott, 53. ``It was out before the public when they voted for him.″

Some were just grossed out. Natalie Sullivan of Madison Heights, Mich., called the report ``icky.″ The Philadelphia Daily News’ headline said: ``YUCK!″

``It was a little more than I wanted to know,″ said Rebekah Jampole, 16, of Phoenix, who read much of the report by Saturday. ``There was some real disgusting things on the news last night.″

And at KJR-FM in Seattle, any mention of the affair was costly. Disc jockeys declared the classic rock station a ``Clinton-Free Zone,″ donating $10 to charity for any mention of you-know-who.

At the president’s birthplace home in Hope, Ark., executive director Beckie Moore said she’d like to see Congress trash the report.

``People have asked me if I’m disgusted, if I would like to give up on him,″ she said. ``But there’s just no way, because I know he’s a Christian ... and I think God has definitely got his attention.″

In nearby Little Rock, many Arkansans in the state capital stood by their favorite son.

``I just think that everybody should rely on what he can do for the country, what he’s done for the country and let him do his job,″ said Rose Hunter at Doe’s Eat Place, a former Clinton hangout.

The president’s Little Rock pastor offered forgiveness as fellow Southern Baptists called for his expulsion from the church.

``I definitely think what the president did and what he has admitted to is indefensible,″ said Rev. Rex Horne of Immanuel Baptist Church. ``It is inexcusable, but I do not believe it’s unforgivable.″

Others in the clergy were less forgiving

``He sinned against the Lord. He sinned against the United States,″ said the Rev. William Sanderson of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C. ``If he has broken our country’s laws, I think that calls for him to step away.″

Starr’s report left Americans with as many questions as anecdotes.

``I need all the help I can get raising these kids. Who are they going to look up to?″ asked Ms. Kirkpatrick, a grandmother of 10 who declined to read the report.

If Congress listens to public opinion, Clinton’s future may depend as much on the economy as on Starr’s allegations.

``I’d vote for him again,″ said Robert Hatch, 54, a carpenter on the job in Yakima, Wash, who was out of work at times during the Reagan and Bush administrations. ``I’ve worked steady for over five years. He’s been good for the country ... (although) his morality is screwed up.″

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