World Has Sympathy for Clinton
World Has Sympathy for Clinton
Sep. 22, 1998
TOKYO (AP) _ As Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony was aired around the world, many expressed sympathy for the president and revulsion at the spectacle of America dragging its leader through a ritual of humiliation.
From Europe to Asia to the Middle East, men and women in the streets decried what they saw as an erosion of standards protecting privacy and keeping explicit sexuality out of the mainstream media.
``They didn't have to do this,'' Kensuke Sunato, a 27-year-old company worker, said in Tokyo.
In London today, the media likened the release of the testimony to the witch hunts and inquisitions of past ages, and said the latest development in the Monica Lewinsky affair was as much a blow to America as to the president.
``This was medieval. It was cruel. ... The questions were more offensive than the answers,'' said a front-page column in the Times. ``It was humiliating even to the viewer.''
Another British paper, The Independent, echoed that view.
``Sordid hounding of the president demeans America,'' read the headline of its editorial.
In Canada, one person reserved the harshest criticism for the media, accusing it of broadcasting Clinton's deposition to boost ratings.
``No matter what they say, it's about sex; it's about ratings and there's no denying that,'' said Gail MacLennan, a freelance consultant and writer. ``This has just upped the ante in terms of what is acceptable to expose.''
Japanese newspapers gave prominent coverage to Clinton's deposition, carrying front-page photographs of the videotaped testimony that showed the president deep in thought or displaying irritation.
The mass-circulation Yomiuri and Mainichi newspapers focused on how damaging the release of the tape would be to Clinton politically.
In South Korea, one television station speculated on whether the videotape would be enough to sink Clinton's presidency.
``The Americans saw in their own eyes a new president who lied before the grand jury. He is at a crossroads,'' MBC-TV said.
In Hong Kong, where passers-by watched Clinton on a television screen at a shopping mall, Lisa Wong said she ``supposed most people would lie to keep such an affair secret.''
And in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald led with this headline: ``Humiliation of a president ... in your living room.''
As Clinton's grilling by prosecutors played on TV in a London pub, one man said he already knew more than he wanted to about the U.S. president's sex life.
``I don't need to be seeing this,'' said Tony Charlesworth, a 31-year-old London businessman. ``They should only show it to people who need to see it. They're just humiliating him.''
But in Kuwait, former oil minister Ali al-Baghli called it a historic day.
``The head of the most important country is accounting for breaking the law, just like any ordinary person. I hope this will be a lesson to us in the Third World,'' said al-Baghli.
Maher bin Naji, a 39-year-old Kuwaiti banker, agreed that airing the testimony was ``democracy at its peak,'' but said: ``The poor guy did not do anything. It's his private life and he should not resign.''
In Germany, Chancellor Helmut Kohl expressed outrage.
``I find the whole business extremely upsetting,'' Kohl told reporters Monday. ``I can only repeat, in my blunt way of saying it, that it makes me throw up.''
Germany's rail company ordered train stations to switch their TVs away from the broadcast, so children waiting for trains wouldn't hear the sordid details.
In Italy, Clinton's testimony was broadcast on two channels, with Italian voiceover.
``Everything they're doing is ridiculous,'' said Andrea Amedeo, 19, a student in Rome. ``He's the leader of America and the world. ... Leave him in peace to worry about the real problems.''
In Lebanon, the private Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. appeared to be the only station in the Middle East carrying the simultaneous broadcast. In other countries viewers could watch on Cable News Network.
Many people in Jordan were glued to television sets in coffee houses and at home.
``I disapprove of broadcasting the tape because I think it is purely an attack on the Democrats and it will not serve any good for the United States of America,'' said book publisher Usama Sha'shaa, who was interviewed in the Jordanian capital, Amman.