Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Albright's Dilemma Keep Defending Clinton, or Help Him Step Aside?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Albright's Dilemma Keep Defending Clinton, or Help Him Step Aside?

Article excerpt

After the Lewinsky affair first erupted back in January, the worldwide credibility of the Clinton administration started to erode. It happened in various areas: in Israel, in Iraq, in Kosovo. But that slow erosion of presidential power was lessened - overseas, as at home - by the stalwart defense of the president's veracity voiced at the time by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

If Ms. Albright, a leader in the movement to incorporate smart women into the conduct of diplomacy at all levels, told us that she believed the president on this issue, many people took her at her word.

Then, on Aug. 17, the president disclosed that he had indeed had an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It was not only his credibility that was undermined by this admission. It was also that of all the officials who for the previous seven months had - with his full knowledge and consent - backed up his denials in public. Including Albright.

I am strongly concerned by this, for two sets of reasons. First, the secretary has done nothing since Aug. 17 to stanch a lessening of the United States' position in the world that now looks unstoppable. On Aug. 25, she told journalist Cokie Roberts: "I have no problems whatsoever assuring other leaders about the credibility of the United States and the president."

Now, it is true that until recently leaders in many other countries may not have understood why the Lewinsky affair threatened to become such a big deal in Washington. Among leaders in some other countries, the idea of extramarital affairs with office subordinates may still be more acceptable than it is here. But by now, everyone everywhere understands that the present scandal is about much more than the conduct of the sexual affair itself. They understand that it has strong legal implications, and even stronger political implications.

The president's current weakness at home is evident overseas. In early September, the presidential party visiting Ireland failed to persuade any senators, from either party, to join them in what could have been an all-American celebration of one of Bill Clinton's few recent victories in foreign policy. …

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