Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

OK, So Maybe I Got It Wrong

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

OK, So Maybe I Got It Wrong

Article excerpt

MY column "Clinton's Character: Is It Really Not an Issue?" of two months ago has caused a spurt in my mail from readers. In that column I raised questions about a poll that showed that two-thirds of the public, including two-thirds of Republicans, believes that President Clinton's character problems have been overplayed by the press.

I also wrote that I wished I was still in the "hard-charging phase of my life" when I would check out that poll's findings by flying around the country and talking to a lot of people. I added that my instincts told me that people generally still react very strongly and very negatively to Mr. Clinton's extramarital problems.

Well, readers from all geographical regions of the US have evidently decided to do my legwork for me. And they are telling me in forceful tones that they think the poll is right.

One reader makes this comment, which is a common thread in what these letter writers were saying: "Are President Clinton's marital affairs of years ago a profound, positive, significant issue?"

Another expressed a common complaint: "Some of us feel he has done a number of good things that are seldom mentioned and we are willing to forgive, or at least place in a larger context, a personal failing of some years ago."

Some readers feel that personal peccadillos have nothing to do with morality. "Let's talk about character," one Westerner writes. "Newt Gingrich was once a member of the Sierra Club and a staunch environmentalist. But this is not 'politically correct' with the right wing, so he is as ready as all the Republicans to destroy 25 years of environmental progress to appease big-business interests. And to heck with education (except for vouchers to private and religious schools), and any assistance to the underprivileged. Is this 'character'?"

This writer, an all-out Clinton supporter, closes with the comment: "I have decided that Bill Clinton is the Rodney Dangerfield of politics; no matter what he does, 'he gets no respect. …

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