Clinton enters combat in Map Room armed with 70% job approval rating


The President was a few yards away getting his last-minute instructions from his lawyers and we were crammed into the White House press room getting very little from the press secretary, Mike McCurry.

The President was "confident" but he "was not exactly looking forward to testifying". And he would "testify the truth".

"What is the truth?" asked ABC's Sam Donaldson, echoing the 2,000-year-old question posed by Pontius Pilate.

A biblical parallel was appropriate. The President had been spending time with the Rev Jesse Jackson and praying with him.

The Rev Jesse had also been spending time on CNN television and discussing the President's plight with other ministers and making comparisons with biblical figures such as King David and Samson. The Rev Jesse noted that Samson had been tempted by Delilah and God gave him another chance. "Yet the special prosecutor, I suppose, would have locked him up," he observed.

The Rev Philip Wogaman noted that King David had done much worse than Mr Clinton in getting the husband of his lover, Bathsheba, killed at the front. "And King David, if I read my bible correctly, was not impeached," said the Rev Wogaman, who preaches at the church the Clintons often attend.

At 12.30 p.m., with just 30 minutes to go before the President was to tell his tale, the dreaded independent counsel, Ken Starr, arrived at the south entrance to the White House, looking relaxed for a man who might be about to destroy a President.

He headed for the Map Room where it was all going to happen. The pundits filling in time waffled about the time when Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill used confer there about the progress of the second World War.

On the wall as this President talked about "sexual relations" hung the map where Roosevelt saw the advance of the Allied armies on Berlin weeks before the end of that war.

President Clinton must have felt he was going into combat against Hitler and Stalin combined. More than 30 TV cameras lined the 100-yard driveway from the north-west entrance to the West Wing and the Oval Office where "inappropriate" actions may have taken place between the President and Ms Monica Lewinsky.

The Rev Jesse Jackson empathised with the man in the firing line. "I mean face it, he [President Clinton] is embarrassed by whatever happened - however one defines inappropriate, and Hillary has had to face the humiliation of it all. But then she is mature and they are in love and their marriage will survive this," the Rev Jackson predicted.

Politically, this President looks set to survive going by what the polls were showing as he entered the Map Room. His job approval rating has soared to 70 per cent, the highest NBC news has recorded since Ms Lewinsky burst on the scene last January.

Two-thirds say that if the President admitted to a sexual relationship and apologised to the nation, Congress should forget about trying to impeach him. It does not seem to matter that two-thirds also believed he was lying when he said last January he did not have sexual relations with Ms Lewinsky.

The Americans are obviously a forgiving people. President Clinton may win a victory in the Map Room that Roosevelt, Churchill, King David, and Samson would envy.

Reuters adds:

Ms Anita Hill has said President Clinton owes the American public an explanation about his relationship with Ms Lewinsky, but not necessarily an apology.

"What I want to hear and what I think most people want to hear is the truth," Ms Hill, co-editor of the book, Race, Gender and Power in America, said. Seven years ago she accused the Supreme Court Justice, Mr Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment. He was confirmed by the Senate anyway.