Bill Clinton's August 17 speech to the American public re: Monica Lewinsky

Clinton minutes before delivering his "apology" --TIME Cover: "I Misled People"-- August 31, 1998 page 1

10 PM EST, approx 4 minutes

`` Good evening.

This afternoon in this room, from this chair, I testified before the Office of Independent Counsel and the grand jury.

I answered their questions truthfully, including questions about my private life, questions no American citizen would ever want to answer.

Still, I must take complete responsibility for all my actions, both public and private. And that is why I am speaking to you tonight.

As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information.

Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.

But I told the grand jury today and I say to you now that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action.

I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.

I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors. First, by a desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct.

I was also very concerned about protecting my family. The fact that these questions were being asked in a politically inspired lawsuit, which has since been dismissed, was a consideration, too.

In addition, I had real and serious concerns about an independent counsel investigation that began with private business dealings 20 years ago, dealings I might add about which an independent federal agency found no evidence of any wrongdoing by me or my wife over two years ago.

The independent counsel investigation moved on to my staff and friends, then into my private life. And now the investigation itself is under investigation.

This has gone on too long, cost too much and hurt too many innocent people.

Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most -- my wife and our daughter -- and our God. I must put it right, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to do so.

Nothing is more important to me personally. But it is private, and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family. It's nobody's business but ours.

Even presidents have private lives. It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life.

Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long, and I take my responsibility for my part in all of this. That is all I can do.

Now it is time -- in fact, it is past time to move on.

We have important work to do -- real opportunities to seize, real problems to solve, real security matters to face.

And so tonight, I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months, to repair the fabric of our national discourse, and to return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of the next American century.

Thank you for watching. And good night.''

- BBC RealAudio
- BBC RealVideo
- C-SPAN RealAudio
- C-SPAN RealVideo


Total words: 549
Total words devoted to self-justification: 134
Total words devoted to taking responsibility: 92
Total words devoted to regret for actions: 4
Total words devoted to attack on prosecutor: 180
Total words devoted to "time to move on" theme: 137
Total words devoted to apology: None
If a President of the United States ever lied to the American people he should resign. -- William J. Clinton, 1974, during the Whitewater scandal.

Three reasons why the British are superior to Americans: 1. They speak English. 2. When they host a world championship they invite other countries. 3. Visitors to the head of state are only expected to go down on one knee. -- John Cleese
[Source: the Progressive Review]

 Reaction to Speech
- Add your comments here
- Salon: What they're saying
- MSNBC Media Player: An angry Orrin Hatch
- BBC RealAudio: Dan Quayle: "Resign"
- BBC RealAudio: New Yorkers give opinions
- BBC RealAudio: Lawrence Eagleburger: "Neutered President"
- BBC RealAudio: Madeline Albright: "He's doing terrific job"
- Dick Armey, R-Texas

What Clinton Said - excerpts from statements and remarks by President Clinton on allegations that he had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. From the Washington Post.


The Honolulu Advertiser:

Yesterday was not a good day for President Clinton, or for America.

It was a day of personal humiliation for him, of diminution of his office, and a deepening of a perilous national paralysis.

After months of denial, Clinton confirmed what we all knew, that he had engaged in an improper relationship with a White House intern.

Then, looking us squarely in the eye, he told us last night a story altogether different from the one he told us seven months ago, when he also squarely looked us in the eye.

The new story, however, leaves enough loose ends that we beg: For subsequent revisions, please, Mr. President, no more eye contact.


Houston Chronicle:

We hope that the president's testimony signals a denouement to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation and that when he submits his report to Congress, the American people finally will be able to separate the facts from the speculation that will not go away. But even that remains in doubt with reports that the president was not specific enough in his testimony and might be subpoenaed or questioned again.

Meanwhile, we are left with the presidential confession, the sad collection of details and leaks and the spin game that whirls on all sides.

To many of Clinton's political detractors it's an I-told-you-so affirmation that the man is immoral and not fit to hold office.

To many of his supporters, it's an it-doesn't-really-matter confirmation that conspirators are desperate to discredit him and are imposing an unfair standard upon the president's personal life and foibles.

For the nation, it's a sort of Super Bowl of sordidness, complete with off-color analysis, play-by-play commentary and endless - endless - on-the-field mayhem.


Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail:

President Clinton has told the American people too little too late. Months of lying, of stonewalling, of trying to shift the blame and of spinning the truth have damaged his credibility beyond repair.

In a ghastly four-minute session, the president told the nation no more than he had to. It was a calculated, carefully calibrated effort at damage control.

In was a hell of a comedown from a fireside chat with FDR.


The Tribune, suburban Phoenix:

In more ways than one, Bill Clinton is a master of seduction. But after one of the most extraordinary days in the history of the American Presidency, it would appear his dalliances and deceptions have finally caught up with him.

Clinton's televised appeal to a seemingly forgiving American public notwithstanding, he faces a torturous legal road. Among a litany of damning points, Kenneth Starr's report to Congress almost certainly will include a finding that the president not only lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but that he tried to persuade her to lie as well.

These are impeachable offenses.

They are also breaches of the public trust. ...

Spare us further insults to our intelligence and to our dignity from the legal maneuvering, semantic gymnastics and televised appeals. The seduction has gone on long enough.

Muster a shred of honor, Mr. Clinton, and vacate our hallowed White House.


Austin (Texas) American-Statesman:

President Clinton's shake-and-bake apology to the American people last night fell far short of what the country deserved after a truly sordid day in U.S. history. ...

True to form, Clinton offered a quick, weak apology for a critical lapse of judgment in having the affair and misleading the public then attacked Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr for going to far and hurting `too many innocent people.' But Mr. President, who is to blame for that?

Unfortunately, Clinton fell back on a legal point to defend his lies and placed the blame for his predicament elsewhere. That won't endear him to anyone. The country Clinton leads deserves better than the superficial finger-pointing performance he delivered Monday night.


Helena (Mont.) Independent Record:

OK. So President Bill Clinton has changed his tune, admitting an improper sexual relationship with a White House intern less than half his age, but denying any obstruction of justice or other wrongdoing.

Big deal. In a sense, it doesn't really matter what if anything President Clinton has to say on the subject of Monica Lewinsky. When it comes to Clinton and women, most of us already have made up our mind, and by now the president's protestations are about the last thing to change it. ...

Whatever happens in the end, Clinton will be remembered as a president lucky enough to have served during prosperous economic times, a president whose progressive policies were increasingly undermined as much by his move to the center and beyond as by his declining credibility, and a president who shamed his wife and daughter and his party and the people of the United States by his mind-bendingly reckless inability to keep it in his pants.


The Des Moines (Iowa) Register:

It is almost beyond comprehension that Clinton is so lacking in self-discipline, so reckless, that he engaged in a sordid liaison with a youthful intern under the same roof with his own family, at a time he was under scrutiny for alleged sexual misconduct.

Yet the public was fully aware of Clinton's reputation and twice elected him president. It is not Clinton's character alone that brought about this sorry moment. Other factors are the president's tenacious enemies and an overreaching independent counsel.

It should never have some to this - but it did.

Now Clinton asks the country to move on.

That may not be as easy as he would like.


Chicago Sun-Times:

Many husbands stray and cover up without having to account for themselves in public. Most people find it understandable, even forgivable, to lie about sex. Many would allow Clinton the same latitude. But a president who strays and denies the truth, under oath and in hurt tones addressed to a nationwide television audience, should be judged by a different standard. This may not be Watergate but it is no mere peccadillo. ...

An early confession, no matter how grim, would have been better than the pathetic backtracking extracted Monday. He has only embarrassed those closest to him, disappointed friends and brought critics to new depths of disgust.


Detroit Free Press:

Beyond the breach of trust, the man's lack of judgment is frightening. Even if you are inclined to forgive, it will be impossible to forget. This presidency is effectively over. ...

The legacy Clinton was pursuing in such important areas as education and race relations will be forever tarnished by a sex scandal. His mantra of taking ``personal responsibility'' rings hollow.

He has let the whole country down.

Whether or not Clinton got your vote in his two campaigns for president, whether or not he is of your party or your political ideology, if you are an American, he is your leader. You are entitled to demand a lot from the person in such a job. ...

Clinton would like the country to move quickly beyond this tawdry episode, enjoy the booming economy, and prepare for the next century. The country probably will, but without its president in any meaningful role.

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