HOST: ALLAN GREGG
GUEST: DALTON CAMP, Columnist; JUDY REBICK, Writer, Broadcaster; GIL TROY, McGill University; MARK SUZMAN, "Financial Times"
ALLAN GREGG: Hello. The Clinton story has gripped the United States today, but how is it played internationally, and what are the key issues, as seen through the eyes of observers outside of the country? I'm joined now by four guests: columnist Dalton Camp is in Fredericton; in Montreal, Gil Troy, a professor of American politics at the McGill University; in Washington, Mark Suzman, correspondent for the "Financial Times Of London," and in Toronto, writer and broadcaster Judy Rebick.
GREGG: Well there you are. You've heard it. For three days previously, stories have been leaking out that we were going to hear a mea culpa from the president. Dalton, I didn't hear much "I'm guilty" there, except if it's "I'm guilty," it's "my business." Were you surprised at the tone of these remarks?
DALTON CAMP / COLUMNIST: Well I don't know that I was surprised Allan, but I liked what he said, and I think I said earlier that the issue here is privacy. And if people can see it in that light -- he said even presidents have a right to privacy. And I think most Americans and most Canadians will agree with that. And the other thing we keep overlooking -- and I don't know why no one wants to talk about this -- that Hillary Clinton is right; he has been the victim of a right-wing conspiracy. This whole thing has been the creation -- I mean how does Paula Jones get to drive a Mercedes, you know? There's been a vast amount of money pumped into this thing in order to get the president.
GREGG: But between the times -- just to take that point of departure, where Hillary Clinton made that claim -- I mean we have now the you know, revelation right there; yes, all the speculation, all this innuendo, all this salacious talk about my affair with Monica Lewinsky is true. Judy Rebick, has he said what the American people need to hear to get off this hook?
JUDY REBICK / WRITER, BROADCASTER: Well I think he said part of it at the beginning of his speech. The thing I found most interesting in his speech is what he said about his family, because he said that he was prepared to do anything to set right -- to set this right with his family, which I think means that he, you know, actually never told them the truth until today or yesterday. And I think that's a serious problem for him -- not only personally, but politically -- because I don't buy this stuff that Dalton is saying about privacy. I do think the American press is obsessed with politicians' private lives and that's a problem, but here is a guy with a hit of sexual misconduct or sexual relationships outside of marriage, and then he takes the risk of having this kind of tawdry sex in a -- you know, with a young woman and risks his marriage, his presidency, everything for a little sexual adventure? I think it -- I think it shows a serious problem with him, and I think he's sort of acknowledging that tonight. But in a very sort of strange way, because then he gets very defiant about it. I had problems with it.
GREGG: What about that, Gil Troy? I mean is the president of the United States more than a politician? I mean is he a moral exemplar? Is there a standard of conduct that he must meet that is higher for him than any normal elected official or normal mortal?
GIL TROY / McGILL UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. For the last two centuries, Americans have looked to their president to be a moral exemplar, to set a high tone. And Bill Clinton has understood this, and Bill Clinton has played that game. He won re-election in 1996 by playing the role of the good father by using his wife and his daughter as a card, as a way of showing that he was indeed a mature man, that he was a good leader. He's also tried to be paternalistic toward the country. And I think what we saw in the speech was his recognition that he has to get right with the American people by getting right with his family, and once again he's using his family as a political tactic; as a political way of bringing -- of seducing the American people, which he's always done.
GREGG: Now Mark Suzman, the British are certainly no strangers to sexual scandal, often being brought down through the press. How is this going to play back home in Britain, in the press?
MARK SUZMAN / "FINANCIAL TIMES": Well as you rightly point out, the British are no stranger to sex scandals of one type or another, and it has led to the demise of a number of politicians over the years. But I mean I think again, this is just a very different kind of case. It is the president of the United States. It is the most powerful country on earth, and it's the implications for the United States as a country, that are also just as important as the implications for President Bill Clinton as a person. And this particular message, again, you have to separate out how it's going to play domestically, and what the implications there are. And there I'm not sure he's quite gone far enough on the contrition side to win the public over. But internationally, his other problem is he has admitted to -- well he used the phrase "misleading," but to be someone who has publicly stated you have misled people, and you then have to conduct international negotiations and discussions and so on. It may have a serious impact on his credibility when he talks to other global leaders on other issues.
GREGG: Well, and I wonder also about that lack of contrition. I mean specifically when he talked about the Paula Jones testimony, he said that he was legally correct in what he stated. I mean is this going to play as too cutesy by half; is this weasel words, Dalton Camp?
CAMP: I don't know. I guess there's still enough money in the till -- in the coffers to try and rework and bring Paula Jones back to life again, and bring the issue back to life. I think there will be a great deal of impatience. I don't agree with your Republican pollster, or whoever he was. I bet you that Clinton recovers from this and the whole thing passes. And as long as he continues to be the president that he has been, in terms of his issues, in terms of his perceptions, in terms of his leadership -- he'll do very well.
GREGG: Well how about that, Judy? You've seen issues how they play out over time, over a long period of time, and the intersection between media and public opinion. I mean by virtue of confessing, as he did today, all of a sudden we have new questions that weren't asked yesterday. How will the betrayed staffers be feeling? You know these sorts of things weren't issues yesterday. Will he be able to withstand -- does that speech set up the veneer that will protect him from those questions?
REBICK: I don't see that. I've been amazed by how this story has gone on and on and on all summer, with nothing really new coming up until recently. I think -- you know the American media is totally obsessed with this, you know in a very hypocritical way, in my opinion. You know in terms of public opinion, I think a lot depends on Hillary. Is Hillary going to come out with a public statement in the next day or two? I think that's a critical factor. I think the other thing is that nobody mentions, is the president doesn't have to get re-elected; he just has to survive the next two years. And if his -- if the Democrats come behind him, which I agree with an earlier commentator that, you know, they pretty well have to, even if they -- they're feeling burned. I think he'll survive it, but I don't think it's going to go away very fast. I don't think he's done enough to make it go away.
GREGG: Gil Troy -- Judy makes a very interesting point. Can he just tough this out? We don't have that much longer in his second term. I mean is there a process that works fast enough in the American system to really make much difference in his presidency?
TROY: Bill Clinton is definitely running down the clock. But Bill Clinton came to office with a set of very ambitious goals, with a very ambitious agenda, and I think that the greatest punishment to Bill Clinton, at this point, is going to be that even if he holds on to the presidency, it's a presidency in tatters. It's a crippled presidency; it's a presidency that's going to be about just surviving and getting by, and ultimately he'll go down in history as the would-have, could-have, should-have king.
REBICK: Is that really true? He's been doing a lot in the last few months. You know he hasn't exactly been a crippled president.
GREGG: But we do have a different circumstance. Mark Suzman, will he be able to speak with the same moral authority on Pakistan's nuclear arms or, you know on the state of the ruble being devalued in Russia?
SUZMAN: Well certainly -- nothing he quite says from now on will ever be seen in the same light as it was before this evening. In that sense, this is a fundamental turning point of the Clinton presidency. As to the rest of it, a lot has really -- we've been talking a lot about how this is going to play with White House aides, with his family and so on. But in the end, a great deal is going to depend on the legal side. Now in his statement, he was careful to say that -- or deny that he had played any role in obstructing justice and- -
GREGG: --I'm sorry, I have to interrupt. The commercial time is begging to be seen. Thank you very much all of you. It's been a real pleasure.
REBICK: Thank you.
CAMP: Goodnight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
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