President Clinton's eroding credibility has even some allies suggesting a second televised confessional to clarify his initial obfuscation. All indications are that the president's mindset is opposed to such a step, but his critics are right in that his first speech did not convince the American people of his contrition.
Unfortunately, detailed descriptions of the president's dalliances broadcast in prime time would require warnings encouraging parental discretion. He doesn't need to unload all of the dirt, just to level with us in general terms. The coarsening of public discourse accompanying the scandal is a national tragedy itself, aside from greater Constitutional issues including the diminished presidential office.If Clinton were to opt for further disclosure, a direct bipartisan apology for the entire Monica Lewinsky affair and its accompanying deceit would be welcome. Many Republicans and Democrats at all levels have rightfully voiced regret that the president used neither "apologize" nor "sorry" in his Aug. 17 speech.
It is long past time for him to accept responsibility for what he has inflicted upon his family, trusting associates and an entire nation. Yet his propensity to take the honorable and candid road is unlikely unless he undergoes a change of heart. It is not, historically, the way Clinton has operated.
He choked on his first attempt, admitting an "inappropriate relationship" before venting against independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr. His script was semantically sculpted to concede little in a transparent attempt to avoid self incrimination. It didn't fly.
The president should heed the advice of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga. Said Biden: "I would like to see the president come back and say, `Look, let's get this straight. This is what I did. I am sorry for having done it.' "
Nunn said Clinton must put the country's interests ahead of his own. "This means a voluntary and complete disclosure of all relevant matters concerning alleged acts of illegality to the independent counsel, to the congressional leadership and to the American people. This will require personal sacrifice and may even require his resignation."
Though difficult, such a course would be honorable and would restore a bit of luster to a tarnished White House. The alternative is continued stonewalling, followed by a public airing of grand jury testimony replete with graphic and conflicting details as Clinton is painted into a constitutional corner that could lead to impeachment. That likelihood is, of course, uncertain until Starr's report to Congress is finalized.
Unfortunately, the latter pattern of evasiveness has been central to Clinton's modus operandi for years. Change is difficult, but altered conduct of candor would be a blessing to the president, his family and friends, and to the country.