President Clinton said he has paid a big price for his affair with Monica Lewinsky but that "wallowing in regret is a cop-out." He also said his wife is "a remarkable woman" and an inspiration in his moment of crisis.
"You don't have to worry about me giving up," the president assured cheering supporters Sunday at sweltering, outdoor fund-raiser. "Don't worry."Ann Richards, the plainspoken former governor of Texas, gave the beleaguered president a sympathetic introduction. "Bill Clinton isn't the first man I've had to forgive, and he probably won't be the last," she declared, triggering a burst of applause.
Clinton, in his first interview since acknowledging he misled the nation about his relationship with Lewinsky, said he has emerged stronger from the ordeal and that it "gives me a chance to make my marriage whole."
"I think any time a person has to go through a searing personal experience and come to terms with truth and genuinely atone, and genuinely make the effort to change, that's an immensely liberating experience," the president said. "It makes you stronger. It makes you straighter."
The president's remarks, in an interview with writer Trude Feldman, were published Sunday in The Washington Post as Clinton arrived here at the end of an exhausting fund-raising tour through Illinois, California and Texas.
Looking tired, Clinton mingled with wealthy Californians until nearly 1:30 a.m. Sunday, raising $1.5 million, and then flew to Texas eight hours later.
Clinton was expected to raise $1 million for Democrat Garry Mauro in his longshot bid to unseat Gov. George Bush. There were separate fund-raisers in San Antonio and Houston. "I stand behind him 100 percent," Mauro said.
Hundreds of demonstrators lined an access road to the interstate as Clinton rode into San Antonio. A bedsheet was emblazoned, "Don't Stop Thinking About Resigning." A Lewinsky scarecrow was attached to a fence near the home of Clinton host Frank Herrera.
At the airport in San Antonio, Clinton confidant Bruce Lindsey acknowledged the prospect of a negotiated settlement in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against the president. He said there was "some willingness to discuss a settlement" but that Clinton was not admitting any misconduct. "Lawsuits are settled all the time," he said.
The Lewinsky case, which emerged from testimony in the Jones' lawsuit, has led to the consideration of impeachment proceedings in the House and has sparked a chorus of calls for Clinton's resignation.
"I think there has been quite a large price to pay," Clinton said in the interview. "That's self-evident" in "the whole airing of it publicly, what we've all been through. . . . I think there will be a price each day. To a person who has a conscience, that's the biggest price you pay."
But he said, "Instead of wallowing in regret, I am working at repairing my life and my marriage. My wife is a remarkable woman, and her strength and support are a constant inspiration to me during this painful time."
Clinton said he was staying focused on the business of his presidency. "At the same time I'm diligently working with my family on the healing process. Wallowing in regret is a cop-out."
Clinton said the affair has not eroded his relationship with foreign leaders. "Those who have telephoned me with encouragement believe I have done nothing, in my public life, to forfeit their trust, and that in my private life, whether it is good or bad or troubled or happy, is not their bus-i-ness."