How the World Reacts to President Clinton's Confession
A scandal circles the globe. Some see local consequences if US attention is diverted.
MEXICO CITY, TOKYO, AMMAN, JORDAN, AND BERLIN
'One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry," said the Paris newspaper Le Figaro in an editorial Aug. 18. "The American president [has] played with words as if ... sex wasn't always sex."Skip to next paragraph
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The world seemed alternately bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by President Clinton's televised speech Aug. 17 admitting to a relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky that was "not appropriate." Reaction ran from outrage to sympathy to shrugs of indifference.
Political leaders were slow or reluctant to comment. But analysts reflected concerns in many foreign capitals that Mr. Clinton's problems could paralyze the world's only superpower.
Some saw local consequences. Media in the Arab world hypothesized about a conspiracy. Iraq's most influential newspaper accused Israel and the Jewish lobby in the United States of hatching the scandal to force the president to resign in order to have him replaced by Vice President Al Gore, judged to be even more pro-Israel.
Corriere della Sera, Italy's bestselling daily, said the real tragedy was the confrontation between Clinton and his true self, between the US president and the boy who never knew his father.
Proud that he is 'macho'
An Aug. 17 editorial in the Mexico City daily La Jornada summed up Mexican public opinion: It was a "shameful spectacle" to see the president of the "biggest military, political, and economic power on Earth" obligated to "give an accounting on matters of his private life."
A Mexico City administrative assistant recalled telling her in-laws over dinner that she felt sorry for Mrs. Clinton - to which her father-in-law retorted, "Oh no, she should be proud knowing that her man is such a macho!"
A Mexican TV news program illustrated how the scandal is circling the globe by running an Israeli TV commercial for a laundry detergent. The ad shows FBI agents breaking into the apartment of a "Monika Lavinsky" in search of a dress that needs urgent washing. The agents proudly report back to headquarters that they found a white dress and that with the ad's detergent they were able to get it "whiter than white" - to which an exasperated headquarters responds, "But you were to look for a blue dress!"
La Jornada did note that "without a doubt the application of the principle of accountability [a word that is so foreign to Mexico that it is left in English in Spanish texts] has permitted in the US a greater participation of society in public affairs and a greater capacity to keep an eye on the conduct of high officials."
Japan: puzzled indifference
"Will this be the end of the issue?" asked the anchorman, sitting in Tokyo, of a correspondent in Washington. The reporter's answer was inconclusive, probably disappointing the few Japanese who are following the affair.
The popular mood is puzzled indifference. From government offices to narrow downtown Tokyo streets, Japanese say they don't care about the affair or Clinton's reversal. "Our office has no interest in his testimony or his address to the American people," asserts one government official who tracks the US. Even so, he spoke knowledgeably about how the situation could play out.