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Sad melodrama ends.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Bill Clinton's hanky panky with Monica Lewinsky seems like a lifetime ago. But independent counsel Robert Ray's final report on the affair, released Wednesday, brings it all back like a bad dream.

The report concludes, in a way Clinton supporters claim is not as objective as it should have been, that the former president lied under oath about his relationship with the 21-year-old White House intern and could have been successfully prosecuted for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Such a prosecution did not occur, the report said, because the independent counsel used his discretion to decline to bring such charges. Ray, the successor to Kenneth Starr in the Whitewater real estate deal and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, said he came to the conclusion that Clinton had already been penalized enough. The former president cut a deal with Ray that cost him his law license for five years and required him to publicly admit - after repeated denials - that he had not been truthful under oath.

Democrats contend that Ray's report is politically tainted because the independent counsel is considering running this year as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey. That possibility does lend a bit of partisan flavor to Wednesday's report, but it doesn't negate the report's ultimate conclusion that Clinton lied when the law required him to tell the truth.

"The independent counsel's judgment that sufficient evidence existed to prosecute President Clinton was confirmed by President Clinton's admissions," the report said. It continued that Clinton admitted he "knowingly gave evasive and misleading answers about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky."

Clinton, wisely, declined to comment. But his lawyer, David Kendall, gave his spin on the report: "The $70 million investigation of President Clinton from 1994 to 2001 was intense, expensive, partisan and long. There's still no Whitewater report and there's nothing new in this report. It's time to move on."

If nothing else, the independent counsel's report on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and his soon-to-be-released final report involving the Whitewater real estate investigation at long last is the final, sad coda to the Clinton presidency. It is sad because of what that presidency could have - should have - been. A man of enormous intellect, charm and well-honed political instincts, Bill Clinton could have been one of the 20th century's great U.S. presidents. But even apart from the Lewinsky affair, his administration was too often preoccupied with oneupmanship, partisan advantage, internal turmoil and foreign and domestic agendas that too often seemed diffuse and unfocused.

David Kendall is right. It's time to move on - it's time to let Bill Clinton live out his post-presidential days, it's time to ignore Monica Lewinsky's self-promoting appearances on HBO and it's time to remember what might have been.
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Title Annotation:Independent counsel's final report on Clinton; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 9, 2002
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