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White House: Clinton Made Mistake Over Coffee

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN


AUGUSTA, Ga. (AllPolitics, Jan. 5) -- White House aides are now conceding for the first time that President Bill Clinton personally made a mistake in allowing the nation's top banking regulator to participate in a Democratic Party-sponsored coffee meeting with bankers at the White House last May 13th.

The guest list, released by the White House this week, was stamped "The President Has Seen." The memo also cited administration officials who were to attend, including Eugene Ludwig, the Comptroller of the Currency. The political nature of the meeting was clear because DNC national chairman Don Fowler and finance chairman Marvin Rosen were on the list.

At a news conference last month, Clinton said that Ludwig's participation was wrong. "Mistakes were made here by people who either did it deliberately or inadvertently. Now it's up to others to decide whether mistakes were made deliberately or inadvertently. It is up to me to do what I can to clean up the system," he said.

But the president did not say that he personally had made a mistake and left the impression that others were to blame.

Aides say the president and his top advisors, including Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, who also attended the meeting, were not paying the kind of attention to the appearance of wrongdoing that they would now, following the disclosure of DNC fundraiser John Huang's activities.

Says one aide: "The memo of the guest list just blew over his head."


Clinton, who was on the road in Augusta, Ga., selling his education program on this day after his State of the Union Address, has insisted that both parties have made mistakes and continues to continues to call for an overhaul of the entire fund-raising system.

But his Republican critics say he would be wise to start by first cleaning up his own house. Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Col.) said, "I think if the president's serious about campaign reform, the first thing he needs to do is take the Mr. Coffee machine out of the White House and the cash register out of the White House and observe the rules that we have for campaign fund-raising in this country."

Some White House officials say that in the long run the president would have been better off by simply acknowledging publicly that he had made a mistake -- and not use the more passive "mistakes were made formulation" which tends to put the blame on others.

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