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Clinton says 'presidents are people, too'

First lady would be a 'fabulous' senator, he declares

February 19, 1999
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST (2200 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 19) -- In his first post-acquittal news conference, President Bill Clinton said Friday the 13-month Monica Lewinsky controversy taught him personal lessons and reinforced his respect for both the U.S. Constitution and the American people.

President Clinton

At a joint White House press conference with French President Jacques Chirac, Clinton was asked what the controversy had taught him and what advice he would have for future presidents.

"Well, of course I've learned a lot of personal lessons, most of which I have already discussed, and presidents are people, too," Clinton said. "I have learned again an enormous amount of respect for our Constitution, our framers and for the American people."

As for his advice for future presidents, Clinton said he would only tell them to decide what they need to do for the American people "and focus on it and work hard." If they do that, Clinton said, the American people will respond.

Clinton, acquitted by the Senate last week of perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his attempts to hide his affair with Lewinsky, said he did not think the institution of the presidency was harmed by his impeachment and trial.

"I think the Constitution has been in effect re-ratified," he said. "And I hope that the presidency has not been harmed. I don't believe it has been.

"I can't say that I think this has been good for the country, but we will see," Clinton added. "I expect to have two good years here. I think the American people expect the Congress and me to get back to work, expect us either not to have any destructive feelings, or if we do, not to let them get in the way of doing their business ... And I don't believe that any of us can afford to let what has happened get in the way of doing our best for our own people and for the future.

"And I'm going to do my very best to do that," Clinton said. "And I think that we should all discipline ourselves with that in mind."

A reporter also asked Clinton about a possible New York Senate bid by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton said what is important is that his wife "decides to do what she wants to do." (Full story)

He noted the election is not until November 2000 and said Mrs. Clinton should rest after "a very exhausting year" and take time to decide.

"It's a little premature," Clinton said.

"This is nothing that ever crossed her mind until other people began to mention it to her," Clinton said. "To me, the most important thing is that she decides to do what she wants to do, and I will be strongly supportive of whatever decision she makes and will do all I can to help on this and any other decision from now on, just as she's helped me for the last 20-plus years.

"If she decided to do it and she were elected, I think she would do a fabulous job," Clinton said. "But I think that it's important to remember, this is an election which occurs in November of 2000 and she has just been through a very exhausting year, and there are circumstances which have to be considered. And I think some time needs to be taken here."

Last week, immediately after his acquittal, Clinton apologized again for what he put the country and Congress through, but in the Rose Garden appearance, only took one question on whether he was willing to forgive his congressional foes.

"I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it," Clinton said then.


Investigating the President

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Friday, February 19, 1999

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