Newspapers Urge President to Quit

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By: Greg Mitchell

What did “I” do? On Dec. 21, I wrote a little news story for this site about the sudden appearance of the “I” word — impeachment, that is — in reputable publications. The outrage over revelations about President Bush’s approval of spying on Americans without a warrant was then at its height, before subsiding to its current level of what-will-they-think-of-next cynicism.

We got a lot of negative mail about that article, even though we didn’t take a position on the matter, but simply pointed out that the “I” word was now being uttered in some surprising places (Barron’s magazine?). Certainly, it’s no “slam dunk” — to coin a phrase — that the president should be impeached, and most Democrats don’t even want it to happen, either because they think they can make hay in the November elections with Bush still in office, and/or they fear a short but perhaps brutal reign of our own King Richard I.

Still, it amazes me when people make fun of the very notion that a president under a dark cloud might be asked to leave office, or given a push, in light of the very recent experience involving one William Jefferson Clinton. This seems especially poignant, in light of President Clinton leaving office with an approval rating over 60%, while the current occupant of the White House sits at around 40%. Then there’s the perennial debate over the relative demerits of fooling around with an intern vs. fooling an entire country into going to war based on false evidence (and anything else you’d care to add on top of that).

In any case, while still not taking a position on impeachment, I thought it would be interesting to look back at how the press reacted to the Clinton Crisis of 1998. Did newspaper editorials condemn Clinton for his screwing around, and lying about it, and leave it at that, or did they come out squarely for his exit from office?

What follows, from an Associated Press rundown on September 15, 1998, is a long list of newspapers that “called for President Clinton’s resignation.” AP added that some of those listed “did so before the release of Kenneth Starr’s report on Sept. 11.”

Indeed, the Philadelphia Inquirer responded to the coming of the Starr report this way: “Bill Clinton should resign. He should resign because his repeated, reckless deceits have dishonored his presidency beyond repair.”

The Los Angeles Times pointed out: “The picture of Clinton that now emerges is that of a middle-aged man with a pathetic inability to control his sexual fancies.”

The New York Times, on its Howell Raines-led editorial page, thundered that until the Starr turn, “no citizen … could have grasped the completeness of President Clinton’s mendacity or the magnitude of his recklessness.” Yet a Washington Post poll that month showed that while a majority of Americans wanted Congress to censure Clinton, they did not want it to boot him out of office.

Here is that AP partial list of newspapers calling for Clinton to quit (other papers no doubt joined in later):

NATIONAL:
USA Today

ALABAMA:
The Mobile Register
Montgomery Advertiser

ARIZONA:
Tucson Citizen

CALIFORNIA:
San Jose Mercury News
The Orange County Register
The North (San Diego) County Times
The Record, Stockton

COLORADO:
The Denver Post

CONNECTICUT:
The Day of New London
Norwich Bulletin

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The Washington Times

FLORIDA:
The Orlando Sentinel
The Tampa Tribune

GEORGIA:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Augusta Chronicle

ILLINOIS:
Chicago Tribune

INDIANA:
The Indianapolis Star
Chronicle-Tribune of Marion
South Bend Tribune
The Times of Northwest Indiana

IOWA:
The Des Moines Register

KANSAS:
The Topeka Capital-Journal

LOUISIANA:
The Times-Picayune of New Orleans
The News-Star, Monroe

MICHIGAN:
The Grand Rapids Press
Detroit Free Press

MINNESOTA:
Post-Bulletin of Rochester

MISSISSIPPI:
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo

MISSOURI:
Jefferson City News-Tribune

NEBRASKA:
Lincoln Journal Star

NEVADA:
Reno Gazette-Journal

NEW JERSEY
The Trentonian, Trenton

NEW MEXICO:
Albuquerque Journal
The Santa Fe New Mexican

NEW YORK:
Sunday Freeman of Kingston
Utica Observer-Dispatch

NORTH CAROLINA:
The Herald-Sun of Durham
Winston-Salem Journal

OHIO:
The Repository, Canton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Post

OKLAHOMA:
The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
Tulsa World

OREGON:
Statesman Journal, Salem

PENNSYLVANIA:
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SOUTH CAROLINA:
The State, Columbia

SOUTH DAKOTA:
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls

TEXAS:
San Antonio Express-News
El Paso Times

UTAH:
Standard-Examiner, Ogden
The Spectrum, St. George
The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

VIRGINIA:
Daily Press of Newport News

WASHINGTON:
The Seattle Times

WISCONSIN:
The Post-Crescent, Appleton
The Journal Times, Racine

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