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Clinton did not tell truth, say Carter, ERLC’s Land

WASHINGTON (BP)–Former President Jimmy Carter and ethics agency head Richard Land, both Southern Baptists, agreed in their assessment of the televised grand-jury testimony by another Southern Baptist, President Clinton: He did not tell the truth.
Meanwhile, early polls after the Sept. 21 telecast of Clinton’s testimony showed it helped or, at least, did not harm his approval ratings, but some of the country’s leading newspapers strongly editorialized against his performance.
The major broadcast networks and some cable news networks televised the president’s four-hour-plus testimony that was recorded Aug. 17 when he was questioned by independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s team of attorneys at the White House while the grand jury watched via closed-circuit TV and asked questions from a Washington courthouse. The questions focused on what the president has since admitted was a sinful relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and the alleged cover-up that followed. Several of the questions dealt with Clinton’s January deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case in which he denied a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.
Speaking Sept. 22 at Emory University in Atlanta, Carter said his “opinion is that the president has not been truthful in the deposition given in the Paula Jones case or in the interrogation by the grand jury,” according to a Reuters news service report in The New York Times.
“As one of the very few leaders who have served in the White House, I have deplored and been deeply embarrassed by what has occurred there,” Carter said in his initial public comments on the scandal.
It is likely the House of Representatives will vote to impeach Clinton but the Senate will not convict him, predicted Carter, a Democrat who served as president from 1977-81.
Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said on his Sept. 22 radio program of Clinton’s testimony: “I thought that the president prevaricated. He dodged. He dissembled. He tried to artfully craft answers that were non-answers.
“I was perhaps more concerned than I have been up to this point … that this is a man who is incapable of forming a friendly relationship with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Speaking on his weekday broadcast, “For Faith and Family,” Land said of early poll results after the telecast of the testimony, “I think that it says a great deal about the American people and where we are as a people that we can have this disconnect so that [Clinton] gives this rather disturbing performance on television yesterday and his poll ratings actually go up 6 percent. That’s incredible, and I think it says a lot more about us and how we’ve lost our moral compass than it says about Mr. Clinton.”
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll after the telecast showed 66 percent of Americans approve of Clinton’s job performance, while a CBS survey showed 68 percent approve of the way he is doing his job. The polls, both performed the evening of Sept. 21, showed increases of 6 and 9 percent, respectively.
Yet, 81 percent in the Gallup poll said the president definitely or probably lied under oath to the grand jury in denying he had sexual relations with Lewinsky. Even if Clinton lied, 56 percent said he should not be impeached, according to the Gallup survey.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today castigated the president’s testimony in editorials Sept. 22.
Calling Clinton’s performance “indisputably one of the most low-rent moments in White House history,” The Times said it favors censure by Congress if the president withdraws publicly his contention he did not lie under oath. “Clearly he did,” The Times said. “Seeing him on tape reminds us that on acceptable terms we can afford to be a nation of forgivers. But we must not become a nation of enablers.”
Calling for an impeachment inquiry to begin, The Post said Clinton “pretty plainly lied under oath.”
Clinton’s testimony reinforced its call for the president to resign, USA Today said. Whether the president was “purposefully abusing the legal process” or he “honestly believes that truth is a fungible commodity,” Clinton’s performance was a “national embarrassment,” USA Today said.
In an opposing view published by USA Today, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo defended Clinton, saying his conduct did not reach the level of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” that justifies removal from office.
Other recent developments include:
— First Lady Hillary Clinton has begun lobbying Democratic members of the House in order to keep her husband in the White House, according to a Sept. 24 report in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. While news reports have indicated the White House might accept some punishment short of impeachment, the Republican leadership has rejected such proposals as premature.
— Evangelist/relief agency head Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, has suggested Clinton “quietly resign” for the good of the country, according to a Sept. 11 report in The Charlotte Observer. “Let [Vice President] Al Gore pardon him and get it off the front pages and into history,” Graham said. He would not say his father wanted Clinton to leave office, The Observer reported, but said the aging evangelist considers the scandal a “horrible embarrassment” that has left him “sad and sickened.”
— Jerry Falwell said at the Christian Coalition’s annual conference Sept. 19 if Clinton were to resign in a spirit of genuine repentance “we should ask those who control [his] fate to extend genuine mercy to him. This would mean removing any threat or possibility of indictment or criminal proceedings as he and his family pursue their private lives. His punishment will have been severe enough.”
— Positive-thinking preacher Robert Schuller suggested Clinton should consider resignation. Schuller, senior pastor of Crystal Cathedral, told The New York Times in a Sept. 11 report, “He has to ask himself whether he will heal the breach through extended impeachment hearings or whether prolonging this will make it deeper and uglier. I think he will have to ask the question, ‘If I resign, will that give me an opportunity to close the presidency with more honor and dignity than if I wait it out and fight it through?'” On NBC’s “Today Show” Sept. 18, Schuller said Clinton lied to him earlier this year about the Lewinsky allegations. He said the president needed help for a long-term problem.
— As he said he would at a breakfast with religious leaders Sept. 11, Clinton has asked three members of the clergy to form an accountability group to help him in his spiritual restoration. The three are Tony Campolo, controversial author and professor at Eastern College in Pennsylvania; Gordon MacDonald, evangelical pastor and author who left the ministry for a few years after committing adultery; and Philip Wogaman, pastor at Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, where the Clintons attend. The president is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.
— Some Christian leaders say the White House scandal has caused more people to examine their lives and repent, according to a Sept. 21 article in USA Today. “We are finding a lot of people getting honest with God,” said Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston. “I see a serious sense of the brokenness and a shame that has come over people” for their sins and for supporting flawed leaders, Young said.
— Three conservative Republicans in the House have acknowledged in recent weeks adulterous relationships from their past. Confronted by pending news reports, Reps. Henry Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Dan Burton of Indiana admitted they had such sexual relationships.