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Clinton expresses gratitude for ‘unmerited forgiveness’

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Clinton expressed gratitude for the “unmerited forgiveness” he has received in the last year during a Sept. 28 speech to many of the same religious leaders before whom last year he acknowledged he had sinned in his adulterous relationship with a White House intern.
Meanwhile, a new book by a federal judge says in a criminal trial a person who did what the president did would have received “a prison sentence of 30 to 37 months.”
Speaking to about 100 people at a breakfast with religious leaders that has become an annual event since Clinton’s first year in office, the president briefly addressed last year’s event and what he has experienced since then.
“Last year was one of the most difficult years in my life, and this occasion, because it has come to mean so much to me, was a very difficult one,” Clinton said, according to a transcript. “For those of you who were part of that, I want to express my particular appreciation.
“I have been profoundly moved, as few people have, by the pure power of grace — unmerited forgiveness through grace — most of all to my wife and daughter, but to the people I work with, to the legions of American people and to the God in whom I believe. And I am very grateful to all of you who have had any role in that, and I thank you.”
At last year’s breakfast, Clinton agreed he “was not contrite enough” less than a month earlier when he admitted in a nationally televised speech he had an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky after denying it for almost seven months.
“I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned,” the president told the group last year.
“It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: First and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.”
At that time, Clinton did not say when he requested forgiveness from Lewinsky and her family. At a briefing later in the day, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the president had not talked with Lewinsky. McCurry said he thought Clinton’s statement at the breakfast “was an apology.”
At this year’s breakfast, the president also thanked three religious leaders who have counseled him during the last year. They are Gordon MacDonald, an evangelical author and pastor; Tony Campolo, author and professor at Eastern College, and Philip Wogaman, pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington.
They “have kept their word to meet with me over the last year — both to help me and to hold me accountable,” Clinton said. “And I have kept my word to meet with them and to work with them.
“I also want you to know that we are continuing our work. It is interesting and not always comfortable, but always rewarding. And I hope you will pray for us as we do.”
According to The Washington Times, Wogaman agreed the sessions are sometimes uncomfortable.
“You’re dealing with your failings, with your flaws, and you hold them to view and you discuss them,” Wogaman said, according to The Times.
“I’ve always thought he was a person with great gifts and that this was an area of flaw in his life that he needed to deal with, and he’s done so. We don’t judge people just by their flaws.”
Last year’s breakfast came on the same day the U.S. House of Representatives voted to release the 445-page report of independent counsel Kenneth Starr. That report charged Clinton not only committed perjury on four matters in a deposition but also on his sexual relationship with Lewinsky before the grand jury. The report included graphic details reported by Lewinsky of 10 sexual encounters between the president and her in the White House’s oval office area from 1995 to 1997. Clinton contended he never committed perjury in denying he had sexual relations with Lewinsky.
In December, the House approved two articles of impeachment, one for perjury before the grand jury and the other for obstruction of justice. In February, the Senate failed to convict Clinton on either count, falling far short of the two-thirds majority required.
In his new book, “An Affair of State,” federal appeals court Judge Richard Posner builds a case that the president did commit perjury and his offenses fit “clearly within the realm of offenses that could be held to be impeachable,” wrote reviewer Andrew Sullivan in the Sept. 26 issue of The New York Times. Posner, however, “never quite tells you what he would have done had he been a senator,” Sullivan said.
Posner offers some criticism of Starr, the House and “Clinton-haters,” as he calls them, but his “sharpest judgment is reserved” for Clinton, Sullivan wrote. According to Sullivan’s review, Posner says “whatever one thinks of Starr and his tactics or however much one admires Clinton for his achievements as president, Clinton was guilty of serious crimes, and the behavior of the independent counsel’s office, Linda Tripp and Paula Jones’ backers did not excuse or mitigate that guilt.”
Posner also criticizes the idea voiced by some the country should “move on” because the president had apologized, Sullivan wrote. “The truth is that for the longest time the president apologized for nothing — and never apologized for the relevant public behavior, that is lying, perjury and obstruction of justice. He still hasn’t,” Sullivan wrote.
Posner, chief judge of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was appointed to that court in 1981 by President Reagan.
The White House was not releasing the names of participants at this year’s breakfast, a spokesman said.
The text of Clinton’s 22-minute speech, which focused on preventing violence against youth, is available on the Internet at www.whitehouse.gov.
Though his family and he attend Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, Clinton is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Little Rock, Ark.
Last October, the president wrote a letter in which he asked forgiveness from the fellow members of Immanuel. Clinton “expressed repentance for his actions, sadness for the consequence of his sin on his family, friends and church family, and asked forgiveness from Immanuel,” pastor Rex Horne said in a two-sentence, written statement released at the time. Horne read Clinton’s letter at the conclusion of the morning worship service Oct. 18.
Baptist Press was unable to learn if Clinton cited the sin or sins for which he sought forgiveness. BP requested a copy of the letter from Horne’s office, but a church staff member said the letter was a personal, handwritten one to the pastor, who was not releasing it to others. Horne declined a BP request for an interview about the letter’s contents. An audio tape was not made of the portion of the service in which the letter was read, the staff member said.