Clinton "Not Ashamed" That He Was Impeached

July 7, 2008 - 7:25 PM

( - A defiant President Clinton Thursday told a meeting of newspaper editors he's not ashamed of the fact that he was impeached; he won't request - and doesn't want - a pardon to avoid prosecution for lying under oath; and he considers the entire Whitewater investigation "a lie and a fraud" from the start.

"I'm not ashamed of the fact that they [Congress] impeached me. That was their decision, not mine, and it was wrong. As a matter of law, Constitution and history, it was wrong. And I'm glad I didn't quit, and I'm glad we fought it, and the American people stuck with me, and I am profoundly grateful," Clinton said Thursday in a rare public comment on the scandal that tarnished his presidency.

Speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Clinton said he is "proud" of his 1999 battle against impeachment because "I think we saved the Constitution of the United States."

He said his presidential library will include information about his impeachment -- but that he will have a "slightly different take on it."

"You have to understand, I consider it one of the major chapters in my defeat of the revolution [former House Speaker Newt] Gingrich led, that would have taken this country in a very different direction than it's going today and also would have changed the Constitution forever in a way that would have been very destructive to the American people."

Clinton said, "I made a terrible personal mistake. I think I paid for it. I settled a lawsuit [the Paula Jones suit]... that I won. I won that lawsuit, remember.... I settled it anyway, because of the political nature of the people that were reviewing it ... because I wanted to go back to work being president," he said.

As for recent reports that the Independent Counsel may seek an indictment of Clinton after he leaves office - for lying under oath and obstruction of justice - Clinton said he's "prepared to stand before any bar of justice that I have to stand before."

Asked if he would request or accept such a pardon, Clinton replied, "Well, the answer is, I have no interest in it. I wouldn't ask for it. I don't think it would be necessary."

He didn't answer the second part of the question, however, so technically, he has not ruled out accepting a pardon should one be offered.

Clinton did tell the newspaper editors he is "deeply regretful" of the sex scandal that led to his impeachment, but that he has paid the price: "I struggled very hard to save my relationship with my wife and my daughter. I've paid quite a lot," he said.

Clinton called the Whitewater investigation - the original investigation that ended with revelations about the Monica Lewinsky affair - a vendetta that the media has never adequately explored: "I would like just once to see someone acknowledge the fact that this Whitewater thing was a lie and a fraud from the beginning, and that most people with any responsibility over it have known it for years."

After Clinton spoke to the editors, a White House spokesman commented on the fact that two of their four questions focused on Clinton's personal problems: "It shows how out of touch some editors are with their readership and the country when they waste their questions on something from two years ago instead of the many pressing issues facing the American people," said White House spokesman Jim Kennedy.