Bill Clinton's Big Night

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WASHINGTON: At last, Bill Clinton came out and said it. "Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was inappropriate. In fact, it was wrong." But that was as detailed as the President's five-minute mea culpa was going to get Monday night -- and by all accounts, not even his grand jury testimony mentioned the specifics. He came out fighting too. Attacks on the independent counsel peppered a speech that was "surprisingly defiant," according to TIME Washington correspondent Jay Branegan. "He's daring Ken Starr to subpoena him to get the rest of the testimony."

Special Report As if reading down a pollster's list of issues, Clinton managed to hit the hot buttons of the Lewinsky case with a speedy detatchment. Still, there were notable absences -- no elaboration on that tricky legal definition of sex, for one. But while opponents will be able to pick holes in the President's sincerity, the core constituency -- those millions of folks who just want to get this over with -- have just about enough of an admission to go on. "This speech was keyed towards the people," says Branegan, "not the political spectrum, not Starr, not Congress."

The swift end, however, may not come. Ken Starr's office is still weighing whether today's testimony was too vague. The long national nightmare may have a few reels left to run yet.