How To Please Congress

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WASHINGTON: President Clinton told Ken Starr all he was willing to tell him -- and, reportedly, no more. Now he's done the same for us: An admission or two, an explanation, but no details (not that we wanted any). Is it enough to square him with Congress?

"Right now, the political will to impeach is still very limited among Republicans," says TIME congressional correspondent James Carney. "So if the President concedes some sort of sexual relationship with Monica -- and if Ken Starr doesn't have too strong a case on obstruction of justice, Clinton will be fine." But that's going to mean admitting to perjury as well, says Carney, or it just won't fly. If Bill confesses, "then tries to thread the needle on the definition of sex, a lot of Democrats will abandon him. He's got to give his party something redeeming to get behind."

Special ReportThe upshot seems to be that Congress will forgive anything Clinton will admit to publicly except obstruction of justice -- mainly because they think the rest of America will too. That is a sad measure of a president, and how little we have come to expect from him.