Clinton Presses On

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WASHINGTON: As Vernon Jordan might say, mission accomplished. President Clinton's first press conference since the release of the Starr report passed relatively smoothly Wednesday -- and in many ways was more memorable for the comments of Clinton's guest, Czech president Vaclev Havel. That's just the way Clinton wanted it. "He successfully parried all questions without adding anything new to the debate," says TIME Washington correspondent Jay Branegan. "There's a double game going on here -- his lawyers argue the specifics, and he's not to be seen to get into legalisms."

Special Report Which meant plenty of outings for that well-worn phrase, "I'm going back to work for the American people." Clinton refused to get "mired in the details" of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but admitted that the people "know what happened" and he still had to "atone for what I did." But what of Congress, what of the release of his videotaped testimony, what of impeachment? "It's outside my authority," shrugged the President. Havel, meanwhile, showed his host an even better way to answer scandal questions. Asked if Clinton's misdeeds had had any effect on him, the absurdist playwright replied: "I congratulate Mr. McGwire and wish success to Mr. Sammy Sosa." Now that's how to get the hometown crowd on your side.