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Saturday, February 13, 1999 Published at 15:12 GMT

World's press takes stock

President Clinton made the headlines the world over

US President Bill Clinton's acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial has been dubbed by editorial writers around the world as a victory for - variously - the constitution, cynicism and sheer good luck.

But the prevalent mood in much of the world's press was one of relief.

Highlights from what the papers said in:

United States
United Kingdom
Hong Kong

The US press could not decide whether the outcome of the impeachment trial was a victory or a defeat for the constitution.

"In a season of frailty, the Constitution has prevailed once again," said the New York Times, describing it as "the great anchor rock of the Republic."

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The Washington Post, on the other hand, said any such verdict would be nonsense.

"The Constitution lost in a big way the moment the man in whom it vested the entire executive power of the United States decided to cheat a court in order to protect himself," the Post said.

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Another post-mortem of the impeachment saga in the New York Times said it had demonstrated a rising tide of cynicism.

"Cynicism began growing in the United States during the Vietnam war; it increased during Watergate, and it may have reached a peak this year, with more than half the public telling pollsters: the President lied under oath, but leave him where he is."

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The Boston Globe hailed the American people as "the only heroes" in the impeachment battle. "Fortunately ... the citizenry stepped into the void when no responsible adults were to be found in Washington," said the Globe.

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For the Los Angeles Times, the final vote came as confirmation that anything other than a bipartisan approach was doomed to failure.

"It was House Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde who cautioned more than a year ago against an impeachment effort without bipartisan support," said the Times, adding that Mr Hyde himself long ago abandoned his own advice.

As for the verdict of history, said the Times, "the task for future generations may be less to sort out winners from losers in this affair than to determine who lost the most."

Europe sighs relief

In Europe, Swiss newspapers set the tone for relief at the end of the impeachment process.

[ image: Clinton preaches reconciliation, says Belgium's Le Soir]
Clinton preaches reconciliation, says Belgium's Le Soir
"United States: the end of a farce," was the headline in Geneva daily Le Temps, while Le Matin in Lausanne read : "Monicagate: 389 days for nothing".

The Belgian press was vocal in welcoming the acquittal and condemning the effects of the process.

To impeach Clinton would have been "a victory for the ayatollahs of neo-puritanism," the daily Le Soir said.

La Libre Belgique decried the trial as a process that has "ridiculed the presidency, the institutions, the judicial system, the parties and the media of a country that sees itself as a model."

The French press made similar sceptical comments, saying that Mr Clinton would not emerge from the trial unscathed.

"Having risen so high during the battle, Bill Clinton's popularity rating can only crumble once the political tension of the impeachment trial dissipates," the right-leaning Figaro warned.

In Germany, the Suddeutsche Zeitung described the process as American "mass psychosis" to be compared with prohibition and the witch-hunts under McCarthy.

UK press highlights political fallout

Editorials in British newspapers suggested that while Clinton may have escaped impeachment, his reputation around the world is severely damaged.

"His luck has been amazing, but it has cost his authority dear," said an editorial in The Daily Telegraph, a conservative broadsheet.

"In his future dealings with the Middle East or China or North Korea, it will be difficult not to regard him as the lamest of ducks. That is a loss not only to Americans, but also to their friends around the world," it continued.

The Guardian's leading commentary said Americans ought to be taking stock of the political impact of the trial.

"The attempted execution of President Clinton turned out to be like the old cartoon of a circular firing squad: they missed the condemned man only to kill each other," it said.

The Times, another London-based broadsheet, used the headline "Clinton: the great escape," but also ran an editorial urging Clinton to "salvage his reputation" and restore dignity to his office.

Japan focuses on dignity

Japan's mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper said: "It won't be easy for the president, who has worldwide influence, to restore his prestige."

[ image: The trial's end was broadcast on giant screens in Tokyo]
The trial's end was broadcast on giant screens in Tokyo
And a leading Japanese conservative newspaper, the Sankei Shimbun, called the trial a "political show" which deeply reflected "partisan benefits" instead of legal argument.

"The president was brought face to face with impeachment by the lowly scandal of infidelity not by a political issue ," it reported.

The paper urged Mr Clinton to restore public confidence in himself and the soiled dignity of the presidency.

The influential Asahi Shimbun said the investigation and trial had resulted in a "deluge of explicit sexual expressions in the media".

"Children have exchanged jokes themed on adultery ... ," it said. "The adultery scandal ... has made a considerable impact on US society with regard to sex."

Meanwhile, an editorial in the English-language Hong Kong Standard warned that the world may not have seen the end of the issue.

"Given the twists and turns this saga has taken, at times looking more like a soap opera ... it is still too early to write finis," the paper said.

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In this section

Clinton in the clear

Eyewitness: Of all my trials...

World's press takes stock

Relief greets end of trial

A 'pyrrhic victory' for Clinton

Everybody wins

Key moments: In their own words

Timeline: The Clinton investigation