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Bartlett says Clinton was 'our guest'

January 29, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Bartlett says Clinton was 'our guest'

Despite allegations of improper sex and perjury swirling around President Clinton, U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett said Wednesday he was glad Congress gave the president a traditionally warm reception at Tuesday's State of the Union speech.

"He was our guest," said Bartlett, R-Md. "You should not be rude to your guest."

Bartlett has been one of Clinton's most dogged congressional critics and was one of 19 members of Congress who signed a resolution in November asking the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether previous allegations were sufficient to begin impeachment proceedings.

But Bartlett mirrored his party's leadership Wednesday in urging restraint. He said independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr should complete his investigation before Congress takes any action.

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"It's too early to rush to judgment. We have to wait until the facts are in," he said.

Frederick County, Md., Democrat Timothy D. McCown, who has launched a campaign for Bartlett's 6th District seat, agreed.

"It's hard to know what's true and what's not," he said. "We all need to be a lot more careful" with the facts.

Whatever the truth, Bartlett expressed concerns that the torrent of allegations could prevent the president from doing his job. He cited the crisis in Iraq, where the United States has charged that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors.

"It may very well be that we'll have to use military force against Iraq," he said.

Bartlett questioned whether Clinton would be in a position to do that.

Bartlett strongly rejected suggestions by Hillary Rodham Clinton that the allegations are part of a right-wing conspiracy.

McCown, while saying Clinton's enemies might not be the source of the charges, said there are many who would like to see him go down.

"There is a right-wing conspiracy out there. Whether this is concocted remains to be seen," he said.

If the allegations prove true, however, McCown said Clinton should resign and save the country a fight over impeachment.

"That's an 'if,'" he said.

Despite the deluge of media reports, the American public seems ambivalent about the scandal. A majority in opinion surveys say Clinton should be removed from office if allegations of lying and suborning perjury prove true.

But allegations that he had sex with a 21-year-old White House intern have drawn mixed results. More than half say they don't consider that an important issue.

"It doesn't surprise me, but it depresses me," Bartlett said. "I think it indicates we may be losing our moral compass."

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