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French Culture Ex-Minister Seeks Support for Clinton

By Charles Trueheart
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 18, 1998; Page A4

PARIS, Aug. 17 – Disturbed by the "inquisition" into President Clinton's private life that climaxes today, a prominent former French culture minister, Jack Lang, has broached the idea of an international campaign of support for Clinton among intellectuals and cultural figures.

"I want to show a kind of solidarity, not just with Bill Clinton, but with the American people, who don't like these tactics any more than I do," Lang said in an interview, describing a letter-writing campaign he likened to the hearty expressions of support Clinton has drawn from the entertainment community this month.

"I'll get a lot of support for this," Lang said.

Lang, a Socialist, was the outspokenly nationalist French culture czar under then-President Francois Mitterrand, and is today head of the Socialist-controlled National Assembly's foreign affairs committee. He said he was leaving Tuesday to campaign with other intellectuals on behalf of the election of Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party in Germany, where he said he would bring up his idea.

Citing Alexis de Tocqueville and Montesquieu, Lang lamented what he called the "infernal unstoppable machine" of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's "unchecked inquisition" to "destabilize President Clinton and the American presidency itself."

Lang illustrates as well as anyone the often-caricatured French indifference to the private lives of public officials, or anyone else. Public reaction to the Starr inquiry in France, as around the world, has been one of disbelief. Lang a positive spin on the kind of behavior associated with the Monica S. Lewinsky case.

"I know of lot of people" in public life and the business world "who get to know each other in their work," Lang said. "They become friends for a few months, sometimes best friends for life. . . .

"Love has its place everywhere, even in politics, so long as both of the parties do their jobs. Happiness can make you work better. It can be the road to efficiency," he said.

"Bill Clinton's appetite for life is not a defect, it's a good sign. People who enjoy life reassure me more than those who put on airs and give us sermons about morality," Lang said.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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