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Full text of Saturday's White House response. The Starr report is also online.

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The Real-Life Drama Receives Bad Reviews

By Sharon Waxman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 13, 1998; Page A30

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Sept. 12—The sun was shining, the lattes were foaming and the valet parking was jammed with Jaguars and Porsches today at Two Rodeo Drive, an outdoor mini-mall with stores ranging from Cartier to Gianni Versace. But the mood was oddly somber.

Everyone, it seemed, had events in Washington on his mind. And in the heart of Beverly Hills -- a place that inspired Aaron Spelling's steamy television melodrama and brought the world Monica S. Lewinsky -- reactions ranged from disgust to anger to sadness over the spectacle occurring in the nation's capital.

"It's ridiculous," said Dale Murphy, a 52-year-old packaging sales manager, wearing heavy gold bracelets on either wrist and around his neck. "There's the economy in Japan, in Russia, there's nuclear proliferation, there's the homeless -- for hours I've been thinking about this. We're regressing. It's time to unify and go forward, and it's not happening."

Said Margaret O'Connor, director of a San Francisco biotech company who was shopping with a friend from Newport Beach, "There's a lot of private information in that report that I'm sorry to know."

Her friend, Toni Alex, who works at a computer company, nodded in agreement. "It doesn't seem like it's impeachable information, and it all just seems sad and pathetic. I don't doubt for a moment that Clinton was lying," she said. "But I still think the basis of what he lied about was not impeachable. It has nothing to do with government or public affairs."

Alex, who said she hadn't read Kenneth W. Starr's report and did not intend to, added, "I'm sick of it. I don't want any part of it. Clinton got a raw deal. We've all done things in our lives that wouldn't look good on the Internet."

But farther down the slate-cobbled plaza, just in front of Versace, others -- including those who identified themselves as Democrats -- disagreed.

"What bothers me most is that it's really a question of judgment," said Nicholas Goldsborough, director of the L.A. County Music Center, sipping coffee with a friend in front of the designer clothing store. "You'd think he'd have better judgment than to hit on a 21-year-old intern. It's totally repulsive. If I were to decide to pursue some intern, it would be a total abuse of my responsibility and my authority."

His friend, David Green, a consultant to performing arts centers, called Starr's report heavy-handed.

"Each incident splayed out there in such excruciating detail," he groaned. "But the real question becomes whether the man can govern. Can he be commander of the armed forces, can he be negotiating treaties? He's kind of through, even if it all blows over in some way."

Green added, "He's defiled the presidency and he deserves to be censured."

Many on the tony Rodeo Drive shopping strip, such as housewives Lois Kopanski and Ellen Frohlich, both of whom have young children, were angered that the Starr report was released on the Internet without any of the graphic sexual details removed. Others were uncertain of how they felt about the report, except to be generally revolted by the president's behavior.

"I'm appalled for the country. But I don't know if impeachment is the thing to do," said Kopanski, 39. "It all just makes us look worse in the eyes of the world."

At the valet parking, someone famous in a blue linen jacket declined to give his name, claiming, "If I told you, you'd know who I was." But he fulminated against the whole mess anyway. "It's an absurdity. An embarrassment for the American people."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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