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Onlookers Gather at White House Gates

McComish picture/Harvey
Thirty-year-old Michael McComish studies the scene at the White House Sunday. (Chris Harvey/
By Chris Harvey Staff Writer
Sunday, January 25, 1998; 4:25 p.m. EST

Curious bicyclists, weekend strollers and out-of-town visitors were drawn to the White House gates on Sunday in search of any evidence of the sex-and-the-president story they have seen unfolding on the nightly news.

"I wanted to see how many press folks were here," said Michael McComish, a 30-year-old banker from Alexandria who had bicycled into town and stood peering between the bars of the fence encircling the White House.

"I was curious, and I thought I ought to take a couple of pictures and show the kids," said Joseph D. Abkin, a corporate attorney from Santa Barbara, Calif., explaining the shots he had just taken of the East Wing with his disposable camera.

Reasner-Lloyd. (Chris Harvey)
All along the fence protecting the president's house, people were gawking, pointing cameras and shooting. One family cluster explained that a brother-in-law, an out-of-towner, is a television cameraman. "He didn't want to see the monuments. He wanted to see the media," said Donna Reasner-Lloyd, 29, of Laurel.

Reporters with cameras in tow had staked out several different entrances to the White House, awaiting the coming or going of someone important. As they waited, the visitors outside the fence willingly offered up opinions on President Clinton's recent troubles with a 24-year-old former intern.

Six of the eight people interviewed said they wanted the president to be much more forthcoming about his relationship with former staffer Monica Lewinsky, who allegedly was taped saying the president had engaged in sex with her, then told her to lie about it. Several of those interviewed also said they were having trouble trusting the president, following recent statements that conflicted with statements he made in 1992 on an earlier affair.

Some said the implications for his presidency were grave.

"He's losing the support of the people who have stuck with him, like me," said Abkin, a Democrat who has twice voted for Clinton. "I've had it. It's too much. He doesn't seem to learn."

McComish, an independent who voted for Clinton once, joined others in citing concerns with Clinton's lack of substantive explanations. "What concerns me is he doesn't say anything," McComish said.

"I heard an interview he did on NPR and he said he'd cooperate, and that's it. Give us something else," said Jennifer Reasner, 27, of Arlington, who had come to check out the White House with her sister, Reasner-Lloyd, her sister's husband and her sister's brother-in-law.

Many said they were bothered more by the allegations that Clinton has lied than by his alleged infidelity.

"Who wants to be lied to anyway?" said Jeff Raynor, a 35-year-old radio broadcaster from Lynchburg, Va., who was taking pictures of the White House with his wife, Wendy.

McComish said his confidence in the president has been eroded. "I understand [now] that he has a particular way of not telling a lie, but not telling the truth ... He tells you what's not true as opposed to what is true.

"I feel now I have to second-guess everything my president says ... I look at things he said in the past, and a lot of it seems like he was twisting his words," McComish said.

But Elden Nordahl, a 65-year-old utility board chairman from Florence, Ore., said too much was being made of the recent allegations. "The actions here don't bother me," the Democrat said. "What did bother me is we couldn't continue with the deficit as it was growing."

And several said they weren't sure who to believe - Clinton or Lewinsky in her taped comments as reported so far. Marcelo Roma, a 22-year-old visitor to Washington from Brazil, had no such trouble.

"I think this woman wants to enjoy the situation to earn money," Roma said of Lewinsky. "I think this is a fake situation."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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