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Torrance, Calif.; For Lunch Crowd, Issue Is Tasteless And Unappetizing

Impeachment Hearings

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  • By Rene Sanchez
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, December 10, 1998; Page A34

    TORRANCE, Calif.—The guys waiting for a lunch table outside La Capilla restaurant -- middle-aged managers in casual slacks and golf shirts -- hardly have much praise for President Clinton. Toss his name into their sidewalk conversation and the smirks or jeers keep coming: fool, lech, liar, joke.

    Still, all seven say they also are certain he should not be impeached.

    "I'm so tired of this, I don't even follow it much anymore," said John Corral, as others nodded in agreement. "Look, we all know what he did. The facts are out. It was stupid and wrong, and he has been completely embarrassed. That should be it. Why can't we move on and get to the real issues in the country?"

    Similar views resound throughout this city of new strip malls and old industrial plants just south of Los Angeles. Middle class and modest, with racial diversity but not great tension, Torrance is a veritable slice of the Midwest in Southern California.

    The city's vote on the impeachment of the president, if there is one in Congress this year, would be cast by Rep. Jane Harman, a moderate-to-liberal Democrat who is retiring from the House and will be replaced in January by Steve Kuykendall, a Republican.

    But residents here sound frustrated that the impeachment debate has even come this far. On the sunny streets of Torrance's old downtown, among the young and old and across the races, all the talk about Washington this week seems weary, grim and angry.

    By now, many people here say they are looking on in disbelief, or looking away with disgust, as Republicans continue to press the case for ousting the president. Their reasoning is diverse, their conclusions the same: The better punishment for Clinton, they say, would be to censure him for lying about his relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

    "What he did does not affect the country's business at all," said Josie Gonzalez, a woman in her twenties, as she left a bank. "They should leave it alone. He already apologized to us. The whole thing is just an embarrassment, and I'm sick of it."

    Outside the post office nearby, Kirk Traynham said he opposes impeaching Clinton because even the worst of the charges he is facing pale in comparison to Watergate.

    "Clinton set off this whole procedure because he was so stupid," said Traynham, a manager in the aerospace industry who is contemplating early retirement. "But Nixon did much worse stuff than this. And we've got more important things to worry about."

    Some residents who speak with disdain or disillusionment about Clinton's conduct frame their willingness to keep him in office in purely practical terms -- the economy is humming, they say. But some have even harsher words for Republican leaders pushing impeachment, even though polls and last month's midterm elections suggest that most voters want Clinton to remain in office.

    "They have their minds made up," said Gina Randolph, an administrator at a cable company during her lunch break. "Republicans just want him out. After the election, I was relieved because I thought this was finally over. But they won't let it end, no matter what people say. It's just ridiculous."

    © Copyright The Washington Post Company

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