By Sarah Anchors and Kevin Mcnulty
ANNAPOLIS – As Congress prepared Friday to release Kenneth Starr’s report outlining grounds for impeaching President Clinton, the lunch crowd here in Maryland’s capital was taking a more tolerant view of his actions.
Only four of 14 people interviewed in Annapolis bars, barbershops and along the waterfront said Clinton should resign or face impeachment proceedings.
“In the business world, if he got caught doing any of this stuff, he would be fired, so he probably should be impeached,” said University of Maryland business major Fred Kent, 22, strolling along Church Circle.
Annapolis engineer Max Milani, 41, waiting to catch a bus after lunching at a Church Circle cafe, agreed the president should resign or face impeachment.
“I just hope that after all this publicity that people learn a lesson from it,” Milani said. “Lying is a really serious offense.”
The report of the independent counsel, released Friday afternoon, outlined 11 grounds for impeaching Clinton, including perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with Clinton’s affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
But despite sharing their disgust with Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky and his admitted lies concerning that relationship, most of those interviewed thought the scandal overblown and the president’s affair not unique.
“How we got from [former President John F.] Kennedy having Marilyn Monroe and ties to the Mafia … 360 degrees around to now, is something really fascinating,” said Frank Nappo, 55. The Anne Arundel County sales manager listed about seven presidents he believed had had mistresses, as he perused the Ram’s Head Tavern menu.
“We all have these foibles,” said Bob Schuerman, 42, who does renovations for St. John’s College and was lunching along the waterfront. “Anyone who says they don’t is a hypocrite.”
But a lunch companion, Minna Hill, a 31-year-old waitress, said she thought Clinton’s problems amounted to more than foibles. “He needs to see a shrink,” she said.
Others said they were less concerned with Clinton’s morals than with the nation’s health.
“I didn’t vote for his moral character,” said retired Annapolis resident Jim Lewis, 60, as he ate at McGarvey’s Saloon and Oyster Bar. “America doesn’t care about morals. They want to know, `How can we make enough money to make ends meet?’ ”
Lewis, like others at McGarvey’s, dismissed the scandal as partisan Washington politics.
“These boys in the [U.S.] House are stepping up to the bar on moral stands, but I’d like to know what they’ve done,” Lewis said.
Most of those interviewed said candidates’ platforms will decide their votes in state and local elections, not the Clinton scandal. However, Annapolis barber shop owner Bill Remington, 48, said his ire with Republican behavior runs straight down to city elections.
The Republican-led House voted Friday to release Starr’s report.
“I want to do as much damage to [Republicans] as I can,” Remington said, as he shampooed customer Paul Coe’s hair.
Eyes closed to keep out the suds, Coe, a 36-year-old Annapolis surf shop owner, joined in, saying he was annoyed with how Republicans are holding up the business of government.
“They are not listening to the American people,” Coe said. “We didn’t elect them to do witch hunts in the White House bedroom or Oval Office.”
As for press coverage of the scandal, even as people slowed in front of the West Street McDonald’s door to hear the news updates, those interviewed said they thought the press has focused too much on the matter of the president’s relationship with Lewinsky.
“All the coverage just encourages the Republicans to continue with this absurdity,” said Eleanor Simms, 52, taking a work break to enjoy the gorgeous day.
Simms, who works for the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services, added that she’s “quite sure he feels bad enough” now, so news reporters should let the story die.
Capital News Service reporter Amy Dominello contributed to this report. -30-