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NETWORK ANALYSTS VARY IN TAKES ON CLINTON TAPES

This is what I'm thinking about President Clinton's videotape performance:

The first segment was the most important, because many viewers probably left as soon as they realized that this was going to be a long, boring four hours of sex questions.

The longer the sex questions went on, the sadder and sillier it looked. Especially to those leaning the president's way.

After the first few breaks, ABC's Cokie Roberts and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin struck sympathetic notes. "You almost feel like he's a little boy before the principal," said Roberts. "I feel quite sorry for him, frankly."

She's lucky that George Will wasn't around to hear that.

Said Goodwin on NBC: "People will feel sympathy. He looks so lonely."

And now for something completely different: Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University law professor on whom NBC relies for analysis, always can be counted on to hammer the president.

When it was suggested that Clinton's performance was much better than advertised, Turley responded, "We're not deciding whether he's a good poker player, but a good president." He added that we shouldn't worry about how he looks, but what he says.

Sorry, Jonathan. In today's political world, how President Clinton looks is much more important than what he says.

We knew that he was going to stick to his story -- no matter how ridiculous -- that oral sex isn't sex.

His anger in a speech to the nation the night of his grand jury testimony turned many people against him. As NBC's Tim Russert said this morning on "Today," his demeanor during his testimony made his anger that night even more surprising. If the president had struck the same tone in his talk to the nation, his polls might not have softened.

NBC, which in prime time lives off sitcoms that rely on sex, was the only network to pull the plug on certain portions because of content. ABC and CBS just added warnings and carried them in their entirety. Tonight's sophomoric premiere of "Mad About You," in which Paul takes Viagra, has more sexual content than this testimony had.

Channel 2 obviously feels the public is suffering from scandal fatigue. It passed on NBC's extra half-hour of network news to run "Entertainment Tonight" as scheduled. And "ET's" first story? How the media covered the Clinton performance. You can't get away from it no matter how hard you try.

Russert said impeachment hearings probably will start after the November elections. Just think, we have only about 45 more days of analysis before the hearings can start.

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