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KIDS' LETTERS HELPED CLINTON DURING ORDEAL

President Clinton says a key source of moral support during his sex-and-impeachment ordeal was lettershe received from "kids around America," even as many parents struggled to explain the scandal to their children.

In an interview aired Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," the president said one thing that helped him stay emotionally strong was the "letters I got from, you know, kids around America. You wouldn't believe the letters I got from young people . . . unbelievable letters."

For some Americans, dealing with children's questions was among the most difficult aspects of Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky, which filled the airwaves with accounts of sex in the Oval Office. Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening in September 1998 temporarily canceled a political fund-raiser with the president, saying the president's actions had made it difficult to teach his teen-age son right from wrong.

But Clinton cited youngsters' letters when asked by King -- who didn't mention the words "Lewinsky" or "impeachment" during the interview taped Wednesday in the White House -- "How did you emotionally hold up through all that?" Clinton also said he was "touched beyond belief" by conversations "with people like Nelson Mandela I'll carry with me all my life."

The president also said he was surprised but intrigued by Vice President Gore's proposal that he and rival Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley halt all their TV commercials.

"I find it quite interesting and I was intrigued by it," Clinton said of the offer, which Bradley rejected. "If someone had offered me that in 1992, I probably would have done it." He said Gore and Bradley running together would "be a good ticket."

And striking back at a former aide who left his side to write a book critical of his character, Clinton described George Stephanopoulos as "basically a Washington politician."

Clinton said Stephanopoulos was happy to be part of the Washington establishment -- in this case, the Washington media establishment.

The president said that early in the 1992 campaign when the pundits predicted his political demise, "George was asking, 'Well, should we withdraw?'

"James Carville and I, who grew up in the country, you know, out there with the folks, looked at him," Clinton recalled. "And we said, 'George, if the people want me to withdraw, they'll withdraw me at election time; that's what you've got elections for.' "

Stephanopoulos is now a reporter with ABC News. Clinton suggested he belongs there, rather than in a high-level governmental job.

"I think he's probably more comfortable being part of the professional critics of the Washington establishment, the media establishment," Clinton said.

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