At dinner time in Los Angeles, the clamor of a busy deli came to an abrupt halt as President Clinton drew in a deep breath and told the public he had misled them.
When he was done, most diners shrugged and went back to their meals.
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"I thought he was very honest about what he said," said one diner. "He confessed."
Said another: "I think we're ready to move on. It's his personal business. We shouldn't be involved in what he is doing. He is doing a great job for the country."
Throughout the United States, ordinary Americans wondered whether one untruth hid others yet to be confessed. Some wondered if Mr. Clinton's presidency had been permanently damaged, but many said they were ready to heed his plea for privacy and bring down the curtain on the whole affair.
"He's guilty. What else is there to say? It's all a little overdramatized, and most people don't even care anymore," said Thomas Tesh, manager of a bagel bakery in Charlotte, N. C.
"He's the president. He's not supposed to be the pope," said Red Bullock, 62, a Cincinnati barber. "I just think they should leave him alone to run the country. He's done a good job of it so far. I don't care what he's done in his private life."
According to a CBS/New York Times poll conducted Monday evening, a majority of Americans (58 percent) who watched the president's address say they are satisfied with his statement admitting he had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Sixty-two percent say it hasn't changed their opinion of the president.
Despite repeated polls like this that show Americans aren't all that interested in the affair, an interested nation tuned in Monday night.
At a Dallas airport, travelers took time to stop, listen, and give an opinion.
"I think the bottom line is that he still is now willing to accept the fact that he made some serious mistakes," said one traveler.
They heard the president's spin at a laundromat in Tennessee: "As long as he is doing what his job is, they should leave him alone."
At the Owl Cafe in Ripley, Tenn., Rufus Smith said over a cup of coffee, "He said he was sorry, but he didn't sound sorry to me. He sounded like somebody wrote that speech for him and then made him get up there and say it."
Even though the address came later on the East Coast, many stayed put in public places to hear it.
"He faced reality. He faced his past, and he took resposibility. And that's - I mean, what more can you ask from a man?"
Most said they would have preferred it if the speech had come about seven months earlier, when the scandal first broke.
U.S. newspapers appeared to be giving President Clinton a harder time than the public at large. The front page headline of the New York Daily News screamed "He Lied" and its editorial said Mr. Clinton had committed a breach of trust "so deep that it threatens to wreck his presidency."
The New York Times said President Clinton "let slip a vital chance to give a healing report to the nation and to begin the task of rehabilitating his character in the eyes of the public."
The Chicago Sun-Times said in its editorial, "He should not have tried to save his skin by being unfaithful to us all."