On Friday, September 11, 1998, the U.S. Congress opened and released to the public the Report of Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, setting forth what Judge Starr characterized as impeachable offenses by the President of the United States. The same day, the President hosted the annual White House Prayer Breakfast, at which he made the following remarks. Only God knows his heart and his sincerity. As Christians, we are obligated at this point to accept them as genuine.
We must also denounce as unchristian two popular reactions to recent events — one liberal and one conservative. Those liberals are wrong who seek to excuse, defend or shift blame for the President’s acknowledged sins and breach of trust. Those conservatives are wrong who deny the possibility of genuine repentance, cynically and harshly judge the President’s words of contrition, and speak contemptuously of him and his office. Finally, I note three certainties. First, that moral reformation does not eliminate political or legal consequences. Second, that our duly-elected President needs and has now requested our prayers. Third, that no sin is beyond God’s reach to forgive and no sinner is beyond his power to restore.
I have asked all for their forgiveness. But I believe that to be forgiven, more than sorrow is required. At least two more things: First, genuine repentance, a determination to change and to repair breaches of my own making. I have repented. Second, what my Bible calls a broken spirit. An understanding that I must have God’s help to be the person that I want to be. A willingness to give the very forgiveness I seek. A renunciation of the pride and the anger, which cloud judgment, lead people to excuse and compare and to blame and complain. . . . If my repentance is genuine and sustained, and if I can then maintain both a broken spirit and a strong heart, then good can come of this for our country, as well as for me and my family. . . .
The children of this country can learn in a profound way that integrity is important and selfishness is wrong. But God can change us and make us strong at the broken places. I want to embody those lessons for the children of this country; for that little boy in Florida who came up to me and said that he wanted to grow up and be president and to be just like me. I want the parents of all the children in America to be able to say that to their children. . . .
I ask you to share my prayer that God will search me and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any hurtfulness in me and lead me toward a life everlasting. I ask that God give me a clean heart, let me walk by faith and not sight. I ask once again to be able to love my neighbor — all my neighbors — as myself, to be an instrument of God’s peace, to let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, and in the end, the work of my hands, be pleasing. That is what I wanted to say to you today.”