President Clinton tried to calm outcry over a controversial remark he made about taxes by pleading guilty Thursday to a lesser offense: disobeying his mother's advice to keep quiet when he's tired.
Two days after he delighted Republicans and enraged some Democrats by saying that he was sorry about 1993 increases for the top 1.2% of taxpayers, an abashed Clinton appeared in the White House press room to contend that he never meant to say he was sorry.
Clinton said that, if the comment caused people to think he wasn't "proud" of the hikes, "then I shouldn't have said that. . . . It was absolutely the right thing to do." What he meant to say, the President went on, "was that nobody enjoys raising taxes."
Clearly choking a bit on this helping of crow, Clinton added: "My mother once said I shouldn't give a talk after 7 o'clock if I'm tired--and she sure was right!"
If this was his mother's advice, Clinton has disobeyed it twice in the last week.
Addressing a group of mostly wealthy contributors in Houston on Tuesday night, Clinton said that some in his audience were probably angry at the tax hike.
"It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too," Clinton said. He went on to say that the move was nonetheless the right thing to do, because of the need to lower the deficit and increase government spending on needed national "investments."
Clinton said much the same thing last Friday when he addressed a group of wealthy chief executives in Williamsburg, Va.
The Houston remark drew denunciation from some Democrats, who complained that Clinton shouldn't be disavowing a move that required them to cast votes at considerable political risk.
The flap seemed to take some toll on Clinton. He appeared half an hour late for a scheduled news conference Thursday morning and joked wearily before he took the first question: "I can only imagine what the first question is."