Madcap Monica Marathon (Continued)

Madcap Monica Marathon (Continued)

Madcap Monica Marathon (Continued)

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Aug. 16 1998 5:30 PM

Madcap Monica Marathon (Continued)

Chatterbox's feelings are hurt. A reader from AOL suggests that Chatterbox should feel ashamed for "playing the bass drum in the Washington Media Marching and Chowder Society Lynching Band." What a vicious canard. Chatterbox never wanted to be a drummer like Ringo. He dreamed of having real musical talent like John, Paul, and George.

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But on a serious level, Chatterbox would be far happier if Bill Clinton were testifying before a grand jury about the 1996 campaign fund-raising scandals. Far more than either Whitewater or Flytrap, the Clinton team's willingness to bend, if not break, the law in the quest of a re-election rout of Bob Dole remains the true moral nadir of this administration. And, please, don't claim that the Republicans did it too. George Bush, facing political defeat in 1992, never used the powers of the presidency in the cynical pursuit of soft money with anything like the fervor of the 1996 Clinton campaign.

Confronted with evidence of suspicious White House favor trading, Clinton reacted with the same pattern of dissembling and evasions that have characterized Flytrap. The White House spin machine went into overdrive to discredit Fred Thompson's 1997 Senate investigation. Only because a hapless and stubborn Janet Reno has so far refused to appoint an independent counsel are our attentions riveted on such high-minded topics as the semen-stained dress.

That's why Chatterbox will derive some private satisfaction from any public humiliation that the president faces this week over Monica Lewinsky. Cartoonist Jules Feiffer has astutely dubbed Clinton "President Houdini." If Clinton somehow miraculously beats this rap, future presidents will all use his stonewalling strategy as a game plan for dousing future scandals. What's at stake this week is nothing less than our chances of having another president who, to paraphrase Jimmy Carter, will "never lie to the American people."

Once the president testifies, Chatterbox assumes that the White House will resume its holy war against Kenneth Starr. They will point to the collusion between Starr and Paula Jones' lawyers as evidence that Flytrap was nothing more than a "sting" operation aimed at the president. They will talk about how demeaning it is for Clinton to be repeatedly forced to testify under oath about his extra-curricular sex life.

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There's only one problem with this scenario: Even without Paula Jones and Starr, Chatterbox believes that Madcap Monica would have gone public by now with the story of her sexual romps with the president. Had Monica--and not Linda Tripp or Lucianne Goldberg--approached her favorite magazine, Vanity Fair, with her grab bag of evidence of a close personal relationship with Clinton (the gifts, the answering machine tapes, etc.), it is quite likely they would have published.

Remember that Marcia Lewis, Monica's role model of a mother, brazenly hinted at a sexual escapade with Placido Domingo to hype her book on the Three Tenors. Reticence clearly runs in the family. The oft-forgotten Linda Tripp tape that was played for U.S. News & World Report is ripe with indications of Monica's desperate mood in October 1997. At one point Lewinsky is so enraged at the her neglect by the Big He that she declares, "He is a shit. I want to kick him in the balls so that they turn into two flat pancakes."

Could Clinton have bought Monica's silence? The administration certainly tried in the months before Jones' lawyers learned of her existence. But in October 1997, Lewinsky rejected the offer of a job in New York with UN Ambassador Bill Richardson. She was holding out for something far better--and there is no indication that she would have gotten it without the Paula Jones case. Only after Clinton's lawyers were informed in early December that Lewinsky was to be deposed did Vernon Jordan gear up his selfless private-sector job-creation efforts. He quickly arranged job interviews for her at Burson-Marsteller and American Express. But the real lure (free cosmetics?) of a job at Revlon didn't materialize until Lewinsky made threats that she wouldn't file her deny-all affidavit in the Jones case.

Monica was too garrulous and too eager for the limelight to keep her secret for long. (Recall all the confirming witnesses who have appeared before Starr's grand jury to recount that Lewinsky told them of her activities with the president). None of this, of course, would have led to the president facing a grand jury. But Chatterbox believes that this would have been Monica's summer in the sunlight glare of publicity even if Starr had taken that job at Pepperdine. In the end, as hard as it is for the president's dogged defenders to accept, Bill Clinton would have no one to blame but himself.

--Walter Shapiro