Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?

Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
July 1 1998 3:30 AM

Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Dear Margaret,
       Since it was my suggestion to have this dialogue in the first place, I suppose it's only fair I begin. I would like to make it clear that neither am I Linda's spokesman nor do I represent her in any other professional capacity. But as a matter of full disclosure, I should let it be known that my mom did represent Linda Tripp as her book agent at one point and that she and I are her friends. Also, my mom and I have heard Linda's side of the story, and we have listened to about four hours of the vaunted Tripp-Lewinsky tapes.
       Now, with all that out of the way, the question before us is "Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?" I have you at a disadvantage, because I simply know firsthand that Linda is not vicious. But the question of whether she was right or wrong in her actions is obviously open to debate. So let us draw the line. You side with the teeming masses of Clinton-watchers who--having witnessed the dozens of lives Bill Clinton has ruined, the rivers of lies he's told, the mountains of promises he's broken, the rafts of laws and ethics he's violated--have reached the inescapable conclusion that someone other than Clinton must be to blame for his troubles.
       I, on the other hand, believe Linda belongs in the legions of little people whose lives have been thrown into chaos by a president and a presidency with a utilitarian understanding of inconvenient people. I concede Linda has been inconvenient for Clinton and most assuredly for Monica Lewinsky.
       Edmund Burke noted that "power gradually extirpates from the mind every human and gentle virtue." Alas, things were less than gradual when the Clintons came into power. At the outset of this administration, they determined it would be helpful in some small way to replace the employees of the White House Travel Office. These apolitical public servants were given two hours to leave the premises before being escorted from the White House in a van with no seats. Billy Dale, the 32-year veteran director of the travel office, was fraudulently charged with criminal embezzlement in order to provide cover. Also, the two dozen little old ladies who answered presidential mail, as well as all the White House operators, were canned with only slightly more consideration. Linda knew and liked these people. Now, imagine if a beloved retirement-age co-worker of yours were fired without cause, snatching his last glimpse of his office while sitting on the wheel rim of a municipal van. Imagine that your new boss bragged to the national press about doing all this. Imagine that in order to provide that extra veneer of righteousness, your boss trumped up false criminal charges against your former colleague. Imagine that he did all this to mask the stench of his cronyism. I don't know about you, but I would take note that when it came to the little people, life could be short, cruel, nasty, and brutish in the Clinton White House.
       Linda began taping her conversations with Monica, partly at my mother's suggestion, because she did not think this White House would hesitate to destroy her if she chose not to go along with Monica's--officially endorsed--entreaties to lie under oath. Her thinking in this regard was abetted by the fact that the president's lawyer, Bob Bennett, had already called her a liar for telling what she knew about Kathleen Willey.
       I concede it is a betrayal of friendship to tape-record a friend's confidences. We will have to put off until next time the question of whether that is a greater betrayal than a Beverly Hills doctor's daughter asking a single mom of two to commit perjury in order to protect the president's adulterous affair.

Jonah Goldberg is a writer and TV producer living in Washington, D.C. Margaret Carlson is a columnist for Time magazine.