Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?

Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
July 7 1998 3:30 AM

Linda Tripp: Victimized or Vicious?

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       Since you know the inner Tripp, you could actually ask her what went through her mind when she saw Monica during the day, knowing she was secretly recording their conversations every night. You're a lucky guy for being able to do what no other journalist, save perhaps Michael Isikoff, can do, which is get to Tripp. Go to it.
       While you're at it, ask her to confirm or deny herself the story reported on Inside Politics by CNN's John King, who's been one of the most reliable reporters in town since his days at AP. He said, "During the Bush administration, Tripp was known as a source of the never-proven allegations about President Bush's personal life." Are you denying this for Tripp because she told you to? Or because you just hope it isn't true?
       You can't just dismiss the story as another attempt by the White House to feed reporters damaging information about its adversaries, the standard retort against any story your side does not like. Larry Klayman accused the White House of leaking that he had sued his mother, when it came to me, for instance, over the transom from a lawyer practicing in Montgomery County, Pa. When The New Yorker's Jane Mayer got a story that Tripp had been arrested for shoplifting when she was 19, it was immediately shot down as more smears by the administration. That prompted Tripp's stepmother, a respected journalist at the St. Petersburg Times, to step forward and correct the record. It wasn't the White House. When Time got the story about Kathleen Willey faking a pregnancy and then faking an abortion to get back at her boyfriend, a soccer coach in North Carolina, it was the result of reporting, not repeating.
       I have to stick by my observation that people, for better or for worse, grow into their appearance, coming to look on the outside as they feel on the inside. Although I've only seen you on television, you have a straightforward, cheerful look about you. Even your mother, Clinton-hating and outspoken though she may be, doesn't look tormented and bitter, probably because she's so open about her own motives. She doesn't pretend to share Tripp's high motives, and it doesn't eat away at her. Tripp should be so honest. Rather than saying she taped Monica because she was a seeker of truth, why not admit she did it hoping to revive her failed book proposal? Maybe that would relieve those hunched shoulders and permanent scowl. You'd think she would be smiling by now, having completed her mission to gratuitously tattle on a friend, feed Paula Jones' lawyers, and give Starr a whole new lease on Whitewater. Maybe she looks so embittered because she thought the world would see her as Joan of Arc instead of as Mata Hari.
       By the way, former White House counsel Jack Quinn is a close friend of mine and so is Chris Matthews, perhaps the most strident, unrelenting critic the president has. Go figure.

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