Flytrap Goes for Baroque

Aug. 8 1998 3:30 AM

Flytrap Goes for Baroque

A roundup of Lewinsky conspiracy theories.

It is a popular view among pundits that Flytrap has entered what they like to call its "endgame." But I think the scandal has moved into a very different phase: the Baroque.

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Here's what I mean. Flytrap as a journalistic enterprise is in a holding pattern. Everyone is waiting--for leaks about Monica Lewinsky's testimony, for the DNA tests, for Clinton's grand jury day. There is a vacuum of genuinely new information.

David Plotz David Plotz

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

Punditry abhors a vacuum. So, in the absence of news, journalists and analysts are concocting ever more ornate theories to explain what could be happening, sculpting the long available info into gaudy new patterns. Some of these theories are based on intelligent guesswork. Some belong to the "I have a friend who has a friend who talked to the president who said ..." school. Some are malicious rumor. Some are wishful thinking. Some may even have a tenuous relationship to an actual fact. But, at bottom, all are founded on essentially the same knowledge base: none.

The result: spectacular theories, tales decorated with filigree and gilded rosettes and stucco clouds. Since these may be the final few days before real new facts about Flytrap emerge, let's take a last chance to revel in the Baroque. Having spent the past few days collecting theories from colleagues, sources, and other scandalholics, I offer you a few of the best (divided into appropriate categories).

The "She Still Loves Him" Theories

1) The main source of leaks about the dress, the answering machine messages, the talking points, and Monica's testimony is none other than Monica herself (through her lawyers). Why would she leak? Because she still adores him, and she wants to signal him about how he can protect himself when he testifies.

2) Monica is testifying only because she wants to force Clinton to admit their love affair to the world.

3) The dress is a sham. There are no stains. Monica gave it to Starr to discredit his investigation and save Clinton.

Other Theories About the Dress Not Contingent on Monica Loving Him

1) Monica, ever imaginative, bragged about the dress to Linda Tripp even though it was just an ordinary dress. When Starr negotiated with her, he asked about it. Monica then used the dress as a bargaining chip to guarantee her full immunity, even though she knew there was nothing on it. Since she has full immunity, it doesn't hurt her if it's bogus.