Monica: The First Interview

Monica: The First Interview

Monica: The First Interview

What the foreign papers are saying.
Sept. 26 1998 3:30 AM

Monica: The First Interview

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For Tuesday and Saturday morning delivery of this column, plus "Today's Papers" (daily), "Pundit Central" (Monday morning), and "Summary Judgment" (Wednesday morning), click here. And if you missed the most recent installments of this column, here they are: posted Tuesday, Sept. 22 and Friday, Sept. 18.

A Yugoslav paper claims to have talked to Monica Lewinsky on the telephone. According to a report from Belgrade Thursday in La Stampa of Turin, the weekly Nedjeljni Telegraf got in touch with Monica's mother, Marcia Lewis, through an ex-hairdresser of hers, Bozdimir Bulent, a Yugoslav immigrant living in Washington, D.C. The paper called from Belgrade continually for a week before Lewis finally allowed it to talk to her daughter. The clinching factor, La Stampa said, was the mention of a mysterious Yugoslav by the name of Dusko with whom Lewis had allegedly fallen in love 20 years ago in Los Angeles. Softened by thoughts of Dusko, she gave in and arranged for Nedjeljni Telegraf to call Monica direct.

This is how the interview reportedly went. Answering the phone "in a rather hoarse and velvety voice," Monica said: "I was expecting your call. My mother mentioned it. I sincerely hope you won't make bad use of it." Asked if she had ever imagined she might be the talk of the whole world, she replied, "Not even in my dreams, and I'm not at all happy about it." Did she love the president? "Perhaps, but now it's of no importance." Did she feel exploited? "In a certain sense, yes; I never expected all this." Would money and fame change her life? "I don't think about such things. Money has never been important to me."

Monica said she now spends most of her time on the telephone and almost never watches television. Asked if she had a message for the readers of the Nedjeljni Telegraf, she said, "They shouldn't believe everything they read in the papers." But when the weekly asked if, during her meetings with President Clinton, he had ever mentioned Serbia, Monica decided she had had enough and put down the phone. (La Stampa failed to vouch for the authenticity of this interview.)

In the continuing flood of international press comment on the White House scandal, there is very little favorable to Kenneth Starr. But Nigeria's independent Post Express said in an editorial Wednesday, "The fact that Monica Lewinsky, a mere intern, could be protected by the State against such a mighty opponent as the most powerful politician in the world, reveals the beauty and the costliness of democracy. It is significant to note that even at the possible cost of the presidency, the right to fair hearing and enabling unconcealed information to the citizenry [sic] have been remarkably upheld in this case. It is best imagined what would have happened to Lewinsky, her family and any enthusiastic reporting press of this scandalous episode in any undemocratic society!"

In Canada, the Toronto Globe and Mail said in an editorial Thursday that it is time for America's "pundits, pollsters and prognosticators" to take a vacation, because "[i]f Americans are tired of hearing about President Bill Clinton's sexual life, they are doubtlessly doubly weary of hearing 'experts' tell them how they feel about the whole thing." The theme of the editorial was the distinction that should be made between feelings and deeds. The endless "mood monitoring" of the people and their president has revealed a "swirl of conflicting feelings," but the end product is the "[s]ame as it was when the whole thing started: Mr. Clinton remains the President and the citizens remain guardedly content to keep him there."

"Americans may be experiencing all kinds of feelings about their President, but they are remarkably consistent when they are asked what they want to do about those emotions," the Globe and Mail went on. "Impeachment? No, a majority of the US public has answered, from the start to the finish of this story." It is the ability of the American public to distinguish between feelings and deeds that will save Clinton, it said. "They show no interest in punishing him for his private feelings but a clear desire to see him pay a limited price for his deeds. ... Americans have clearly stated that feelings aren't the issue here. Sooner or later, the pollsters and the pundits will understand that too."

In South Africa, the Johannesburg Star ran a eulogistic editorial Thursday about President Nelson Mandela's visit to the United States. "He fired the pride of African Americans and touched a deep desire in the psyche of Americans, both black and white, for a leader who might rekindle the bi-racial coalition that destroyed their country's own version of apartheid in the 1960s, the racism they are still fighting to eradicate today, and the never-ending scandals. ... Mandela may lack the rousing American oratory of a President Kennedy, Martin Luther King or Jesse Jackson, but his manner and his unflappable dignity show him as a disciplined, persistent leader who is willing to sacrifice short-term gratification for long-term achievement, the kind of moral leadership we need everywhere. A real, untarnished hero in a time of flawed public figures such as Clinton."