Dec. 18 1998 3:30 AM


A libretto in search of a composer

The White House may have been in crisis all year, but the events were less the stuff of great drama than of a farcical musical comedy. Hey, wait a minute--let's put on a show!


The time: November 1995.

The House Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, are insisting on their version of the budget. President Bill Clinton is stubbornly rejecting it. The Republicans have taken a bold option: They will just refuse to pass a budget, and they'll let the government shut down. In the Oval Office, BILL CLINTON meets with advisers LEON PANETTA and HAROLD ICKES and secretary BETTY CURRIE to discuss this development.

Illustration by Michael Sloan

"The Shutdown" (upbeat production number)

PANETTA: The Republicans have positions


To which they're clinging fast.

ICKES: The president is just as firm

The die, it seems, is cast.

PANETTA: Without a budget passed by Congress


The government will close.

All of the workers

Will be sent home on furloughs.

CLINTON[speaking]: Well, wait a second--not all of them. We'll need to keep some essential personnel.


PANETTA: The Army and the Navy

Will need to stay in place.

ICKES: Also those at NASA

Who keep the shuttle up in space.


PANETTA: We'll need to keep the pilots

Flying in their planes.

CLINTON: And here at the White House

My staff should remain.

PANETTA[speaking]: But even here at the White House, some adjustments will be required.

CLINTON: OK, tell the ushers

To take a few days off.

Tell the maids and cooks and butlers

To go play themselves some golf.

We have to do without the clerks

Let them all go home.

CURRIE: What about the secretaries?

Who will get the phones?

CLINTON[speaking]: We've got to make sure the Oval Office functions with efficiency. We can't afford the tiniest error.

PANETTA: Aha! I have it!

We'll bring in an intern,

We'll bring in an intern,

Someone who's an expert with a phone.

We'll bring in an intern,

We'll bring in an intern,

I assure you, Mr. President--

Your routine here won't get blown.

PANETTA, ICKES, and CURRIE[solemnly agreeing]:

The presence of an intern will ensure

Your routine here won't get blown.

[The advisers depart, leaving President Clinton alone. He turns introspective.]

"President Lonely" (a ballad)

CLINTON: I've got deputies and bureaucrats

Who fulfill my every thought.

And soldiers, sailors, and Marines

To fight battles I want fought.

There's no one who's got more power,

I'm the leader of all that's free

But if you subtract the flags and lackeys, I'm just


I'm President Lonely.

But I guess I'll just have to muddle through.

The cheers and applause are overwhelming,

But presidents need cuddles, too.

The fawning adoration's pleasant,

But presidents need cuddles, too.

[Enter Betty Currie.]

CURRIE: Mr. President? The intern is here. And she's brought you some pizza!

[The lights go down. When they resume, the intern--MONICA LEWINSKY--is talking on the phone to her good friend LINDA TRIPP.]

LEWINSKY: Well, y'know, I'd seen him around, like, a lot. And I know he noticed me. So when they said they needed an intern to answer the phones, I said, "Hel-lo-o-o!" And then I had the idea to take him pizza!

TRIPP: And then what happened?

"What Went On" (upbeat)

LEWINSKY: Then I led him on.

I showed him my thong,

I let him take a long and ling'ring look.

I led him on.

He studied my thong,

And from that point I had the president hooked.

That night when I took the president some pizza,

I made sure that he knew that he could have a piece.

We went into the hallway by his study

And dispensed with formalities.

TRIPP: Oh please go on!

You must go on!

Come on, girlfriend,

Spill, spill, spill, spill, spill!

Now go on,

Please go on.

Did Clinton let you say hi to Little Bill?

Illustration by Michael Sloan

LEWINSKY: His lips and mine locked in a kiss fantastic,

His hands roved freely 'neath my blouse,

I reached into the presidential trousers,

And he got a phone call from a member of the House.

So I went on,

While he talked on the phone,

I took a position before him on my knees,

And I went on.

And he talked on.

Though what the congressman heard was

"Please, please, please, please, please!"

But then we didn't go on!

TRIPP: You didn't go on?

LEWINSKY: No, he stopped me when he seemed upon the cusp.

TRIPP: So you didn't go on?

LEWINSKY: No, we didn't go on.

He said he wasn't sure if I was someone he



[The lights fade as the girlfriends engage in cross talk.]

TRIPP: Trust?

LEWINSKY: That's why we didn't go on.

TRIPP: That's so weird! What did he think? That you'd go blabbin' this to the whole world?

LEWINSKY: I mean--rilly! Hey, what's that clicking?

TRIPP: It's just my gum.


[As the relationship between Clinton and Monica continues, some members of the White House staff become worried about the prudence of continuing the relationship with so much potential for scandal. This song is a conversation between Betty Currie, who, though worried, still thinks Monica is a good person, and the rather stonier EVELYN LIEBERMAN.]

"Time to Go"

CURRIE: They go back there,

They're just talking,

I'm sure she has a very thirsty mind.

LIEBERMAN: I don't mind a girl who thinks,

It's just what she picks to drink.

Betty, it's Lewinsky's time to go.

CURRIE: She brings him

Little presents.

She really is a very thoughtful soul.

LIEBERMAN: It's not the junk I mind as much

As her up real close and personal touch.

I tell ya, it's Miss Monica's time to go.

CURRIE: She never comes

When he's really busy.

Rarely is there anyone around.

LIEBERMAN: Still the Secret Service wears a frown.

They shouldn't worry, he pats her down.

But I'm not kidding, it's time for her to go.

CURRIE: Maybe she would like the Pentagon.

LIEBERMAN: Good idea--don't wait!

CURRIE: Studly guys work at the Pentagon.

LIEBERMAN: Let's get Clinton's head on straight!

CURRIE: He comes back

From Easter services,

Soon she's bopping in the door.

LIEBERMAN: "Hallelujah, He Is Risen"

Shouldn't inspire thoughts so sizzlin'.

Yes, it's really time for Monica to go.

[Times passes. Monica moves to the Pentagon, but the relationship intermittently continues. Meanwhile, Paula Jones sues the president for sexual harassment, and it seems clear that before long, Clinton will have to testify under oath. Two close observers of those developments are old friends Linda Tripp and LUCIENNE GOLDBERG, who is friendly with lawyers for Jones and lawyers in the office of Independent Counsel KENNETH STARR. One day, Tripp and Goldberg talk on the phone.]

"Talk, Talk, Chat, Chat" (sprightly)

GOLDBERG and TRIPP: Talk, talk,

Chat, chat,

Two old galpals swap the latest word.

Talk, talk,

Chat, chat,

Two old girlfriends dish the latest dirt.

GOLDBERG: I got tickets

To the opera,

Bloomie's says I've got $40 due,

I lost a filling

At lunch on Thursday.

That's it for me,

Now tell me what's up with you.

Illustration by Michael Sloan

TRIPP: My friend Monica?

From the White House?

I'm pretty sure what she's saying here is true.

It seems this Monica chick

Has been sucking the president's--

GOLDBERG: Oh that's sick!

TRIPP: And the two of them are going to lie about it,


GOLDBERG: Back up, Linda,

Did I hear you rightly?

Clinton got into an intern's pants?

God, this news is manna, Linda!

At last our cause will finally have it's chance!

TRIPP: Oh, you're a dreamer Luci!

There'll be headlines, then he'll pull off an


He'll spin the story, he'll turn the tables--

GOLDBERG: Unless you get that airhead down on tape.

TRIPP: What?

GOLDBERG: Unless you get that silly, vapid, trampy time bomb

Down on tape.

TRIPP: Oh--one more thing ...


TRIPP: There's a dress ...

GOLDBERG: Hold on, let me call Sparky.

[Independent Counsel Starr uses Tripp to detain Monica. A few days later, the news breaks. On the advice of his pal Harry Thomason, Clinton flat-out lies to his wife, to his loyalists, and to the public about the relationship.]

"I Never Have" (performance should build in tempo and intensity)

CLINTON: You know I'd like to answer questions,

An act my lawyers won't allow.

I'll give you more not less, sooner not later,

I just can't say a word right now.

But I don't know why she'd say these things

Her head's full of who knows what. But I never had sex with that woman

I never had sex with that n--

Starr has spent $40 million,

There's desperation on his face.

An utter waste of public money,

A prosecutorial disgrace.

All he's got is some recordings

Made by a vengeful snitch.

I never had sex with that woman

I never had sex with that b--

A vast right-wing conspiracy

Is using her to beat on me.

They wanna torpedo my agenda

They hate me and Hillary.

But I will never let them ruin

Our dreams for a better world.

I tell ya, I never had sex with that woman

I never had sex with that


[Months of investigation, legal wrangling, and public relations campaigning follow. Starr's tactics come under heavy fire, to which he responds.]

"Crossing the Line"

STARR: It's true Monica asked to lawyer up,

Which Bittman put the lid on.

And I felt bad about her mommy's grilling

Upon our little gridiron.

Illustration by Michael Sloan

The Democrats and liberals

Blast these tactics of mine,

But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

When the president crosses the line.

He's crossed the line.

He's crossed the line.

Only a fool wouldn't stretch the rules

When the president crosses the line.

It may have seemed like dirty pool

To drag his people 'fore the jury.

We wasted lots of Vernon's time,

May have busted Bettie Currie.

His aides aren't the innocent bystanders

As they claim when they moan and whine.

They won't say what they know full well:

The president crossed the line.

He's crossed the line.

He's crossed the line.

I'd be a nitwit not to bend a bit

When the president crosses the line.

The talking heads are accusing me

Of laying a perjury trap.

But all it catches is lying men.

Honest men beat the rap.

There's people who say I'm against sex;

I've had sex. It's fine.

But lying about it gets my blood up

And the president's crossed the line.

I crossed the line.

I crossed the line.

Tell Steve Brill I'll leak at will

When the president crosses the line.

[After months of denials and futile delays, Clinton finally testifies before the Starr grand jury and argues that, technically, he didn't lie.]

"Testimony" (snappy)

CLINTON: Depends what the definition of "is" is,

Depends on the meaning of sex,

"Alone together" is literal nonsense,

Before you reach conclusions, read your text.

[Afterward, he speaks to the nation, admits doing wrong, and apologizes, though grudgingly.]

CLINTON: Inappropriate was the nature of our actions,

And believe me I regret the whole damn thing,

But inappropriate are all these personal questions,

The country doesn't need to know these things.

[Clinton's enemies reject his apology, and soon the House of Representatives begins the long process of impeachment. NEWT GINGRICH here discloses his approach.]

"Bring 'em Down" (dark, moody)

GINGRICH: Mustn't seem to be too cheerful,

Mustn't overreach,

Must remember to seem unhappy

That we're going to impeach.

Must remember to remain sober

As we undertake this chore.

At the same time, let's remember

To pin some stuff on Gore.

Bring 'em down.

Bring 'em down.

Sure, they were elected,

Twice, in point of fact.

Voters obviously were bewildered

To have made a choice like that.

Now, like charging linemen,

We'll move in for the sack.

Bring 'em down.

Bring 'em down.

Bring 'em down.

[The House votes to hold impeachment hearings. But just a few weeks later, the midterm elections, which are expected to go the GOP's way, are held. Contrary to predictions, the Democrats pick up seats, and the GOP's obsession with scandal is repudiated. Gingrich resigns, and the practical chances of Clinton's removal evaporate. As the show ends, we hear from Starr, Lewinsky, and Clinton.]

"The People Have Spoken" (dramatic, stirring)

STARR: The election was held and the people have spoken,

I can't believe what they had to say.

I had Clinton boxed into a corner

Looks like he's going to get away.

I spent four years and 40 million

That's a lot of time and loot.

I made Clinton look ridiculous,

But the only scalp I got was Newt's.

Illustration by Michael Sloan

LEWINSKY: The election was held and the people have spoken,

I can't believe what they had to say.

My boyfriend is still in office

And he might return to me one day.

You think perhaps that he will not want me

For all the trouble I've caused so far,

But he knows I can always make him happy

With my thong and my cigar.

CLINTON: The election was held and the people have spoken,

I can't believe what they had to say.

The removal threat is over,

Kenneth Starr should go away.

I tell you, though, it is a mystery,

I mean, I'm unfaithful and I lie.

I might be guilty of obstruction,

Yet my ratings are sky-high.

That must mean I'm a pretty good president,

Though how, I don't think I know.

But obviously I'm not Starr or Gingrich,

Which may be why they love me so.

Which may be why they love me so.