Jewish World Review June 9, 2003 / 9 Sivan, 5763

Lloyd Grove

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WHAT DID SHE KNOW, AND WHEN DID SHE KNOW IT? | WASHINGTON In "Living History," Hillary Rodham Clinton describes her gut-wrenching reaction on the Saturday morning of Aug. 15, 1998, when her husband "told me for the first time" -- as quoted by the Associated Press from a leaked copy of the still unreleased $8 million book -- "that there had been an inappropriate intimacy" with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

But two recent volumes -- Washington Post reporter Peter Baker's "The Breach" and former White House aide Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars" -- appear to differ with Sen. Clinton's account of President Bill Clinton's admission and its aftermath.

"I could hardly breathe," the AP quotes New York's junior senator. "Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?' "

But Baker reports that Clinton actually got the real story two days earlier from trusted attorney David Kendall. "Something obviously had gone on between the president and Lewinsky, Kendall had told the first lady in his soft, understated way," Baker writes. "The president was going to have to tell the grand jury about it."

Baker's account -- based "on more than one authoritative source," he told us -- has gone unchallenged for 2 and a half years. But this week Kendall weighed in to contradict it. "I did not inform her of the Lewinsky matter," he told us. "I believe the account in her book is accurate."

In another apparent factual dispute -- this time with Blumenthal -- memoirist Clinton "describes in bitter terms the months of chill between them afterward." On vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., immediately after the admission, "I could barely speak to Bill," the AP quotes Sen. Clinton, "and when I did, it was a tirade."

But Blumenthal recounts a phone call to his hotel room in Italy on the night of the president's Aug. 17 televised speech. "It was the president, asking what my reaction was," Blumenthal writes.

"I told him it was all right. Hillary asked me what I thought. I told her the same." When the Clintons handed the phone to advisers, "I could hear the president and Hillary bantering in the background," Blumenthal writes. "They were still working as a team."

Hillary Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines told us: "This is a ridiculous attack. When people have the opportunity to read the full book, they will understand how she felt and what she experienced."


At first we thought that an interview with Saudi Arabia's top executioner -- translated from Arabic by Arab News -- was a hoax. It isn't. Muhammad Saad Al-Beshi reportedly beheads up to seven people in a day. "It doesn't matter to me: Two, four, 10. As long as I'm doing G-d's will, it doesn't matter how many people I execute," he confides. "In this country we have a society that understands G-d's law. . . . There are no drawbacks for my social life."

Al-Beshi adds that nothing beats a sharp sword: "People are amazed how fast it can separate the head from the body." The article continues: "An executioner's life, of course, is not all killing. Sometimes it can be amputation of hands and legs. 'I use a special sharp knife, not a sword,' he explains." Al-Beshi says family members "aren't afraid when I come back from an execution. Sometimes they help me clean my sword."

Saudi Embassy spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir told us: "It's an ugly profession, but somebody has to do it."


Dating troubles? Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry dropped by a conclave of liberal activists on Thursday and mused on the importance of the date: "Today is June 6th and I'll never forget June 6th." Why? It was on that date that Kerry returned from his first tour of duty in Vietnam, and it was on that date that Robert F. Kennedy died of a gunshot wound. The Massachusetts senator did preface his remarks by admitting that he sometimes gets confused about dates, so we don't want to make too big a deal of the fact that Thursday was June 5 . Kerry spokesman David Wade told us: "I think it was Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford who said it best: 'It was my understanding there wouldn't be any math on this test.' "

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06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate