Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / January 30, 1998 / 3 Shevat, 5758
How to judge a denial
THE CLINTONS HAVE DENIED that the president had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. But absolutely everything else about their handling of the situation implies guilt.
As an exercise, let us imagine that someone came forward with tapes of a young White House employee telling a friend that he was blackmailing the president. He claimed to know that Clinton had engaged in bank fraud back in Arkansas, confronted the president with this in person and extorted money from him over the course of 18 months. Let us assume further that this is entirely false.
If you were the president and this false allegation came to light, what would you do? Would you cautiously tell Jim Lehrer that "there is no hush money being paid" to this young man? Would you say that you need time to collect all the facts? Would you instruct your aides not to release the Secret Service logs showing the comings and goings of White House visitors?
Would you refuse to answer a straight question, or would you simply declare him a liar and open your checkbook, the White House log, your secretary's calendar -- in short, everything -- to prove your innocence?
In her appearance on Good Morning America, a stony Hillary Clinton denied the affair but declined to answer any specific questions, such as, "Did the president give Ms. Lewinsky a dress?" Mrs. Clinton said that because Ken Starr is investigating the matter, she cannot speak of it. As with so much else that emanates from this couple, that is not true.
When someone is investigated by a prosecutor, it is the prosecutor, not the target, who is under an obligation to hold his tongue. Nothing in the law or common sense prevents the president from answering each and every question the press may have about this matter. There is nothing for an innocent man to fear in answering each question fully.
The ironic truth is that the Clintons are hiding behind Ken Starr's skirts even as they excoriate him for partisanship.
If Lewinsky does cooperate with the prosecutor and decides to implicate the president in the affair, the pay-off and the perjury, we will see a fusillade aimed at her from the White House that will make the treatment of Paula Jones look positively solicitous. But those who imagine that this scandal will boil down to he said/she said -- with the prestige of office giving the president the upper hand -- should consider the common-sense barriers to this scenario.
Would a 21-year-old intern invent a relationship that consists only of oral sex? Is that the classic fantasy of young women? Would the president maintain a close "friendship" with a young lady, complete with late-night visits and phone chats as well as romantic gifts, based purely on "shared childhood traumas"? And if the president did have a mere friendship with Lewinsky, why did he choose a young lady whom his deputy chief of staff, Evelyn Lieberman, transferred to another position because her behavior was so "immature"? Then again, considering that Clinton's closest friends include known embezzler Susan McDougal and confessed liar and sex addict Dick Morris, perhaps the last question isn't so telling.
Why would the president wait to see what Lewinsky is going to say to prosecutors before giving his account of the relationship?
Why would the president's friend and fixer Vernon Jordan arrange a job at Revlon for Lewinsky? And why did Ambassador Bill Richardson offer her a position at the United Nations in New York? Does this not smack of the Webb Hubbell hush money? Is it a coincidence that Revlon (Vernon Jordan, board member) offered Hubbell a paid position just before he was heading off to jail and now has offered employment to another potential songbird?
The public tires of the press' overkill. That's understandable. And
people wish to give
the man they elected the benefit of the doubt. But the Clinton tactic of
smearing is deceitful and dishonorable. If the president has a plausible
all of this, let him offer it now, before he learns of Lewinsky's
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?