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Jewish World Review/ Jan. 12, 1999/ 23 Teves, 5759

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez Leave Monica out of it

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) ALTHOUGH SENATORS HAVE PUT OFF for the moment a decision on whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, it is by no means clear which side has more to lose if the country hears directly from some of the principals in this affair.

The Republican House managers, who act as prosecutors for the trial, claim they need to be able to call some witnesses -- such as Monica Lewinsky and Betty Currie -- to make the case that the president not only perjured himself but obstructed justice by encouraging others to lie or withhold evidence. The Senate Democratic leadership has strenuously opposed calling witnesses, as have the president's lawyers.

On Friday, the Senate agreed to postpone a vote on which witnesses to call, if any, until the two sides have had the opportunity to present their cases and senators have been able to question both the House managers and White House lawyers.

But Democrats may be premature in opposing testimony, especially from Monica Lewinsky. Monica just could be their ace in the hole.

Democrats have only one argument to make in President Clinton's defense: that the president's behavior, no matter how deplorable, involved a private, consensual sexual relationship, which he understandably tried to keep secret. So far, at least, a majority of the public seems to agree. And Monica Lewinsky's testimony would likely reinforce that message, even if the House managers avoid all prurient questions.

There are a number of reasons Monica would make a good defense witness. First, Monica Lewinsky has never behaved like the classic woman scorned. Hell's fury is simply not part of her repertoire. Chances are good that she is still very much infatuated with Bill Clinton and has no interest in hurting him, much less seeing him removed from office.

After all, her status derives from having been the president's paramour. But if the Senate votes to remove Bill Clinton on the strength of her testimony, she is transformed from a soap-opera figure to the villain in a political intrigue.

Remember, too, that in Monica's world, Bill Clinton is still considered a good guy. Even those closest to Monica who might be expected to harbor some animosity toward the man -- her parents, for example -- have shown nothing of the sort. Monica's mom has from the beginning seemed more titillated than shocked at the president's relationship with her daughter. And Monica's father -- unlike most men whose young daughters have been ill-used by middle-aged cads -- has uttered nary a peep about the president's treatment of his little girl. In fact, the object of Dr. Lewinsky's public denouncements has been Ken Starr, not Bill Clinton.

But most importantly, if Monica were to testify, she would no doubt repeat her claim that the president didn't ask her to lie and didn't promise her a job in return for concealing their affair. The Republicans will present substantial evidence to the contrary, but it is largely circumstantial, based on an amazing coincidence between the president's efforts on Monica's behalf and the filing of her false deposition in the Paula Jones case.

Nonetheless, if Monica sticks to her story, she could bolster the theory that the case against the president is really all about sex.

So why won't the Democrats let the House prosecutors call Monica? Many Democrats admit privately that the situation is too volatile and the stakes too high to take unnecessary chances, even if it means not calling a witness who might help the president's case.

Ironically, by keeping Monica Lewinsky off the witness stand, however, the Democrats will allow the Republicans to build a far stronger documentary record for posterity that the president was guilty as charged. But Democrats aren't worried about history right now. They've got their hands full cleaning up the messes their self-destructive standard bearer has created and trying to keep the muck from rubbing off on them.


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