16 August 1998
The first time I heard US President Bill Clinton speak in person was at the 1996
Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. What a contrast with the Republican Convention
in San Diego. However, both conventions had one thing in common though: both were
well scripted and stage managed.
Clinton, accompanied by wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea,
took the convention by storm. The delegates and others applauded them, gave them
a standing ovation even before Clinton had opened his mouth. In November he was easily
reelected. Clinton is a communicator extraordinaire.
However, since Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel turned his attention
from the questionable land deal in Arkansas (where Clinton was governor) to Clinton's
relationship with a former White House intern, he has to be fair to the much vilified
Starr - insisted that his investigation is about lies, not sex.
The president has insisted that he never had any sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky
nor did he ask her or any one else to lie about it. With the eight-month-old drama
peaking tomorrow when Clinton testifies before the grand jury, events will become
even more feverish and hopefully more interesting.
Lewinsky, together with her mother and father; have been given blanket immunity in
return to tell all about her sexual liaisons with Clinton truthfully
From the media I have the impression that the 25-year old woman has managed her testimony
rather well; she was composed though obviously embarrassed. Who wouldn't, if you
have to describe in graphic detail about your love making? Worse, because Lewinsky
seems genuinely besotted with the president and it must have hurt her very much having
to recant the previous deposition that she and Clinton did not have any sexual relationship.
But, according to leaks, she told the grand jurors not only had she had numerous
sex encounters but described them in graphic detail and said they also discussed
how to conceal it.
Clinton, in his deposition in the Paula Jones case, has denied under oath of having
sexual relations with his former trainee assistant.
The testimony tomorrow - after stonewalling for so long may cripple his presidency
and make his remaining two years in office a nightmare if not a disaster.
Whatever the nature of that, I can say this: his Republican opponents, conservative
enemies in particular, are wishing the disaster to engulf him wholly and quick.
Tomorrow, his opponents say, Clinton's lies will finally appear to catch up with
him. However, most Americans, perhaps because of the booming economy, don't seem
to be much troubled by liars and lies. As Jeffrey Rozen says , in the Aug 10 New
Yorker: "American prosecutors and judges have traditionally made allowances
for human frailty They have examined a liar's state of mind, the seriousness of the
lie, and the lie's effect on other people before deciding which lies deserve to be
"For this reason, in the wake of Lewinsky's immunity deal, the President's fate
ultimately may turn not on whether he has lied but on whether or not Congress concludes
that the lies in question constitute the high crimes and misdemeanours envisaged
in the impeachment clause of the Constitutions 99.
The impression any one visiting the United States now may have is that what matters
much more to the American public is the economy. This makes columnist Richard Rodriques
(Washington Post, Aug 9) comment: "Please, Mr. President, tell us you are a
liar. Then get back to work!"
The important question being asked is: Is Lewinsky a credible witness despite an
admission on a tape recording by Linda Tripp (who passed the tape to Starr and caused
the investigation in January), that she had "lied my entire life"? Media
people seem to have described her as a credible witness.
Now that Lewinsky has told her stories, which are duly recorded, what courses are
open to Clinton especially with a growing number of physical evidence? These include
the semen-stained dark cocktail dress, gifts, lucrative job offers and telephone
messages and circumstantial evidence from many witnesses who saw Lewinsky in the
White House and with the President, including secret service agents and Clinton's
personal secretary Betty Currie.
If Clinton admits, he opens the perjury trap though perjury in a civil case such
as this may not be as serious as a perjury in a criminal suit; but it would be proof
of a covering up of his relationship with Lewinsky to obstruct justice.
John Dean, the former Nixon assistant who testified against his boss in the Watergate
cover-up in the spring of 1973, advises Lewinsky in an open letter in New York Times
(Sunday, Aug 9) to be prepared to be attacked and hurt by the Jackals. But if they
hurt her with false information, he urged Lewinsky to go after them; that life may
get worse before it gets better; that after the Congressional elections, in November
it would be difficult for a Republican Congress (Republican may retain power in Congress)
not to investigate her relationship with Clinton so her life may be disrupted a lot
longer Dean commends her for being smart by refraining from making public statements.
Dean tells Monica: "Monica, as long as your testimony remains in the grand jury
and you do not go on television, you cannot be affectively attacked by the president's
defenders. At this stage, they really don't know what you have said and can only
speculate. But once you make public statements, everything will change. Your decision
so far not to discuss these matters in public is very, very smart. You have no idea
how much grief you are saving yourself."
Dean says that the Nixon people tried to discredit him and what he said and these
efforts ("unbelievably nasty") continues for 25 years and he warns Lewinsky
to be prepared for this to go on in some degree for the rest of her life adding:
" .. those who have a personal stake in Bill Clinton's presidency (be it emotional,
political or other wise) will come roaring to his defence. This is almost a Pavlovian
reaction, for when you tarnish a President you blacken his Presidency (and all those
who are part of it). You've seen the way Mr Clinton's defenders have dealt with accusations,
whether founded or not, by Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey.