What's the bottom line on Whitewater?

A Salon roundtable

Published January 27, 1996 1:46PM (EST)

Until something definitive emerges -- if it ever does -- Whitewater remains a prism, its "truth" a reflection from whichever side you view it. Warped by personal and political agendas, it's a story told by a million authors, filled with "maybes" and "probablys" and "allegeds". But even the most skeptical, including some in the White House, quietly wonder if there is not, after all, a "smoking gun" somewhere.

SALON talked to three writers, all drawn to the Whitewater story, who view the affair from different sides of the prism. Also, go to Table Talk to express your own opinions on the Whitewater affair. Click on the Issues category and go to the Hillary Clinton topic, where you will find the debate in full swing.

Martin Gross is the author of "The Great Whitewater Fiasco: An American Tale of Money, Power, and Politics" (Ballantine, 1995). The book is one of the more readable briefs for the prosecution, providing a fairly clear précis of the story so far -- even though it contains some factual assertions that have been challenged by others. His previous books include "The Government Racket: Washington Waste from A to Z" (1992) and "A Call for Revolution: How Washington is Strangling America" (1993).

GROSS: The Clintons' reputations will be permanently besmirched. I think they're finished in the public mind....

Gene Lyons is a political columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His article, "Fool for Scandal: How the Times got Whitewater Wrong," appeared in the October 1994 issue of Harper's Magazine. Since then, he has waged a virtual one-man crusade to correct the misimpressions and outright mistakes he says have been made by the media in their Whitewater coverage. He quotes a former Arkansas securities commissioner, appointed by Clinton's Republican predecessor, as describing the controversy-launching March 8, 1992 Times story on Whitewater as "unmitigated horseshit."

LYONS: The press mob is locked into a prosecutorial mentality. And reporters have careers at stake....

Suzanne Garment is the author of "Scandal: The Culture of Mistrust in American Politics" (Times Books, 1992), which examines various scandals in the Carter, Reagan and Bush administrations. She is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Wall Street Journal columnist, she has taught government at Harvard and Yale. Garment is currently working on a book about the politics of white-collar crime.

GARMENT: Psychological explanations are never my first choice, but I think that some of these scandals, these crises, stir up various kinds of guilt and shame that otherwise cannot be faced...

By Gene Lyons

Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can e-mail Lyons at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.

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By Martin Gross

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By Suzanne Garment

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Bill Clinton