Newsreal: The Clinton crisis

Published January 22, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

Salon asked five intelligent observers to give us their thoughts on the latest unholy mess in the White House.

Gene Lyons Gene Lyons is a political columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the author of "Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater" (Franklin Square).

Even people here who have been on Clinton's side through all the so-called scandals are pretty shaken up by this. If he did do this, he's got to resign and I'll be bitter at him for a long time, because he will have betrayed his country, and his party and his family.

But at this moment, I'm still agnostic. I have tapes in my office -- which I got while researching right-wing "dirty tricks" against Clinton -- of women talking about having sex with Clinton and it's all demonstrable fantasy. What we may have here is a David Letterman situation, where you have a young woman who gets infatuated with the president, keeps following him around and fantasizes that she's having a relationship with him.

Or maybe it's a case of political intrigue. The timing is interesting. The Paula Jones case is going into the toilet, and everyone knows it, except the media. Kenneth Starr has nothing on Whitewater. It's possible that this has been cooked up by Clinton's enemies as a desperation move. What we may have is some sort of coup attempt, and right now the rebels have the radio station and the television station. The question is: Which way is the Army going to go? Clearly, like most coup attempts, this won't come out as draw. Somebody's going down over this -- Bill Clinton or Kenneth Starr.

How will it come out? If this woman (Monica Lewinsky) takes the Fifth and refuses to testify, that could stop Starr dead in his tracks. Maybe it will turn out that Clinton's relationship with her was purely avuncular; he's had relationships of that kind in the past, although they inevitably draw suspicion. And if I was in the White House, I would be asking how Starr got the tapes in the first place. Was the original taping legal? And how did Starr, on his own authority, decide to put a wire on Linda Tripp -- which makes her an agent of Ken Starr.

Maybe this will turn out to be another Clinton conundrum which we'll never get to the bottom of. My guess right now is that Clinton will survive, crippled. Again.

David Horowitz David Horowitz is a Salon columnist and author of "Radical Son" (Free Press)

Do I believe it? Sure. The chickens are finally coming home to roost! It's a pattern. Character is destiny. We know Clinton. Once you've been through Gennifer Flowers and all the early bimbo eruptions, nobody's really surprised. The pattern is fairly clear to anyone who's read the allegations by the Arkansas state troopers. This is Clinton. And I may say, since I've been engaged in controversy in Salon over this, this really validates Matt Drudge. Drudge is part of the press corps that is driving this story. It makes sense for them to try to destroy him or try to discredit him.

Why would Clinton do something like this? As a male who has a somewhat checkered past I have never been able to understand either Kennedy or any of these guys. Isn't power enough of an aphrodisiac? Don't you think Clinton could say, "Hey I've only got four more years, then I can do anything I want?" Isn't it enough to be trying to establish peace in the Middle East, or to deal with Saddam Hussein? I can understand the temptation. I cannot understand, as a father, I can't understand taking advantage of a 21-year-old who has a summer job, who is an intern in the White House. It would turn me off to see somebody so vulnerable.

There's something wrong here, and it's the same thing with Kennedy. I think they get high off the risk. In order to feel real, you take these risks. The Kennedys are exemplary at it. They take insane risks with people standing around with their jaws dropped at the stupidity of it. It's really some kind of authenticity test. It's no different from those people who dive out of planes on surfboards and spin around. Sad to say this is Clinton's Everest.

But the story here is no longer Clinton's satyriasis. The issue now is obstruction of justice. Exactly what brought down Nixon. Everywhere that Kenneth Starr has probed, what has created the crises of the Clinton administration in the first place, has been coverup. Whether it's been Foster or "Travelgate" or the FBI files, whenever the crises of the Clinton administration have erupted, always the issue has been coverup and obstruction of justice. This has seriously injured the Clinton White House and for the first time, raised the serious prospect -- if it can be shown that Clinton did suborn this witness -- of impeachment.

Martin Anderson Martin Anderson was a special assistant to President Richard Nixon and an assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

If the allegations are not true, it won't even be a footnote in the history books. It it's true, they should have said, "Gee, I'm sorry, it happened." Admit it and say it won't happen again. The American people are very forgiving, it's amazing how much the public will forgive. But they don't like to be lied to.

The real serious charge is not whether or not he had an affair with this woman who is over 21. The serious charge is whether or not the president of the United States suborned perjury. If that's true, then there will have to be preliminary impeachment hearings. That's a clear obstruction of justice. It's the sort of thing that got Richard Nixon impeached.

Wendy Kaminer Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and public policy fellow at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. She is the author of "True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism" and "It's All The Rage: Crime and Culture" (both Addison Wesley).

All of this makes me nostalgic for the days when a president was investigated for legitimate crimes. If the American people want someone moral in office they should elect the pope.

I don't think these allegations are serious. It epitomizes the trivialization of the news. This story is a lot of fun for people. It's gossip. I don't think the behavior is relevant to his ability to govern. I'm not a fan of President Clinton, but I don't think we are focusing on the right thing. This is no more outrageous than the welfare bill or the immigration bill. President Clinton has done a lot of things that have outraged me more.

If the allegations are true? Then technically he will be guilty of suborning perjury and yes, technically, that is a violation of the law. But so is running a stop sign. Does it say something about his judgment? Sure, it's extremely reckless and arrogant. If I were Hillary or Chelsea I would take this very seriously. It is a private, not a public issue. If there is anything unforgivable about this it is lying to his daughter.

Dr. Mark Levy Mark Levy is a forensic psychiatrist, chairman of the San Francisco Foundation for Psychoanalysis and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco

I don't believe it. It would not be first time that a woman -- or a man -- has described a wish or a fantasy instead of an event. It's not hard to imagine that a young woman working with the president might have a crush and out of sheer innocence and a girlish prank might go along with someone, like Linda Tripp, who is clearly seeking dirt.

By Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross is Salon's executive vice president.

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Bill Clinton Infidelity White House