by Patrick J. Buchanan – January 22, 1998
The saddest of commentaries on the Clinton presidency is that on the first day of his greatest political and personal crisis, no one really believed him — not even his own loyalists.
The White House staff was stunned and demoralized the instant the charge surfaced of a Clinton liaison with a 21-year-old intern, whom the president allegedly seduced within days of her arrival at the White House. A few Clintonites bravely took to the airwaves to denounce the “right wing” for this “latest attack.” But their rage was hollow and formalistic, without the old fire.
After all, the story broke in The Washington Post; the right wing had never heard of Monica Lewinsky; and it was Clinton’s own attorney general who authorized Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to set up a sting operation to net the president of the United States. Clinton’s own confidant, George Stephanopoulos, was the first to say that if the president did have an affair with an intern, denied it under oath in his sworn deposition in the Paula Jones suit and then counseled the young woman also to lie, we are headed for impeachment.
The questions that need answering are simple. Did Monica Lewinsky have a sexual relationship with Clinton? If she did, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer committed perjury in his deposition. And if Clinton counseled her to deny the affair in her sworn affidavit, which she did, the chief magistrate of the United States is guilty of subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice. These very charges sent Richard Nixon’s aides to prison.
Nor should the truth be difficult to discover. Starr need only subpoena the White House records of Clinton’s phone calls to the young woman and of her visits to his office or living quarters. Then, Starr should take Monica Lewinsky before a grand jury and question her on what happened on each visit, after guaranteeing her immunity for anything she says, except lying under oath. The young woman will then either contradict the sworn statement of the president or admit to being a pathological and imaginative liar through some 17 hours of taped conversation with her friend, Linda Tripp.
All the information unearthed in the first 24 hours of this scandal points to a special relationship between the ex-intern and the president. One network reported that former civil rights leader and super-lawyer Vernon Jordan, a Clinton confidant whom the young woman alleges was brought in to counsel her to lie in her affidavit, got her a job. Even U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson admitted to having interviewed her and offered her a post.
Why would busy and powerful men like Jordan and Richardson undertake a job search for a White House intern? How would Jordan even know Monica Lewinsky? Who was the lawyer Vernon Jordan reportedly recruited to help Monica Lewinsky prepare her affidavit for the Paula Jones trial?
This latest Clinton scandal is the gravest of all because it involves allegation of specific serious crimes by the president himself: witness tampering, perjury and obstruction of justice.
If this matter is not cleared up rapidly, and in the president’s favor, it is hard to see how he can continue to conduct the affairs of state of the United States. And if indeed Clinton is guilty of lying under oath in his deposition, his credibility will be shattered, and the House of Representatives will have no choice but to begin the grim business of impeaching the president of the United States, a perfectly dreadful situation for the country.
At this point, there seem to be only two explanations. The first is that the president is the victim of a vicious smear by a deluded and poison-tongued groupie in the West Wing of the White House. Or the president of the United States took advantage of a 21-year-old, indulged himself, deceived his wife about an affair he was conducting in their home, lied about it under oath, tried to persuade the young woman to perjure herself, and conspired with a friend to pressure her to do so. And together, they succeeded in the utter corruption of a White House intern and the ruin of her life.
If the first is true, and Kenneth Starr was inadvertently a party to this, he ought to resign. If the second is true, it is Clinton who ought to resign. For if it is true, he has broken faith with his wife and family, with his oath of office and with the American people who honored him twice with the presidency of the United States.
If it is true, Clinton’s enemies were right all along. In any event, we shall know shortly.