Hillary Tries the “O.J. Defense”

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Like Johnnie Cochran and the “dream team” that prevented justice from being done in the O.J. Simpson trial, Hillary Clinton seems to have mastered the “O.J. defense.”

The essence of this defense is first to change the subject from the guilt of the accused to the character of the accusers, second, to suggest a sinister plot, and third, to appeal to the jury’s innate bias.

In O.J.’s trial, the race card was played. A crass appeal was made to black jurors to use the verdict to punish an allegedly racist LAPD, which supposedly had framed O.J., by turning Simpson loose.

In Lewinsky vs. Clinton, Hillary wants the subject changed from whether her husband is lying about adultery to whether Kenneth Starr is out to get him. Her accusation that Starr sits at the epicenter of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” is a naked appeal to anti-conservative prejudice in the Big Media. Some journalists seem convinced that deep inside every conservative there is a little Klansman fighting to get out.

Hillary shares the prejudice and is deliberately stoking it.

Will she be able to convince the American people of the fiction that the Lewinsky affair was concocted by the right wing to bring down her husband? Well, in its first week, the strategy worked. But Hillary and the White House dream team led by Mickey Kantor have a problem: Unlike the O.J. jury, the jury of American public opinion is not sequestered, and Monica Lewinsky has yet to be heard from.

As for the casting of Ken Starr as vindictive prosecutor, it is preposterous. This pleasant and diffident fellow opted a year ago — rather than be the prosecutorial Rottweiller who brought down Bill Clinton — to go to California to be the dean of Pepperdine Law School. Only a firestorm of protest that he was deserting his post brought him back. Yet the Clintonites would have us believe this is the right wing’s answer to Andrei Vishinsky, who ran the Stalin purge trials.

Well, comes the retort, Ken Starr was given the Whitewater franchise three years ago and has accomplished nothing. It is time that he stopped dragging out this persecution and ended it.

Begging to differ, this writer sees Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation as a smashing success. In that complex case, involving loans and land deals long ago in Arkansas, Ken Starr convicted Bill Clinton’s protege, then Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker; he won a guilty plea from the man who made the loan, Judge David Hale; and he convicted both Clinton partners, James and Susan McDougal. Susan is now in jail for contempt for refusing to testify, even with immunity, as to whether Bill Clinton committed perjury at her trial, as her former husband and Judge Hale both assert.

It is to Ken Starr’s credit as a conscientious and careful counsel that, though he has testimony that the president did commit perjury, he has felt the evidence insufficient to indict or to send to the House Judiciary Committee. The Clintons are fortunate to have him.

If the White House believes Starr has accomplished nothing, it might also take the matter up with Hillary’s ex-partner and the president’s Mr. Fix-It at the Justice Department, Webb Hubbell, who has already served jail time and may face another indictment.

The first lady’s charge that this squalid scandal is the work of a right-wing conspiracy is dishonest and mendacious. For Hillary Clinton must know the truth, must know her husband cheated on her and must know he is lying about it. But to save his presidency and her position, she has chosen to collude in his deceptions and compound his falsehoods. Thus does power corrupt.

How can the press credibly buy this line? Monica Lewinsky got her internship through a Democratic contributor. Newsweek was on the scandal for a year before The Washington Post broke it. Did the right wing rope in all these liberals and then whistle Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings home from Cuba?

Is it really the fault of Ken Starr, who yearns for Malibu, that one Clinton scandal after another has been dumped in his lap, from illicit White House possession of hundreds of FBI files on Republicans to the Clintonite abuse of power in smearing Billy Dale and the faithful employees of the travel office?

As for Jesse Helms — Ken Starr’s principal co-conspirator, according to Mrs. Clinton — he spent most of 1997 working with Madeleine Albright to get Bill Clinton the money for U.N. back dues. Hillary’s smear of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman is worse than a crime; it is a blunder. Her husband is going to need Sen. Helms’ help this year, and this is not the way to go about it. Ask Bill Weld.

As for Mrs. Clinton’s success in getting the national press to go after that “vast right-wing conspiracy,” it tells us less about her brilliance than about their gullibility.

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