Comment Of The Day
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Monday September 21, 1998

The President Going Down #9

Here's Lookin' At You, Bill!: A real time review of the famous tapes....

Waiting for the tapes to begin (we are only four minutes away: 9:22 AM), the thought occurred to me that if this was a fiction piece, no one would believe it. We might find it entertaining and interesting, but we would not believe anything like this could really happen.

Here comes the tape delivery, shaking hands all around, the keying up of the tape and then the finger on the button and away we go....

9:25AM: He looks worried and exposed. Verging on sad to the point of being all choked up. He is trying to be business like, but his blink rate is high, his body is leaning away, and his tie is non-descript, and loosely (not crisply) tied. Something is flashing on the screen... "Warning: Testimony May Include Explicit Details.,"

"I will answer each question as fully and accurately as I can."( He had the statement folded up in his pocket.) He unfolded it on camera and read it with hands shaking. It was a single sheet, and from the ruppled look of it, it had been folded and unfolded many times. He handed it over, almost like a victim asking the robber, "Why don't you take this too, take everything." First break occurred at this point. The announcers dove in with a vengeance of commentary: analyzing, describing, picking everything apart. But it was unmistakable that Americans were seeing a completely different President Clinton than they were used to. The next segment was 67 minutes long.

9:38 AM: The first order of business was to offer the President the definition of "sexual relations" that they are currently working with. He read it over and I was wondering what he might have been thinking. "Yep, we did that. And that. And that. Whoa, not that! Not that either, but wish we had." Or something like that. His point was that "sexual relations" means the attempt to "arouse or gratify" someone. So, if you are the receptient of, say, oral sex, then you are not "having sexual relations," because you are not attempting to "arouse or gratify," the other person's lips. It's really quite simple. "What other actions do you think is included in the phrase, 'sexual relations' besides intercourse?" Here he became irritated for the first time, and I noticed that he was drinking water more frequently almost as if it were alcohol. The glass was already almost empty.

10:03 AM: The President is making his "wrecking ball" monologue about how the legal team , in the Paula Jones case, loaded everything they could, and leaked everything they could, in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and attack on him. He was making the case that he was not trying to be "particularly helpful" but he was trying to be "truthful." "I was trying to focus on what I said and how I said it."

"How many times were you alone with Ms. Lewinsky?" He leaned back and thought those thoughts again. The room was silent while he was visibly trying to recall the numerous occasions. If only his thoughts were visible. Then he said, "To be fully truthful, I don't know." He began to review the records of the White House records. And then he said, "I remember meeting her in the government shutdown, when most employees were prohibited from coming to work. One night she brought me some pizza. The next time I saw her, I specifically remember, her bringing me papers and we were alone. I have a general memory of at least two more occasions. I don't specifically remember. I didn't keep records of our meetings." That's an understatement.

When he was speaking about the gifts, it seemed to me that he actually had been trying to be nice to her in their selection. "I put it in a Black Dog bag because I knew she liked that place." There was some chocolate cherries in there. A "throw." She had given him an antique book on Presidents. "A particularly nice present. She knew I liked antique books."

10:33 AM: In one of the cards she sent, Monica reminisced that during the movie "Titanic" she was thinking of him. It would be easy to assume that she was especially thinking of him during the steamy-window scene in the car below decks. "My recollection is that she... maybe because of changing circumstances in her life... there was sort of a disconnect between the things that she was saying and the reality of our relationship. It may be that when I did the right thing and made it stick, she felt a need to cling or stay closer to me. I don't know the answer to that."

It was clear that in this segment that the investigators were trying to entrap the President by asking open-ended questions and letting him go on and on. Probably, Bill hurt himself in this segment by stating his view as different from Monica's. This last segment was good for Bill because anyone watching would see the President as a man and a caring human being. His was sincere at times and that was a lasting impression. He was evasive and that was understandable, if your are open-minded and not a big hypocrite yourself. He was generous in his testimony, even if overly so with details and minute analysis beyond ordinary apprehension. All of this could ultimately be good for him, in the cool study of history: good for the Democrats and bad for the Republicans and the Starr group. Truth, though complex and conflicted, is building strength with these tapes. But only time will tell. The next "I deplored..." section was not good for Bill. Self-righteousness was obviously out of place.

11:01 AM: "I know my answers were jumbled, but I was trying to focus on the questions."

Instead of trying to be accurate in every interconnected detail, he was addressing each question as best he could. He admitted that his memory was not as good as President as it had been before. "Perhaps it's the pressure and the pace of the Presidency." Everyone in America was interested, following the broadcast, and aware of what was happening on television today. Most peopl, stated that "it's his business." As stated earlier, it is possible that he will come out looking better than the prosecutors. The Republicans will look petty and political. Bill won't look majestic under any scenario, but I believe he will survive and continue to serve the nation for many years. And, as the years go by, the good of his administration will endure. That, you can take to the bank.

12:30 PM: FloJo Joyner's death was announced. The news about Clinton's amazingly positive reception at the UN was breaking. A highly unusual standing ovation signaled that the world sees his leadership as important and crucial, despite the Republicans laser focus on his destruction.

Of the applause and adjulation, he said, "I was very touched."

After lunch the tapes continued. There was no "rage," as we were leaked to be ready for. There was only more of the same President trying to defend himself, not excuse himself, working through the questions. There must have been a lot of people thinking what I was thinking. This broadcast is not going to hurt the President, it will help him. On the street, I heard that over and over. The evening news shows all reflected the same emerging sentiments. Newt came on and spoke about his "Constitutional" duties and looked manipulative and out of touch.

So, as in all things human, when it comes to the Starr investigation and all of its sound and fury, when all is said and done, as usual, far more is said than done. So, here's lookin' at you, Bill. And, it's not all bad or all good. It's just you, and we all knew that about you all along anyway.

See you next time.

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