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
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
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.