Memo To: Editors and Political Writers
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Monica the Stalker
If you were not glued to the tv during Wednesday's coverage of the impeachment hearings, you may have missed the bombshell dropped by Rep. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican. Not everyone would consider it a bombshell, but any of us who understand how the press corps works must concede Graham's point that in a desperate attempt to save himself, President Clinton focused the energy and power of the presidency on destroying Monica Lewinsky. The only thing that saved her was the semen-stained dress. If not for that, Ms. Lewinsky would have been torn to pieces by the White House, Rep. Graham argued, and in the total context of his presentation, it is hard to say that he was off the mark.
We all know Sidney Blumenthal. You've known him as a talented political writer for The New Republic and The Washington Post. I've known him for 18 years and have considered him a professional friend throughout. When I published the MediaGuide in the 1980s and early 1990s, I always gave him high ratings as a political journalist. I did criticize his work at The New Yorker in the early years of the Clinton administration on the grounds that he was obviously a friend of the President and could not stand aside as an objective journalist. I was pleased when he quit the magazine and went to work directly for the President, ending an obvious conflict of interest.
What was the bombshell? It was Lindsey Graham connecting the dots between Sid Blumenthal's testimony before the federal grand jury and the myriad stories that appeared thereafter. Blumenthal told the grand jury that in January of this year, when the Monica story broke, he confronted the President about it and was told Monica had been stalking him, determined to have sex with him or announce to the world that he was coming on to her. Here is Blumenthal's testimony to that effect. The exchange follows a reference to Dick Morris, who apparently counseled the President to come clean:
"And I said to the President, 'What have you done wrong?' And he said, 'Nothing. I haven't done anything wrong.'
"I said, 'Well, then, that's one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard' — the idea being confessing. 'Why would you do that if you've done nothing wrong?'
"And it was at this point that he gave his account of what happened to me. And he said that Monica — and it came very fast — he said, 'Monica Lewinsky came at me and made a sexual demand on me.' He rebuffed her. He said, 'I've gone down that road before. I've caused pain for a lot of people and I'm not going to do that again. She threatened me.' She said that she would tell people they had an affair and that she was known as the 'Stalker' among her peers and that she hated it, and that if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn't be 'the Stalker' anymore."
Graham then began to read from a pile of articles that soon appeared in the press corps suggesting that Monica was a deranged stalker. Rep. Charlie Rangel, one of the President's chief defenders, was among those suggesting that Monica was the aggressor. According to a press account that appeared January 31, two weeks after the Blumenthal session with the President, Rangel has a definite opinion formed: "'That poor child has serious emotional problems,' Representative Charlie Rangel said Tuesday night before the State of the Union. 'She's fantasizing and I haven't heard that she played with a full deck in other experiences.'"
Charles Ruff, who had made about as good a defense of the President yesterday as I might imagine, was clearly shaken by the Graham assertions. All he could say was that he could assure the committee there was no "authorized" campaign to demonize Ms. Lewinsky. It had to be clear to him that Clinton knew he only had to put one trusted aide into motion for such a campaign to be put into play. Lindsey Graham's conclusion:
This is something that is more than consensual sex; this is something, in my opinion, ladies and gentlemen, where a high public official is using the trappings of his office, the White House, to go after a potential witness who, if that witness is called and gives testimony down the road in a sworn fashion, not just tapes, that what he is trying to do is set up a defense to make her not believable. That this witness possesses information that would hurt his political and legal interests, and the President of the United States, I believe, planted stories that were false. And shortly after those stories were planted, the White House operation went into effect notifying the press that if you ever hear anything about this witness, you need to know she's unreliable, she's a stalker, she's basically not a responsible person... And that is far more like Watergate than Peyton Place. And I'm going to believe that probably till I die.
Until Rep. Graham connected these dots, there was nothing to take the Lewinsky affair out of the realm of Peyton Place into the realm of Watergate. What he has done is increase the chances that a House impeachment will end with Senate conviction and removal of the President.