Politics & Policy

Two Chicks Yakking


What an ugly day yesterday was. The Washington Post smeared my mother. Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky’s dirty laundry were aired for all to hear. Every TV pundit in America listened, transfixed, to the tapes, gobbling them up the way Clinton eats Big Macs. Of course, they wagged their fingers and tut-tutted about the “betrayal,” the “manipulation,” the villainy. And yet, I did not hear a single declaration of guilt about playing the tapes over the airwaves. At least C-SPAN played them all the way through so people could hear the full context of the relationship. The redacted excerpts played on the talk shows skew the picture. The tapes are terrible, more terrible than I expected, even though I heard the first two of them.

The reality of the tapes is that they are mostly incredibly boring. There are endless stretches of talk about work-outs and salad dressing and hair cuts, etc. Remember: for months the White House and its cronies said that these tapes were scripted forgeries; they said Michael Isikoff and the rest of us were either fools for believing the tapes or liars for arguing for their authenticity. It was these vast stretches of chick talk that persuaded me they had to be believable. If Linda Tripp had not told Monica to save the dress, Clinton would not have admitted the affair, and the White House would still be treating America as a nation of fools and liars. This doesn’t change the fact that these tapes are extremely unpleasant.

But what did people expect? These are conversations of two average people caught in an absolutely crazy situation. President Clinton’s defenders say his offenses are mitigated by the villainy of Linda Tripp. Well, what if it wasn’t Linda Tripp? What if it was the mob? Or agents for a foreign power? Would people say well, Iraq is evil so Bill Clinton can be forgiven for getting into a tawdry and vile affair with this pathetic girl? All Monica wanted was a job which didn’t require hard work. What if she wanted defense plans or an unfair trade agreement? People forget that when Bill Clinton got rid of Monica he did it by giving her high-level security clearance. Then when he tried to get her out of Washington entirely, he endeavored to plant her in the UN. It’s a good thing all Linda wanted was proof of her honesty. People who think she wanted a book should take note that there is still no book. If Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg had been planning a book all along, it would have come out last February. That is how publishing works.

Yes, Linda Tripp comes across as manipulative in these tapes. Partly, to be sure, because she is, but also because the atmosphere has become so poisoned with this claptrap about conspiracies. And there’s another reason she sounds manipulative. Linda is human. Her younger friend is having an affair with the President of the United States. If you had a young friend in a similar situation, wouldn’t you say, “Tell me more”? Nobody wants to blur the clear story line of our national morality play, but Linda Tripp was very concerned about Monica, at least for a very long time. If you listen to these tapes in extended form it is clear that Linda is not speaking solely for the benefit of the tapes. Obviously she is at times. But why would Tripp counsel Monica on tape to twist the President’s arm for a job? The argument goes that Tripp, as an agent of the Starr conspiracy, fabricated the circumstances of Clinton’s obstruction of justice-job search. Indeed they compose a letter over the phone from Monica to the President beseeching him for a job. Why do this on tape? If Linda were truly the manipulator and schemer they are making her out to be, wouldn’t she turn off the machine? After all, it devastatingly buttresses the Clinton argument.

What interests me is that everyone believes Monica’s testimony that Linda helped with the talking points. Wouldn’t that come up on the tapes? Everyone sagely opines how Linda is speaking for benefit of the tapes when she says “I won’t lie, I won’t lie.” She even says she won’t lie under oath for the benefit of her kids. And yet, she’s willing to conspire on perjurious talking points? Bull.


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