FOR MONTHS, IT HAS BEEN APPARENT THAT Kenneth Starr does not
like the President of the United States. Now it is apparent why. The Bill Clinton
portrayed in the independent counsel's report is a man of unnerving appetites and odd
philosophiespart Rasputin, part Machiavelli, and part leering adolescent. His world
is one where words have no fixed meaning, treacheries come easy, truth is so slippery it
cannot be seized, and human congress is quick, transactional, and above all, cheap.
is Ken Starr's Clinton.
Clinton as Employer: I Don't Feel Your Pain All THAT Much
On several occasions, the President asked his secretary, Betty Currie, to come in to work
on a Saturday or holiday. The sole purpose of these requests was to ensure that Currie,
59, was at her desk to admit Monica Lewinsky to the White House, so no suspicions would be
Once, Clinton is said to have telephoned Lewinsky at 2 a.m. with two pieces of news:
that Currie's brother had died in a car accident, and that Lewinsky had been named as a
potential witness in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit. Clinton allegedly told
Lewinsky that if she received a subpoena she should promptly notify Currie, and that he
would ask Currie to come in over the upcoming weekend so he could give Lewinsky some
Lewinsky recalled that she advised the President that perhaps they should not bother
Currie in her grief.
Clinton on Sex: Whether You Score Depends on How You Keep Score
Clinton's views on the nexus of sex, guilt, and propriety are complex and not entirely
consistent. But if the report is to be believed, through his actions and his explanations
under oath he appears to be making certain clear, if torturous, distinctions and
gradations. Among the most interesting:
1. One may be justifiably proud of one's fidelity to one's spouse over a period of many
months if one engages only in repeated phone sex.
2. When one is attempting to terminate an illicit sexual relationship, it is
permissible to kiss one's former lover, passionatelybut only on her birthday and
3. Only rape or sexual assault can strictly be defined as willful sex. Consensual sex
sort of just happens, and no one can be said to "cause" it.
Clinton on Friendship: Hey, Pal. You're on Your Own
In explaining why he permitted his attorney Robert Bennett to assert categorically at a
deposition that there "absolutely is no sex of any kind," Clinton initially said
he wasn't paying much attention to what Bennett was saying. In any event, he elaborated,
he had no duty to prevent attorney Bennett from making an incorrect statement to the
"Mr. Bennett was representing me. I wasn't representing him."
As the scandal began to unravel, the President summoned his closest advisers, one by
one, and reassured them in specific terms that nothing improper had occurred. To Deputy
Chief of Staff John Podesta, he supposedly volunteered that there had been no intimate
contact of any kind.
Presidential adviser Sidney Blumenthal says Clinton told him he recalled only one phone
call to Lewinsky, informing her of the death of Currie's brother; in fact, the Starr
report notes dryly, there were many, many calls that were far more "memorable."
Blumenthal said Clinton told him that Lewinsky had come on to him, and he had rebuffed
her. Then, unbidden, the President added this: His abstinence was not only a matter of
prudence but a matter of honor: "I've gone down that road before," Blumenthal
said Clinton told him. "I've caused pain for a lot of people and I'm not going to do
Clinton did not even tell the truth to his dearest friends, Vernon Jordan and Harry
Thomason. He held his tongue when his wife went on national television and made the
following statement, which would turn out to be unintentionally prescient: "Some
folks are going to have a lot to answer for."
The only friend in whom Clinton felt comfortable enough to confide was Dick Morris, his
former pollster, disgraced two years ago in a tawdry scandal involving a prostitute.
Clinton on God and Family: Extreme Unction
On Easter Sunday, 1996, Clinton attended services at the church of one of the young
victims of the plane crash in Bosnia that also killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Then
the President, his wife, and daughter had brunch at the Four Seasons hotel.
Then, the President went to the White House.
Then, he telephoned Monica Lewinsky and invited her over for a tryst.
Clinton on Life's Priorities: First, You Take Care of Business
Because the White House keeps phone logs and visitor logs, and because the President's
movements are monitored by the Secret Service, there are ample records not so much of what
occurred but how long it took.
These logs provide a lesson in priorities. Clinton's conversations with congressmen,
lawyers, and other advisers tend to last only minutes. He appears to conduct business
quickly and decisively.
Similarly, tete-a-tetes between the President and Lewinsky tended to be brief affairs.
Calls in which Lewinsky and Clinton are said to have engaged in phone sex were likewise
abbreviated. But there was at least one dramatic exception.
On Oct. 10, 1997, after Lewinsky complained that Clinton was reneging on a promise to
help find her a job, Clinton began, correctly, to suspect disloyalty, even that he was
being blackmailed. He phoned her.
This call occurred at 2 o'clock in the morning. By Lewinsky's account, she and Clinton
talked for an hour and a half.
He invited her to the White House the following day.
On this day, he was preparing for a week-long visit to South America, a major trip in
which he was to push for lowered trade barriers.
But first, Clinton and Lewinsky met for an hour to discuss her job search. Then, she
said, he kissed her on the forehead.
Clinton on Romance: Thank You, Ma'am
After sexual encounters with the President on two different occasions, Lewinsky says
she suspected that Clinton did not remember her name, and so she reminded him.
Lewinsky testified they did not have a meaningful conversation until after their sixth
Typically, Lewinsky said, Clinton would inform her of his desire for sexual intimacy by
opening his trousers.
Often, these events are said to have occurred in the bathroom.
Clinton the Leader: Once More, Into the Breach of Faith
Referring to a sexual liaison, Lewinsky says Clinton's attitude was: "If two people
involved say it didn't happen, it didn't happen."
This lack of distinction between fact and provable fact was evidently communicated to
others. Clinton's aides practiced deceptions both minor and signal. Currie and Lewinsky
called themselves "Kay" in messages to each other. Lewinsky referred to Vernon
Jordan as "Gwen" in letters to friends, and to Clinton as "she" in
letters to Currie.
The furtive atmosphere pervaded the President's security detail. Secret Service agents
made it clear in their testimony that they suspected the boss of dalliances with Lewinsky.
One is said to have routinely speculated on the speed with which the President would leave
his residence and arrive at the Oval Office after Lewinsky arrived for her visits.
Once, when Lewinsky created a disturbance at the Northwest Gate of the White House
after a uniformed Secret Service agent unwisely told her the President was meeting with
another woman, the President was said to have become enraged and threatened to fire the
indiscreet agent. Eventually, the matter was smoothed over when the Secret Service agreed
not to file an incident report.
Taking a cue from the boss, Capt. Jeffrey Purdie, the watch commander, is said to have
informed his guards that "whatever just happened didn't happen."
Clinton on Honesty: There Are No Lies, Just Varying Degrees of Truth
Explaining to Starr's grand jury why his lawyer said at the Jones deposition there
"is absolutely no sex of any kind" between Clinton and Lewinsky, Clinton
reportedly testified: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. . . .
actually, in the present tense, that is an accurate statement."
This led his questioner to ask sardonically: "Do you mean today that because you
were not engaging in sexual activity with Ms. Lewinsky during the deposition that the
statement . . . might be literally true?"
When he was asked to explain his statement in the Jones case that he did not recall
being alone with Lewinsky, he said, "There were a lot of times when we were alone but
I never really thought we were."
Clinton's sifting and declension of language is so intricate it seems to lend itself to
footnotes and superscripts and underlines that slant off into the margins of the page. A
10th-grade grammar teacher would be impressed.
Nowhere are these semantic gymnastics more evident than his explanation of a seeming
inconsistency that could become the central issue in any perjury charges brought against
him: why, at his deposition in the Jones case, he answered "no" to whether he'd
had sexual relations with Lewinsky.
That response came after he had been shown this definition of sexual relations:
"when the person knowingly engages in or cause contact with the genitalia, anus,
groin, breast, inner thigh or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify
the sexual desire of any person."
In his analysis, Clinton explained, "any person" means any other person, so
since Clinton was the person being deposed, the only portion of the other person's anatomy
being touched was the lips"not with anything on that list."
By that definition, though, Lewinsky certainly had had sexual relations with Clinton,
and she had denied it in her affidavit. And yet at his deposition, the President also
testified to the veracity of her deposition. Why?
According to the Starr report, Clinton said this:
"I believe if she believed the definition of sex was two people having
intercourse, then this is accurate. I believe this is the definition most Americans would
Clinton on Women: Less Is More
Much has been made of Lewinsky's age at the time of the consummation of the
affairalternatively described as barely older than Clinton's daughter, and less than
half Clinton's age. Both are true, but neither is probative: Many women of 22 are worldly
The Starr report, however, suggests otherwise of Lewinsky, whose words and actions
bespeak nearly comical petulance and immaturity.
At one point, she complains that she has to avoid staffers who try to limit her access
to the President. She calls them "the White House meanies."
She says she fears a job at the Pentagon would be "YUCK!"
When given bad news, she tends to burst into tears.
Her indiscretion is profound. She babbled incessantly about her affair to 11 different
people, including a former boyfriend, an aunt, two high-school friends, Linda Tripp, and
Irene Kassorla, a Hollywood TV celebrity-psychologist, and sex therapist who once wrote a
bestseller that promised to take female readers to a state where they can reach "the
When Lewinsky eventually decided it was time to apply pressure on Clinton to bring her
back to the White House, she made the following threat: She would tell her mom and dad.
Lewinsky once wrote in a letter to Clinton: "If you were 100 percent fulfilled in
your marriage I never would have seen that raw, intense sexuality that I saw a few
timeswatching your mouth on my breast or looking in your eyes while you explored the
depth of my sex. Instead it would have been a routine encounter void of anything but a
This may have been Lewinsky's final folly: She actually thought Clinton was in love
And Last: Clinton on Starr
The President says he has not read the Starr report. And has no plans to do so.