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Jewish World Review / August 4, 1998/ 12 Menachem-Av 5758

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez When Truth is of the highest odor

"THIS ESPISODE IS SORRY, and it is sordid, and it has brought down not only our government and the head of our government, but the whole country."

With those few words uttered on a Sunday talk show, Sen. Joseph Lieberman described perfectly why so many Americans don't want to think about what happened between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

Most Americans would rather this matter be treated as a private affair. They don't want to read about semen-stained dresses with their morning coffee. They don't want to have to explain the meaning of oral sex to their young children. They don't want to think that a president whom they like and respect is a man so unable to control his sexual urges that he would risk his presidency to sexually exploit a troubled 21-year-old woman. And when the media and Independent Counsel Ken Starr's investigation force the public to face the facts, many people would prefer to shoot the messenger.

So far, this understandable public squeamishness has protected the president. His approval ratings still hover in the 60 percent range, even as two-thirds of Americans say they don't believe the president is telling the truth about his relationship with Lewinsky.

But like a patient who may not want to know that cancer is eating away at his body, the American public can't afford to avoid the truth indefinitely.

In a matter of days, Clinton will face prosecutors and a federal grand jury who do not share any reticence about the facts. Nor should they. After all, the inquiry into the president's sexual activities came about as part of a much bigger investigation into political corruption that is alleged to have begun when Clinton was governor of Arkansas and to have continued even after he became president. With all the twists and turns in this national soap opera, it is easy to understand why so many people have forgotten the plot line.

This is what Starr and the grand jury are trying to determine: Did Bill Clinton receive illegal gifts (the Whitewater property for which he paid almost nothing) as well as illegal campaign contributions in his state races when he was governor of Arkansas and then try to cover up evidence of his wrongdoing? Did he approve improper government loans to his political supporters and business partners Jim and Susan Mc Dougal? And most importantly, did he try to buy witness silence by arranging pay-offs to those who might testify against him after he became president? It is their attempt to answer this last question that led federal prosecutors in the Whitewater investigation to Monica Lewinsky's door.

And presidential friend Vernon Jordan is the man in the middle of these two seemingly unrelated investigations into the president's involvement in an Arkansas land deal and a sexual encounter with a White House intern.

Jordan, who sits on several corporate boards of directors, helped arranged payment to former deputy attorney general Webster Hubbell, a key figure in the Whitewater investigation who has already been convicted of bilking his law partners and clients. Jordan also secured a job for Monica Lewinsky after she was subpoenaed to testify in Paula Jones' sexual-harassment lawsuit against the president. If either or both activities were undertaken in order to keep witnesses from testifying against Bill Clinton, that's obstruction of justice -- of the highest order.

Starr has his work cut out for him in the next few weeks, but his track record in securing convictions has been excellent so far. When he is finished connecting the dots in his various investigations, the public may no longer be able to ignore the picture of Clinton that emerges. This is not simply an investigation of a married man who has sex in the office with a young woman who works for him. Starr is investigating whether an elected official used his public office to enrich himself (even if unsuccessfully) and then tried to conceal his wrongdoing by securing jobs for witnesses who had knowledge of his actions and might testify against him.


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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.