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The Ubiquitous Mr. Fix-It

By Adam Cohen

TIME magazine March 23, 1998

(TIME, March 23) -- If you believe Dolly Kyle Browning, who wrote a vanity-press novel about her alleged affair with Bill Clinton, the White House was so eager to keep her quiet that a top aide approached her to cut a deal. In exchange for agreeing not to publicly use the A words (adultery and affair), Browning told Paula Jones' lawyers, the White House promised that Clinton would not tell any untruths about her and she would be permitted to say that she and Clinton had a 33-year relationship that from time to time included sex.

The aide who worked out the deal, Browning says, was White House deputy counsel Bruce Lindsey. Back in Arkansas, it was chief of staff Betsey Wright who quieted the "bimbo eruptions"--a phrase she coined--so the Clinton show could go on. Last week's filings assert that Lindsey has taken on that role in the White House. Independent counsel Ken Starr is so interested in Lindsey that he has called him before the grand jury three times in two months. The relentlessly low-profile Lindsey has always been an enigmatic figure, best known for playing late-night games of hearts with his old pal turned President and lurking just on the edge of White House photo ops. But the picture that emerges in Jones' court papers is of a shrewd Mr. Fix-It, who has been at Clinton's side for several years' worth of eruptions and who has not hesitated to urge that the truth be shaded to make Clinton's problems go away.

Lindsey came to Washington as a Clinton insider. The slightly built, bookish Little Rock lawyer has a corporate middle manager's taste in clothing and a recluse's allergy to the media. But his dry job title and self-effacing manner have largely obscured the pivotal role he has played in the White House for the past six years. Lindsey has been Clinton's friend and traveling companion, as well as his adviser on matters ranging from Whitewater to the campaign-finance investigation. His nicknames have run the gamut from "the Enforcer" to "the Consigliere," the Sicilian word for a trusted counsel to a Mafia chieftain. He is, by most accounts, Clinton's closest confidant apart from the First Lady.

The President's own deposition puts Lindsey in the thick of things. Clinton believes it was Lindsey who first told him Monica Lewinsky might be called as a witness in the Paula Jones case. And he says the first time he recalls seeing Jones herself was on television, and that he said at the time to Lindsey, "Bruce, do we know this lady? Who is this person?" But it is the female witnesses who contend that the Enforcer worked overtime trying to compel a silence about Clinton's past sexual relationships. Lindsey was allegedly in contact with Linda Tripp, his former subordinate, after she saw Kathleen Willey emerge disheveled from an alleged Oval Office sexual encounter. Browning, meanwhile, says that in addition to working out their deal, Lindsey was her White House contact about her relationship with the President, and he was the person she called when she was subpoenaed by Jones. Lindsey, for his part, has maintained a characteristic silence in the face of the charges. This time, it's not entirely his doing: his grand jury testimony two weeks ago was halted when the White House asserted that some of Lindsey's conversations with Clinton were protected by Executive privilege.

--Reported by Karen Tumulty/Washington
In TIME This Week

Cover Date: March 23, 1998

Are Bigger Banks Badder?
Kiss But Don't Tell
Two Women, Two Stories And A Presidential Denial
Touched By A President?
The Ubiquitous Mr. Fix-It
The Expanding Cast
A Call for Lustiness
Sex And The Law
No Go: Why the Army Lost A High-Profile Sex Case
Is Slate Worth Paying For?
When Wall Street Runs Welfare
Calvin Trillin: Titanic (Glub), Lewinsky (Blab)
The Notebook: 'Garbage In, Garbage Out'

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