Clinton's Attorney 'A Street Fighter'
By Jean Meserve/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 1) -- Bob Bennett, the lawyer who successfully persuaded a federal judge to throw out Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, has a big mouth and a bulldog style.
Depending on whether he's opposing you or on your side, Bennett can either be infuriating or the very essence of an effective attorney.
This is, after all, the man who referred to Jones' suit as "tabloid trash with a legal caption on it."
But Michael Madigan, a trial attorney, favors the "effective attorney" interpretation.
"A street fighter is somebody who is tough, who is not afraid, who's not going to back down, who is going to aggressively fight for his client, and I think Bob has all of those attributes," says Madigan.
A well-connected lawyer for many of Washington's high and mighty, Bennett eagerly sought to represent Clinton in the Paula Jones matter.
Among his strategies was to tie the case up in court until after Clinton was successfully re-elected in 1996. And while he was at it, he steadfastly maintained that Jones had "no case. She has suffered no damages. She was never harassed."
Bennett's tactics questioned
Still, some of his tactics have come under fire. Some wonder why he didn't settle and prevent the case from ballooning into a major embarrassment for the president and the presidency.
But as Bennett put it in a June 1996 interview, "Our position is this is a baseless, frivolous case we have no intention of settling."
He also infuriated some at another point by suggesting that Jones' sexual past was fair game.
And his suggestion that former White House employee Linda Tripp was lying about Kathleen Willey so angered Tripp that she taped Monica Lewinsky talking about an alleged sexual relationship she had with the president.
And that opened the door for independent counsel Ken Starr to expand his Whitewater investigation.
The biggest question of all, however, is why he allowed Clinton to be deposed under oath.
"By allowing his client to be sworn under oath about his private sex life, he made a terrible, terrible mistake," says law professor Alan Dershowitz.
'He has still got work ahead'
Bennett won the day, of course, but not everyone gives him full credit.
"This case failed due to the absence of material facts needed to convince this judge," says Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University law school.
But at least one former adversary had praise for Bennett.
"He works hard for his client," says Gil Davis, one of Jones' former attorneys. "But he has still got work ahead. There will be appeals, and maybe even more than that. But for now, I give him kudos."
Those looming legal battles will further test Bennett's skill, his strategy, his mettle ... and his mouth.