Lieberman: 'Sorry' episode
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, August 2) -- Forget HMO reform or tax cuts or campaign finance reform. What obsessed Washington this weekend was a little cocktail dress, dark blue, reportedly snatched from the ubiquitous racks of The Gap.
Specifically, it's the dress that Monica Lewinsky reportedly wore when she allegedly had a sexual encounter with President Bill Clinton. It reportedly contains an allegedly incriminating stain that the FBI is reportedly now testing.
Her mother allegedly helped her secret it away from Independent Counsel Ken Starr's investigators until both daughter and mother got immunity, at which point she reportedly turned it over to them.
At least, those are the alleged reports. (Or should that be reported allegations?)
"How important is it if the FBI discovers that there's -- for a lack of a better word -- the president's DNA on this dress?" asked Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's "Face The Nation," with his customary earnestness. The query was directed to former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn.
It's trivial, Quinn replied. But other guests trooping across the Sunday talk show airwaves took a more serious view of the dress's potential to rattle the foundations of the republic.
"If it is evidence that there was a sexual relationship [between Clinton and Lewinsky], it's very critical," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) a straight-laced erudite Mormon who likely never expected to spend a Sunday morning discussing semen stains on national television.
"If the tests are positive, then the next question is, 'Will the president submit to giving samples so they can match the DNAs, if they are matchable?'" said Hatch on NBC's "Meet The Press." "I suspect if it's like normal prosecutorial trials, he would have to give a sample."
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) said a DNA match between Clinton and the stain on Lewinsky's dress would be "the most powerful kind of corroboration" that the president had a sexual affair with the former White House intern, something the president has denied under oath.
"I think that it would be very, very difficult for the president to explain that, in the context of information leading up to why that would be so," Specter said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think it would be a very, very tough matter for him."
"He can argue he has an evil twin, but that's it, because that evidence is rather conclusive," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, on "Meet The Press." "There will be no one ... [who] will be able to spin him out of that."
The dress was at the center of another odd flap Sunday. Both Newsweek and Time reported in their latest editions that Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg discussed stealing the dress after Lewinsky showed it to Tripp.
Tripp is the former friend of Lewinsky who taped telephone conversations between the two, igniting the whole controversy back in January. Goldberg, a New York literary agent, was a Tripp confidant who says she encouraged Tripp to turn on her tape recorder.
Asked Sunday about the reports, Goldberg said she and Tripp had conversations about taking the dress, which she termed a "Nancy Drew fantasy."
"She called me up one night and said, 'You are not going to believe what this girl has, what she's kept as a souvenir.' And she was right," said Goldberg on "Fox News Sunday."
But Tripp's attorneys strongly denied that their client ever discussed taking the dress, with Goldberg or anybody else. However, they confirmed that Lewinsky showed the dress to Tripp on three occasions.
Monica's little blue dress, raising as it does the issue of the president's DNA, is also creating the opportunity for a curious cross-pollination with another infamous case where DNA played a pivotal role -- the O.J. Simpson trial.
In an interview on CNN's "Late Edition," Barry Scheck, a DNA evidence specialist who became famous as a member of Simpson's defense team, said that if there is a stain on the dress, FBI lab technicians "can examine it under a microscope and see sperm. And the key issue is whether there is sperm there."
According to Scheck, the FBI should know by now whether the stain on the dress was made by semen. After that, additional tests would have to be done to do a DNA profile on the stain, which could then be matched to the president's DNA profile. Those tests would take fewer than three days, he said.
Lewinsky reportedly turned the dress over to Starr's investigators earlier this week, after her immunity deal was finalized.
Scheck also said that if Starr's prosecutors push for a blood or saliva sample from the president, "I don't think there would be any legal basis to resist that."
Along that line, one of Clinton's strongest supporters in Congress, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) was asked if he thought Clinton should comply with such a request.
"Gee, I'm inclined to think there were times when the president might have volunteered to give Mr. Starr a saliva sample," cracked Frank, a guest on "Face The Nation."
But on a Sunday where talk of stained dresses and body fluids intruded into people's brunch, at least one guest on "Late Edition" took issue with the level to which the American conversation has sunk.
"This episode 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," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut). "I mean the very fact that I have not been able to automatically let my young daughter sit with me and watch the news anymore tells you what has happened here."
"And honestly, we don't know yet whether ... we should blame the president, Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Tripp, Judge Starr or the media -- or all of them, to some extent."
Or perhaps just that little blue dress.