Bizarre Scene Inside And Outside The White House
Not business as usual on day of Clinton's historic testimony
By Kathleen Hayden/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (Aug. 17) -- The scene at the White House Monday was anything but typical. Inside the executive mansion, the president of the United States was being questioned about his sex life by prosecutors for the independent counsel's office.
Meanwhile, another extraordinary scene took place outside of the White House gates as a man cut his own throat.
With his back to the gates along the north lawn of the White House, and surrounded by the crowd gathered to witness the day's historic events, the young man held a screw driver to the left side of his neck. Blood ran down from an apparently self-inflicted wound.
Staring fiercely at the assembled people, the unidentified man stood quietly with the poised tool until police officers and White House guards quickly pushed the crowd and three uniformed policemen approached him.
It was unclear what the man's motivation was, though he gestured toward the White House with his free hand during the stand off with the officers. After a few minutes the police were able to peacefully subdue and handcuff the man, who received emergency care before being taken to an area hospital. His condition was not known.
Among the throng of people outside of the north gate, there was a feeling of shock afterward. "Can this day get any more crazy?" one onlooker wondered out loud.
Crazy enough certainly, with groups of pro- and anti-Clinton holding up competing signs, and gaggles of reporters camped out at each entrance. Even the storm clouds cooperated, kindly assembling above Washington to provide the appropriate atmosphere for the surreal scene.
On the ground, six men wandered around in the near 90-degree weather in winter coats, hats and scarves, one carrying a snow shovel, and all singing "Oh, I'm freezing," set to the tune of "Oh Susannah."
"Why are we out here sweating our butts off? Because it's a blizzard of lies," said Eugene Delgaudio, executive director of the Public Advocate of the U.S., a self-described "grass-roots, watchdog" group with partisan leanings.
Complaining of the "Clinton snow job," Delgaudio said, "We wouldn't tolerate this behavior from our children. Why would we from our president? ... If this guy loved his country the way he loves women, he would resign."
Those sentiments were echoed by other demonstrators, who held up signs reading: "Impeach Bill," "God Bless Starr," and "Perjury is an impeachable offense." Three men from an anti-Clinton organization handed out peaches, calling the fruit "peaches for impeachment."
On the flip side, Brett Riley from Logan, Utah, displayed a placard reading, "Starr's zealous indiscretion, like Joe McCarthy's tyranny, is political terrorism."
Riley said the president is only guilty of "obstruction of injustice," arguing that it was Independent Counsel Ken Starr who set up the president by advancing the Paula Jones lawsuit.
"[Clinton]'s a womanizer," Riley said. "But that's not relevant to the issue." That theory inspired a heated impromptu street debate among the gathered group on the appropriateness of a relationship between a 50-year-old man in a position of power, and a 21 year-old employee.
But for all those who traveled to the White House to take a public stance on the Monica Lewinsky tempest, there were more present just to catch a glimpse of the biggest show in town.
Many tourists seemed to care more that the White House was not open for tours then the outcome of Clinton's testimony. Parents were stuck trying to explain to their children why they couldn't go inside, without getting into the dirty details of the scandal.
The White family, passing through Washington from their Michigan home, spent ten minutes trying to take a picture of their kids without people wandering by. "It's impossible out here," Mrs. White said.
And another Detroit family bemoaned, "There's nothing but media out here."
Some came purely for the celebrity factor. Amateur and professional cameras alike were targeted at the various White House entrances hoping to get a picture of a principal player, like Starr.
Onlookers also watched the camp of television correspondents lined up inside the gates. Seeing CNN's Wolf Blitzer do a live standup, one tourist cried, "Oh, I've gotta get a picture of Wolf."
Despite the all-American scene, it was certainly not business as usual inside, or outside the White House.