Report also reveals the human side of the sex scandal
By Kathleen Hayden/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (Sept. 12) -- Amid the X-rated details and legalese in the Starr report, an unexpectedly human story emerges in the independent counsel's blueprint for impeachment. From its dangerous beginnings to disastrous end, the story of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's furtive, consensual relationship runs through the legal manifesto.
Lewinsky, who cooperated with prosecutors, was forthcoming about the emotional underpinnings of the relationship. President Clinton was not. But from both sources comes a tale with all the necessary components of any good romantic tragedy: love, obsession, guilt and anger.
It began as an "intense," though certainly not innocent, flirtation -- mischievous gazes, knowing smiles, displays of underwear between a married man and a woman, his employee, half his age.
The two differ on the evolution of their relationship: Clinton said friendship came before the sex while Lewinsky testified the reverse was true. Either way, both parties acknowledged an emotional connection.
Not surprisingly, the depth of feeling seemed strongest with the star-struck 22-year old. "I never expected to fall in love with the president. I was surprised that I did," she told Independent Counsel Ken Starr's prosecutors. And, again not surprisingly, at times she believed Clinton loved her, too.
In addition to their sexual activities, the two showed physical affection, with "a lot of hugging, holding hands sometimes." During these times they would talk about things like their childhoods, or even public policy. They used terms of endearment. He was "Handsome" to her, while he called her "Sweetie," "Baby," and "Dear."
She fantasized about the two having a future together. According to a friend of Lewinsky's, the president told Lewinsky he was not sure he would remain married after he left the White House and she thought "maybe she will be his wife."
After one conversation where they spoke vaguely about continuing their relationship after he was out of office, Lewinsky said she came away feeling "sort of emotionally stunned" because "I just knew he was in love with me."
But as the affair cooled, it was Lewinsky who almost desperately tried to maintain contact. She sent notes and gifts and made calls only to become "very frustrated" with her inability to reach Clinton. Some of her actions bordered on the obsessive: "I'm an insecure person ... and I was insecure about the relationship at times and thought that he would come to forget me easily ... So I made an effort. I would go early and stand in the front (at ropelines) so I could see him."
The letters (some drafts of which never made it to the president) would express Lewinsky's anger that Clinton was "not paying enough attention to me" or talk about feeling "disposable, used and insignificant."
But those same missives would end with new pledges of love. "I just loved you -- wanted to spend time with you, kiss you, listen to you laugh -- and I wanted you to love me back," she concluded in one note.
Even so, the romantic notions were coupled with a more calculated edge. Lewinsky saw her relationship with the president as a natural vehicle for furthering her career.
Following her transfer from the White House to the Pentagon, Lewinsky continually pressed Clinton to find her a job , first in his re-election campaign, then back at the White House and finally in New York City.
In a recorded conversation, presumably with Linda Tripp, Lewinsky indicated that she thought Clinton owed her. "I don't want to have to work for this position ... I just want it to be given to me."
Lewinsky reminded Clinton in a note that she could have made life difficult for him. Instead she "left the White House like a good girl in April of '96, whereas other people might have threatened disclosure in order to retain the job."
Her separate emotions of love and ambition collided in one Harlequin novel-like scenario laid out in a draft letter to the president. In it Clinton would promise to have her returned to a job at the White House and "tell me you couldn't wait to have me back." Continuing the fantasy, Lewinsky wrote: "You'd ask me where I wanted to work and say something akin to 'Consider it done' and it would be."
He said (and she said he said)
The president's emotional state is more of an enigma, in part because he refused to go into such details in his testimony.
What attracted him to the young intern? The physical would seem the obvious motivating factor since glimpses of her in the White House corridors were apparently enough to gain his attention.
Once they were involved, Lewinsky said the president felt a kinship between them because both were "emotive and full of fire." And for a man who at the time was facing his 50th birthday, she apparently "made him feel young."
When Lewinsky asked if their relationship was "just sex," she recalls him laughing and saying that "he cherishes the time that he had with me." She also remembers him saying that "he didn't want to get addicted to me, and he didn't want me to get addicted to him."
There's some evidence of genuine affection, or at least consideration. He remembered her birthday with a gift and brought back a T-shirt from vacation upon her request.
What is clear from the Starr report is the president knew the relationship with wrong and even felt guilty about betraying his wife. According to Lewinsky, Clinton told her that earlier in his marriage he had been unfaithful but since turning 40 had made an effort to reform.
The president first broke off the relationship in February 1996, saying he no longer felt right about their intimate relationship and had to put a stop to it, according to Lewinsky.
The affair resumed, though there was a 10-month hiatus. Following what Lewinsky called her second-to-last sexual encounter with the president, Clinton testified that he remembers feeling "sick after it was over."
The president speaks of it as if it were some kind of addiction relapse: "I was pleased at that time that it had been nearly a year since any inappropriate contact had occurred with Ms. Lewinsky. I promised myself it wasn't going to happen again."
The president said he took this step even at the risk of exposure: "After I terminated the improper contact with her, she wanted to come in more than she did. She got angry when she didn't get in sometimes. I knew that might make her more likely to speak, and I still did it because I had to limit the contact."
The report gives little explanation why Clinton -- the president, a former governor, former law professor, Rhodes Scholar and a brilliant man -- could get himself involved in something so risky and stupid.
And in no way do the emotions involved in the Clinton-Lewinsky tempest offset the more salacious details of Starr's report or the serious grounds on which Congress could consider impeachment.
Yet, reading between the lines does provide a glimpse into a sex scandal that has rocked the White House while giving a human side to the passions and foibles that brought it all about.
Saturday September 12, 1998
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