Tangled Up in Tape

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WASHINGTON: Bribery. Lying. Manipulation. Lying about lying. Vague threats. Lying about lying about lying. That's the kind of double- and triple-dealing heard on the Tripp tapes. Ever since it was first revealed back in January that Linda Tripp wiretapped her friend Monica Lewinsky, the tapes have become part of political folklore -- and the basis of an inquiry that launched a thousand headlines. When transcripts were released by the House Judiciary Committee Friday afternoon, they finally enter the public domain. The most revealing excerpt so far? Lewinsky promising Tripp that if she agreed to testify falsely before the Paula Jones grand jury, "I would write you a check for the entire portion" of a condominium "I own in Australia."

Special Report Indeed, it's unlikely that Tripp and Lewinsky will emerge from these furtive conversations without serious damage to their already savaged reputations. We already knew about Tripp's insistence that Lewinsky ask the President for a job in exchange for her silence, and that she discouraged the former intern from washing the famously stained Gap dress by telling her she "looked fat" in it. What we didn't know was how Lewinsky was working to manipulate Tripp. "Telling the truth could get you in trouble," she warns her then-girlfriend darkly. "I don't know why you would want to do that." Of course, Lewinsky later told the grand jury that much of what she had told Tripp was a lie; "I have lied all my life," she is quoted as saying. It may be that we'll never be able to sort out the tangled truth of the tapes -- but that won't stop either side in the impeachment debate from rushing in front of TV cameras to tell you what it is.