The White House Closes on a High Note

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WASHINGTON: After making the Senate jury choke down three hours of David Kendall's lawyering, the White House figured to serve Dale Bumpers as dessert. But the ex-Arkansas senator and current Clinton buddy did even better than that. For the first time in this plodding impeachment trial, listeners were treated to a speech that was worthy of history -- not to mention a heck of a defense for the President. "He was kind of the antidote to the legal arguments," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "He was well-regarded as a senator, and he was a friend of Clinton who could talk to them, politician to politician, and put it all in perspective."

Special Report Bumpers, billed as a star orator, did not disappoint. "When you hear somebody say 'This is not about money,'" he said -- quoting H. L. Mencken and delighting the audience -- "It's about money. And when you hear somebody say 'This is not about sex,' it's about sex." He told a story about how he and Clinton had once survived a rough plane landing in Arkansas: "We jumped out and ran away unscathed - to the dismay of every budding politician in Arkansas." He recited constitutional history and discussed patriotism, and at one point almost began to cry. He talked about the "human element" in the case against Bill Clinton, and that was what Bumpers himself brought to the Senate floor. Though few of his legal arguments broke new ground in this trial, his persona hit oratorical and emotional pay dirt -- here was an impassioned defender of Bill Clinton that this jury could trust. And be impressed by. "Some of you hate Bill Clinton," Bumpers intoned. "Rise above it... Don't leave a precedent from which we will never recover, and which we will surely regret." In this recyclable retread of a trial, America finally got something worth seeing twice.