The Faces of Impeachment

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WASHINGTON: The House managers were right -- the tapes helped. Carefully chosen extracts from Monica and Bill, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal allowed Reps. James Rogan and Asa Hutchinson to finally present a digestible version of their case: Bill Clinton lied to everyone he knew, about anything he could, and he lied not just to deceive but to survive. Did the President, as one of Hutchinson's charts asked pointedly, "take care that the laws were faithfully executed"? It certainly wasn't a priority, and Lewinsky -- believable, often charming, and definitely wised-up -- told us so. But what Rogan called Clinton's "broad tapestry of corruption" still sounds more like a poorly knitted scarf, and the better we got to know the players on Saturday, the more we were reminded of the pathetic little affair at the center of all the lying.

Special Report The White House editors, of course, rendered Lewinsky a witness for the defense (as indeed she was in the bulk of her deposition), while Jordan -- with David Kendall letting the tape run -- went back to sounding like just another humble fixer with friends at the top. White House counsel Nicole Seligman called the technique "context," and it poked enough holes in the managers' tapestry for the 44 Democrats who already voted for dismissal to get a good night's sleep. (Isn't there a moral in the fact that, on several occasions, the two sides used the same clips?) His trial may still have a week to go, but the President -- whom 70 percent of Americans are eager to let off the hook -- already knows no moving van will come for him this year. On the Senate floor, closing arguments start Monday; off it, negotiations over censure are gaining momentum. In both places, the battle will be over where on the spectrum between immorality and illegality to lay this matter to rest. By week's end, the managers may wish they had quit on Saturday -- the last day America saw something it was even remotely curious about.

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