The House Rests Its Case

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WASHINGTON: "It may be tiresome to hear it," said White House counsel Charles Ruff at one point before launching into yet another Clinton-friendly deconstruction of the Lewinsky job search -- and boy, was he ever right. Boredom and deadening repetition have been the White House's best friends throughout the trial, of course, and Ruff reveled in both of them. But as Ruff and the House managers took one last tiptoe through the familiar impeachment tulips Monday, something has changed after these four very monthlike weeks: Suddenly, bipartisanship is the White House's friend too.

"At the beginning, bipartisanship was a bad thing for the White House because it gave the process legitimacy," says White House correspondent Jay Branegan. But the talk of Democrat defections that dominated the trial's early days has turned now to fleeing Republican moderates -- and whether the desperate managers can hang on to even the simple majority their own party commands. Senate vote-counters now expect as many as 10 GOP defections on the perjury article, and at least half that on obstruction of justice. The thought of two majority acquittals when the articles come up for votes at the end of the week has White House mouths salivating -- and had a mournful Henry Hyde quoting battle cries from "Henry V" as the clock ticked down. But such an outcome will be no respite for the bored: As headlines go, "Clinton Wins" is getting to be awfully familiar.