McDougal Talks but Says Nothing

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.: She may be lying; she may be telling the truth. But Susan McDougal is made of very stern stuff. On the stand in her own defense against criminal contempt charges brought by Ken Starr, the central Whitewater figure finally ended the silence that landed her in jail for 18 months -- and said absolutely nothing that Ken Starr wanted to hear. Did she ever discuss with Bill Clinton a $300,000 loan to her? "Never." Did she ever discuss a Whitewater-related real estate development called Lorance Heights with Clinton? "Never... in any substantive matter." Did Clinton lie during her 1996 fraud trial? "I did not hear anything untruthful."

So why all the silence? As McDougal as much as said, she had nothing better to do than give Ken Starr migraines. She can't stand him or his tactics, and the feeling is obviously mutual. But after being released from jail twice by the same judge who is hearing this contempt case, McDougal is unlikely to go back this time. For his part, Starr looks to be fresh out of scare tactics. Jail didn't make her talk; the death of her husband James last year -- in jail for fraud charges brought by Starr -- seems only to have strengthened her resolve. If she knows anything that could implicate Clinton, she ain't sayin'. And that ancient land deal, which brought Starr to Monica Lewinsky and almost nothing else, is getting older by the minute.