Just A Sex Cover-Up?: High Crimes? Or Just A Sex Cover-Up?

Starr shows all the ways Clinton tried to keep Monica quiet. It's not Watergate

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The report paints a vivid and baffling picture of the relationship. Though Clinton told the grand jury in August that "what began as a friendship came to include [sex]," by Lewinsky's account the reverse was true: the relationship began with hallway flirtation and escalated rapidly to sex (usually oral, never vaginal intercourse, and rarely brought to completion because Clinton, Lewinsky said, did not "know her well enough"). After five sexual encounters, Lewinsky complained to Clinton that they never talked--"Is this just about sex, or do you have some interest in trying to get to know me as a person?"--and after the sixth, on Feb. 4, 1996, they spent 45 min. chatting in the Oval Office. Then, Lewinsky says, "the emotional and friendship aspects" began to develop. They talked about their childhoods, and Clinton told her she made him feel young again; Lewinsky dreamed of being by his side full time after his presidency. They exchanged 48 gifts and had some 50 phone conversations with each other--warm chats, bitter arguments and some 17 late-night phone-sex sessions that Lewinsky says Clinton initiated. Monica sent him an erotic postcard, with a note detailing her ideas about education reform.

The relationship was facilitated by Betty Currie, Clinton's private secretary, a motherly, church going woman who acted as go-between: setting up meetings for Clinton and Lewinsky, connecting them by telephone but not always logging the calls, passing Lewinsky's letters and parcels to him unopened, finding ways to get her into the White House past hostile presidential aides and even coming to the White House on weekends just to escort Lewinsky to the President. Currie had her suspicions, at the very least, but tried hard to stay in the dark. Lewinsky once told her that if no one saw Monica and Clinton together, then nothing had happened. "Don't want to hear it," Currie replied, according to Lewinsky. "Don't say any more. I don't want to hear any more."

Currie was the perfect assistant to a man who had been concealing sex for decades. Starr alleges no fewer than five Clinton perjuries in the Jones deposition on the issue of whether the President and Lewinsky had a sexual affair, three more in Clinton's Aug. 17 grand-jury testimony (claiming, for example, that he hadn't touched Lewinsky's breasts or genitals) and one lie in his televised statement to the American people that night, when he said his Jones testimony had been "legally accurate." The President, Starr also alleges, lied when he claimed he couldn't recall being alone with Lewinsky, lied when he said he hadn't discussed her Jones affidavit with her, lied when he said he hadn't helped her find a job. Since perjury is exceptionally difficult to prove--especially when the witness is as skilled at evasion as Clinton--it is questionable whether any of these misleading statements could be grounds for impeachment, as the prosecutor claims. And there is reason to recoil at some of Starr's tactics; he included far more sexual detail than was necessary to prove his point, and at times ignored or discounted evidence that contradicts his case. Still, many Americans--even those who have long assumed Clinton was lying--will be appalled by the depths of the President's recklessness and deceit. Others will say, Tell us something we didn't know.

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