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Stock Whiz Puts No Stock in Impeachment

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  • By Michael Grunwald
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, February 11, 1999; Page A12

    CRANBURY, N.J. Look, Matthew Andresen is busy, okay? He's 28 years old. He's got a plush new house in the suburbs and a googly-eyed new baby in the crib. Oh, and he's trying to put the New York Stock Exchange out of business. So he doesn't have time to focus on the president's sex life, see? He's not really interested in the nuances of Monica Lewinsky's gifts or Sidney Blumenthal's lunch dates or Henry Hyde's evocations of World War II.

    "God, it's boring," says Andresen, president of The Island ECN, a rapidly expanding electronic trading floor that hopes to become an official stock exchange. "I'd rather have bamboo shoots stuck under my fingernails than watch one more second of this."

    Most Americans, according to polls and newspaper and television stories like this one, are sick of impeachment. They think the country is in pretty good shape.

    They think President Clinton is doing a pretty good job. They think his tawdry affair with a young White House intern was none of the public's business. They think Congress and independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and the media should leave him alone.

    Matt Andresen thinks all those things, too, more or less. He grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., attended Duke University and ended up a basic Clinton moderate. He voted for Clinton in 1992; he would have again in 1996, but forgot to register. He and his wife, Teri a corporate lawyer on maternity leave from Skadden, Arps, the New York firm whose partners include Clinton attorney Robert S. Bennett are living out a yuppie version of the American dream, with six-figure salaries in New York and a four-bedroom colonial in Cranbury.

    But it is not exactly right to say that Andresen is a younger, richer version of the rest of America. The significance of his reaction to the impeachment morass is how the process has confirmed his view of Washington as a place where nothing important ever gets done.

    "Tell me one thing the federal government does that works," says Andresen, who started his career as a Wall Street trader while serving as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic fencing team. "This just shows that private enterprise is the only thing that works in this country."

    Take the balanced budget, which many Clinton supporters consider one of his greatest achievements. Not Andresen. He doesn't think Clinton or Congress or even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan balanced the budget. He thinks the budget was balanced by people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and yes, Matt Andresen, entrepreneurs who turned ideas into money and paid their share of taxes not a small share, mind you.

    Andresen always thought the Clintons had a marriage of convenience, and he never had a problem with that. He believed Paula Jones from the beginning, and that didn't bother him much, either. He doesn't understand how anyone with brains could have believed Clinton when he denied having sexual relations with "that woman." And yes, he thinks Clinton lied under oath. Probably obstructed justice, too. Whatever.

    Andresen thinks anyone who would admit to an extramarital affair is probably too stupid to be president. And he is saddened that future historians will find that when the Y2K computer bomb was just a year away, Congress was arguing over definitions of sexual relations.

    "Have a little perspective here. He wasn't trying to start a war or defraud the taxpayers. He was trying to cover up an affair," Andresen says. "Look, if they want to have a censure motion, I don't have any problem with that. As long as it doesn't preempt the Duke game."

    Teri Andresen has taken a more cerebral approach. And since she has been staying at home with 3-month-old Eric, she also has paid more attention to the issue. As an attorney, she was more disturbed than her husband by the allegations of perjury and obstruction, but she does not think the House managers proved them. And while she grudgingly acknowledges Clinton probably lied under oath, she thinks he lied in answer to questions that never should have been asked.

    "I'm conflicted about the whole thing," she said. "I just want it to be over."

    The odd thing about Matt Andresen's cynicism and apathy about Washington is its contrast with his idealism and energy about his work. He believes The Island is changing the world, providing investors better service at lower prices than old-fashioned exchanges like the NYSE. He could use Washington's help The Island will need federal approval to become a stock exchange, and he says he's having trouble hiring good programmers because an immigration bill is stalled in Congress but he has learned not to expect it. As for the president, well, Andresen has no sympathy, but he can't get too exercised about the whole situation.

    "Hey, I'm a president, and I know what that means. It means you're a figurehead. It means you're the quarterback. It means you get credit when things are good and blame when things go bad," Andresen says. "People just think with their pocketbooks anyway. If Nixon had pulled that burglary in 1966 when the economy was good, no one would have [cared]."

    Soon, of course, America won't have impeachment to kick around anymore. In the Andresen household, that means no more repeats of the scene from last Saturday. Matt and Teri were lounging around, watching the Lewinsky videotape from the impeachment trial. Teri got up to go to the bathroom, so Matt changed the channel to Looney Tunes. Teri then switched it back.

    "You don't get to see history like this every day," she said.

    "Hey, that was Foghorn Leghorn!" replied the president of one of the New York financial district's hottest new firms. "You don't see him every day, either!"

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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