By Amy Goldstein and William Claiborne
Monica Lewinsky's dream job, she once told a co-worker at the Pentagon, would be picking out the clothes President Clinton was to wear each day. When the president held fund-raisers in New York, friends remember Lewinsky bragging, she would spend hundreds of dollars on a ticket and air fare, then arrive hours early in hopes of winning a spot right against the rope line.
And months before she had been given a badge that allowed her into the White House's restricted West Wing, one friend said, she'd told him that she longed to have sex with the president on his Oval Office desk.
Whether or not she, in fact, had a sexual relationship with Clinton, Lewinsky's infatuation with the president was common knowledge among her friends and some of her co-workers, both while she worked at the White House and later when she was sent to the Pentagon.
Those acquaintances paint an image of a young woman who spoke freely of her fantasies with a variety of older men in positions of influence, who read sexual meaning into the merest chance encounter. "She'd take little things and blow them up," said one former White House colleague, who described himself as a friend who regularly had lunch with Lewinsky.
Lewinsky herself admits that she wasn't always truthful.
"I have lied my entire life," Lewinsky told her friend and Pentagon colleague, Linda R. Tripp, in one of a series of conversations that Tripp secretly taped.
Lied sometimes, but not always. Which is why, in trying to conclude from such behavior and statements that Lewinsky simply fabricated an alleged 18-month relationship with Clinton, there is a stumbling block: Some of the sexual relationships that Lewinsky has boasted of, starting at an early age, actually took place.
Since she was a teenager, rumors have circulated among Lewinsky's friends about an affair she was said to have had with a former high school drama teacher. On Tuesday night, after dodging reporters for days, the teacher in question, Andy J. Bleiler, appeared with his wife and his lawyer on the lawn of his Portland, Ore., home to confess to a five-year relationship with his former student that ended last year.
Then, too, there was the relationship Lewinsky had with a high-ranking civilian official she met while working at the Pentagon.
Further complicating the conflicting images of Lewinsky's credibility is the fact that several of her friends -- including Bleiler -- have said in recent days that they often have dismissed her stories of sexual trysts as mere fiction. Bleiler and his wife, Kathy, whom Lewinsky also befriended, "would both describe Monica as having a pattern of twisting facts, especially to enhance her version of her own self-image," according to their lawyer, Terry Giles.
But at a news conference last night, Giles could not cite one that the Bleilers had not recounted to two investigators for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. "One doesn't pop out for me right at this moment. I'm sorry about that," he told reporters.
Given the ambiguities surrounding Lewinsky's credibility, the White House has been careful not to attack the 24-year-old woman's character or truthfulness. At a strategy session to begin formulating its defense of the alleged scandal, White House communications director Ann Lewis warned that, if anyone tried to discredit Lewinsky publicly, "I will kill you," according to participants at the meeting.
In recent days, the president's aides and friends have suggested only that Clinton had become friends with the young woman, in part because they had shared stories of their mutually troubled childhoods.
Indeed, the negative portrayal of Lewinsky's mind-set and her behavior has emerged in recent days almost entirely from her acquaintances -- and, in one instance, from the liberal arts college where, in 1995, she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology.
This week, officials of Lewis & Clark College in Portland said one of their employees had turned over to Starr a document that they said might have been forged by Lewinsky to try to help a friend.
Bleiler, the drama teacher, said he believed the letter, reportedly written to justify the continuation of someone's state unemployment benefits, had been prepared on his behalf. Giles, his lawyer, added that the letter was composed without Bleiler's knowledge.
After the Bleilers were interviewed for four hours by Starr's investigators yesterday, Giles said he had been told there is "a real likelihood they will be required to testify sometime in the future." Giles said no subpoenas were issued last night, and he described the interview as a "simple debriefing" in which the investigators took notes without a tape recorder and did not put the Bleilers under oath.
The attorney declined to discuss specifics of the interviews but said the Bleilers had turned over some documents that the couple said they had received from Lewinsky. He said they did not take any of the photographs she had mailed to his clients.
When asked if the information that the Bleilers gave to investigators was helpful or damaging to President Clinton, Giles said, "It would appear to me that Monica Lewinsky did, in fact, have a sexual encounter with someone in the White House at a fairly high level." But Giles said he also believes from last night's interview that Lewinsky is "someone obsessed with sex and fantasized before she went to Washington about sex with the president."
He asked a rhetorical question: Could the object of her sexual obsession be someone else? "I don't know the answer to that," Giles said.
The Bleilers stood behind their attorney during the news conference but made no substantive comments. Giles said that because they probably will be subpoenaed, they will not make any comments to the news media. "I want to keep their testimony as pure as possible," he said.
Responding to the suggestion that the news of the affair with Bleiler somehow discredits his client, Lewinsky's lawyer William H. Ginsburg said, "I challenge all parents to reflect on their children's personal lives between the age of 19 and 24. I suspect they'll find boyfriends and sexual relations in their lives."
But according to Lewinsky's friends and co-workers, the relationship with her former teacher has been just one element in what they describe as the young woman's active sexual life -- real or imagined.
And recently, much of that sexual energy focused on the president. She had a "besotted respect" for Clinton, recalled a colleague who knew her during her 18 months in the Pentagon's public affairs office after she'd left the White House. Invariably, the office's television was turned on during the president's speeches. And invariably, Lewinsky would demand that her co-workers be utterly silent.
She bragged to a reporter -- and to Pentagon colleagues -- that she had given Clinton the tie he wore to last year's State of the Union address. "It got to be a joke around the office," the Pentagon worker recalled.
Even earlier, during her White House intership in 1995, a co-worker said Lewinsky would "talk about how she wanted to have sex in the Oval Office, on the desk. She'd talk about [wanting to] go into his office at night."
Several former co-workers recalled that Lewinsky attended a number of presidential events, sometimes leaving her desk during the workday to appear uninvited at a White House ceremony. That behavior did not go unnoticed by White House officials, who eventually decided to recommend her for a Pentagon job, sources have said.
But the president was not the only object of her attention. "She'd talk about the vice president, and how sexy he was," said the former White House colleague. And one day at the end of 1995, she returned to her White House office from a trip to Starbucks, brimming with excitement that she had run into then-presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos.
"She said, 'He looked into my eyes and there was really a connection,' " the friend recalled. "And she said, 'You know the greatest thing about it? I wasn't wearing my bra.' "
Staff writers David Maraniss and Dana Priest contributed to this report. Claiborne reported from Portland.
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