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A Hanger-On in Short Skirts

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Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 3, 1998; Page A23

They called her a "clutch," a hanger-on, in short skirts, a young woman who popped up in the most unlikely places, agitating the men and women who saw their job as trying to spare President Clinton from his own self-destructive impulses.

And when they couldn't pull Monica S. Lewinsky away from him, they "got rid of her," in the words of one of his paid protectors.

The work of top White House aides such as Nancy Hernreich, Marsha Scott, Stephen Goodin and Evelyn S. Lieberman was ultimately in vain. But the reams of grand jury testimony released yesterday show that at least a handful of people inside the Clinton administration had cause for alarm whenever the former intern appeared on the scene.

"She seemed kind of enamored, she would kind of stare at him," Goodin, Clinton's personal assistant, recounted to the grand jury. "And so it seemed that she, you know, was not making sure that she was scarce whenever the president was around, which is kind of again, one of these unwritten rules, which is how people get to be termed a clutch."

She, in turn, called them "meanies," the people who mocked her appearance, checked her ID badge and banished her to the Pentagon.

One of the many side dramas in the sex scandal dominating Washington is the seething war between Lewinsky, the intern involved with the president, and the adults around him who worried that his previous history already made him a target for similar accusations.

After Lieberman, known as the "enforcer," spotted Lewinsky loitering around the Oval Office one too many times, she "decided to get rid of her," the deputy chief of staff testified. When she learned Lewinsky's work in the correspondence office was less than impressive, "I said, 'Get her out of here.' "

At least once, Clinton inquired about Lewinsky's departure, telling Lieberman he had "gotten a call" about a fired intern.

"Do you know anything about this? . . . Who fired her?" the president asked. "I said, 'I did.' And he said, 'Oh, okay.' "

But Lewinsky, miserable in the press office of the Defense Department, begged, cajoled and threatened Clinton to find her new work – preferably closer to him.

Betty Currie, the presidential secretary who befriended Lewinsky, asked Scott, the deputy for personnel, to chat with Lewinsky about her career frustrations.

As Lewinsky described her desire to work in the White House – and only the White House – "flags are flying . . . bells are ringing . . . guns are going off" in Scott's mind, she said.

Later, Scott said she "heard that [Lewinsky] was called 'the Stalker'. . . . That immediately shut the door for me."

When Scott told Lewinsky she had been passed over for a national security opening she had her eye on, Lewinsky became enraged. "She felt like she was qualified for it, there was no reason for them not to do it and that she was being picked on, singled out," Scott recalled. "She believed that Mrs. Lieberman had poisoned the well for her in the White House . . . . I think Monica used the word blackballed."

A year ago, before Lewinsky's name became a household word, Lieberman changed jobs, becoming the new director of the Voice of America. At a reception dedicating a new studio, a woman approached her, furious.

"My daughter used to be an intern at the White House," the clearly agitated woman said. "You fired my daughter. . . . You kicked my daughter out. . . . You ruined her life on the basis of something that she never did."

The woman was Marcia Lewis, mother of the young brunette the protectors couldn't stop.

Nancy Hernreich, responding to questions about Evelyn Lieberman's concerns about Monica S. Lewinsky's presence in the White House:

Q: . . . That Monica Lewinsky was around the West Wing and Oval Office too much, is that a fair statement?

A: . . . I don't believe that is a fair statement . . .

Q: Around the West Wing too much?

A: Possibly. But I think you have to ask Evelyn what she thought about that because I did not have a long conversation with her. But I just had the sense she felt that or thought that. . . .

Q: And what is it that you remember to the best of your recollection about what Evelyn Lieberman conveyed to you about her concerns regarding Monica Lewinsky?

A: I don't think Evelyn specifically conveyed anything. . . . I just had a sense that Evelyn didn't like her, didn't – for some reason or another.

Q: And somehow that was related to her being flirtatious and hanging around too much?

A: Again, I think you really would have to ask Evelyn that, because I got the sense Evelyn didn't like her and without having long, specific or any conversations that I can recall with Evelyn about it – but you know, it could have just been facial expressions. I don't what, I just had the sense Evelyn didn't like her.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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