Clinton Accused Special Report
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WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE | DECEMBER 13, 1998

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We know what happened next.

We know Monica Lewinsky became an intern. We know she and Bill Clinton had a relationship that was sad, pathetic, laughable, sickening, depressing, lousy and ultimately political, and will never, never end, even though there's nothing more to know.


Photo Illustration by Michael Morgenstern
But of course there is more to know, and it can be found in the 7,793 pages of documents and testimony released publicly by the Office of the Independent Counsel, most of which turn out not to directly involve sex. The sex, for some, may be all that the story between Clinton and Lewinsky will forever be about, but what emerges in the rest of the pages is a kind of textured version of how lives go, a version that makes a story already familiar to us even more so, sometimes achingly.

It emerges in small ways: in realizing, for instance, that after Lewinsky became intimate with Clinton and he would phone her in the middle of the night, she would tell this most powerful man of the bewitching things she was wearing, even though the truth sometimes was that she was lying in bed in her sweat pants.

And, smaller still: in the knowledge that the walls of her bedroom were decorated with tiny mirrors and paintings of roses.

But it also emerges in larger ways that have to do with the two partitioned worlds of a presidency. There was Clinton's public world, the one that involved politics and policy; and there was a subterranean one that at first existed in private between Lewinsky and Clinton, but that, on April 5, 1996, began edging toward the surface, not only to subsume the public world, but to become it.

April 5 was the day Lewinsky was told to leave the White House.

By then, she had been there for nine months. Her mother was old friends with Walter Kaye; that was the connection that got Monica Lewinsky to the White House in July 1995. By mid-November she had made the jump from intern to paid staffer, and by the end of the year she had flirted with Clinton by showing him a bit of her underwear, and had brought him the infamous pizza, and had begun calling him "Handsome" rather than Mr. President, and had been tagged by co-workers with a couple of nicknames of her own.

One was "clutch."

"It's a slightly derisive term for somebody who, whenever he or she sees the president—or any of the principals, let's put it that way, not even the president, any of the principals—would want to be around, or would hover, or be close," is how Evelyn Lieberman, one of Clinton's deputy chiefs of staff, would explain the term to the grand jury.

"Stalker" was another.

"Get rid of her," was Lieberman's order when it became apparent how often Lewinsky was finding reasons to pass by the Oval Office, and on April 5 one of Lieberman's assistants, Tim Keating, did exactly that.

Lewinsky's job had been in the correspondence section of the White House's Office of Legislative Affairs, a two-person section that handled letters between the president and members of Congress. If there was a "Happy Birthday" letter to be written from the president to a legislator, chances were that Lewinsky wrote it. If there was a letter from a legislator that required a substantive response from the president, it was up to Lewinsky or her supervisor, Jocelyn Jolley, to get details of the response from Treasury or Labor or wherever, print it out on the azure-colored paper exclusive to the president and submit it to him for his signature.

Jolley, too, was fired that day, and got the news first. It wasn't a complete surprise, she would say later: A few days before her termination, a Secret Service agent had told her to "watch my back," that the rumor was that Lewinsky and the president had been caught in a compromising position. What Keating told Jolley on April 5, however, was that her section was a mess; that letters were late; that letters had been sent with the wrong salutation—everyone was being addressed by their last name when policy was to address Republicans by their last name and Democrats by their first name. Another job had been arranged for her in another part of the government. She should clear out by the end of the day.

Then it was Lewinsky's turn.

When he was asked before the grand jury what her reaction was, Keating answered: "Tears." And went on from there:

"She asked if she could stay, and I said no. And she asked if she could stay as a volunteer, and I said no.

She asked if she could stay as an intern, and I said no . . ."

Soon after, Lewinsky wrote him a note. "It was a rambling note . . . She offered to come back as a volunteer again . . .

"The one thing, the only, the one thing I remember about the note is a line that she had wrote, that 'this job was my everything.' "

The note changed nothing; a new job had already been arranged for her at the Pentagon. "I promise you if I win in November, I'll bring you back like that," Clinton reportedly said to her, snapping his fingers, when she visited him two days later at the White House, but little good that did. Off she went to the Pentagon, where, soon after arriving, she was walking along a corridor, trying to get accustomed to such a vast and unfamiliar place, wondering how she would ever get back to the White House, heartbroken, when she passed by a cubicle and noticed some oversize photographs of the president.

What she didn't know at that point:

That the woman whose cubicle it was had the pictures not because she liked Clinton but because she needed them for a presentation she was putting together as part of her job. That the history of the woman included, in her prior job, a performance memo by her superior that said she: "doesn't like her office space," "doesn't like her duties," "won't perform her assignments," "isn't nice to co-workers," "lends a disruptive manner to the office" and "doesn't want to be here."

That before coming to the Pentagon, the woman had worked in the White House, where, one day, in 1993, another White House worker, Kathleen Willey, told her that the president had just made a pass at her.

That early in the Clinton administration, the woman had been told that some people close to Clinton found her "threatening," which led to any number of anxious moments for her, such as the day she went to McDonald's, and the president asked her to pick up something for him, and she had someone else deliver the food to him so as not to offend anyone. Which, in a way, was just as well because the president wanted a grilled chicken sandwich, she would later tell the grand jury, and McDonald's wasn't making grilled chicken sandwiches at that point, "and I didn't know that . . . and when it came time to order his, I said, 'And please make sure that this is grilled' . . . and he said, 'We don't do that here,' and I said, 'Oh, please do that here, please' . . . I just couldn't face going back and saying, 'Sorry,' so I begged him again, and here's a big line in back of me, and the guy just looked at me and goes, 'Lady, I don't care if this is for the president of the United States, we don't grill chicken sandwiches.' And I said, 'I understand.'

"So I got a fried one."

This, of course, was Linda Tripp.

Lewinsky didn't know that either, not then. She just knew that she had found someone with pictures of the president by her desk, a kindred spirit.

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© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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