Clinton accused: White House sex and deceit - or a right-wing plot?

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The Independent Online
For months now, as the sex allegations against President Clinton have escalated - first over his alleged propositioning of the Arkansas woman, Paula Jones, now over the White House trainee, Monica Lewinsky - administration officials and the President's wife have persisted in a political explanation. Elements of the far right of the Republican Party are out to get a liberal-leaning Democratic president, they say, and are not too fussy about the means they use.

On the face of it, that explanation seems at once simplistic and unnecessarily paranoid. Yet some of Bill Clinton's accusers do have documented links with the right.

The charges of a right-wing plot surfaced first in connection with the allegations by Paula Jones that Mr Clinton had made unwelcome sexual advances to her in a hotel in Little Rock, while he was governor of the state of Arkansas. Ms Jones's lawsuit, it was said, was being funded by the political right with the aim of discrediting Mr Clinton. Initially, Ms Jones appeared to be acting on her own account. Although she has little money, her layers were acting pro bono, for a share of anticipated damages. The organisation of her first press conference by a right-wing conservative group, however, suggested, at the very least, some right-wing interest.

Last year, when she sacked her two high-profile Washington lawyers (who complained they had not been paid), Ms Jones found new counsel, and an ebullient PR adviser, Susan Carpenter McMillan. Ms McMillan insisted she was merely standing up for a victim. Soon, however, it emerged that Ms Jones's legal expenses were now being funded by the right-wing Rutherford Foundation, a registered charity that acts as a lobbyist for conservative causes.

Enter Monica Lewinsky. Ms Lewinsky's own contacts are with Democrats. Friends of her well-to-do family were Democratic Party donors and recommended her for one of the highly competitive traineeships at the Clinton White House. But when she was transferred to the Pentagon - after, it is said, a relationship with the President was suspected - she took a fellow employee, also a former member of the White House staff, a certain Linda Tripp, into her confidence. Ms Tripp is the woman to whom she recounted details of what she said was an affair with the President, her resentment about other women, and to whom she agonised about whether to tell investigators the truth. Unbeknown to Ms Lewinsky, Ms Tripp was taping everything she said.

Ms Tripp has two distinctions: the first is to be one of few political appointees from the George Bush presidency to have been retained by the Clinton Administration, and she is said to have become increasingly disapproving of the new administration's behaviour. The second is her association with a literary agent by the name of Lucienne Goldberg. Ms Goldberg, who had ties to the Nixon Administration, is reported to have worked for a time as "dirty tricks" agent for the Republicans. She is also known for personal hostility towards the Clintons.

She and Ms Tripp had hatched a joint project, a "kiss and tell" book about Clinton's White House, which they offered two years ago in the form of an article to the New Yorker magazine. It was rejected as poorly written. But it was reportedly Ms Goldberg who convinced Ms Tripp to record her conversations with Ms Lewinsky, possibly to provide material for the projected book.

So much is known. The bigger question is whether either or both these individuals are consciously working for the right, whether they are being used (knowingly or not) by the right, and whether their prime motive is to drive Mr Clinton from office. So far, the random collection of associations seems well short of making a conspiracy.

- Mary Dejevsky