Clinton Acquitted: Winners and Losers, The making of some and the damning of others

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The Independent Online
ASIDE FROM President Bill Clinton, who has emerged from a year of scandal with his political authority undented and his approval ratings sky high, the Lewinsky scandal has produced a crop of winners and losers, some of them as unpredictable as Mr Clinton.

Hillary Clinton (winner)

The betrayed wife has emerged with her dignity intact, her popularity soaring and the prospect of her own political career on the horizon.

A year ago, Mrs Clinton, 51, turned what could have been an embarrassment into a personal triumph when she appeared on television to deny misconduct by her husband and blame a "vast right-wing conspiracy". When, seven months later, he confessed his "inappropriate conduct", she stood by him, campaigning the length and breadth of the nation for Democrats for the November mid- term elections.

She was also her husband's most effective weapon against his feminist critics, who felt: "If it's all right by Hillary, it's all right by us." Mrs Clinton now attracts as much, if not more public applause than her husband. The state of her marriage, however, is far from clear.

Kenneth Starr (loser)

Appointed independent prosecutor in 1994 to investigate the Whitewater land deal and other allegations of wrongdoing by President Clinton, extended his inquiry to cover the Lewinsky affair in January 1998.

Pilloried throughout the long and expensive investigation by the White House and Clinton supporters, Starr, 52, delivered his report last September, a rip-roaring read of sex and dissemblance in the White House, based mainly on Monica Lewinsky's confessions.

Starr was hailed by his (few) supporters as a conscientious seeker after truth and condemned by the rest as a sex-crazed investigator out to get the President. Despite periodic attempts to humanise his public image, he remained typecast as a straitlaced zealot.

Cheryl Mills (winner)

Thirty-three-year-old lawyer who became a star after her passionate presentation of Clinton's case in the Senate. A slim, earnest woman, she spoke slowly and deliberately of the sanctity of the "rule of law" and "those facts, those stubborn facts" that stood in the way of the obstruction of justice charge.

A self-styled "army brat" who grew up on military bases, mainly in Virginia, she was recruited by the White House from a Washington law firmwhen Mr Clinton came to office and is as loyal as any of his staff.

While a glittering legal career now promises, there is one shadow. She too is under investigation after evidence she gave to a Congressional committee relating to another White House scandal - the presence of confidential FBI files in the White House - was condemned as perjurious.

Newt Gingrich (loser)

Having pledged to use every opportunity in the campaign for the mid-term Congressional elections to condemn Mr Clinton's behaviour with Ms Lewinsky, the House Speaker, 55, saw his party suffer a net loss in the House of Representatives and only maintain its representation in the Senate. Accepting responsibility for his party's failure, Mr Gingrich resigned from his position and the House, becoming the highest-ranking and least predicted victim of the Lewinsky affair.

Matt Drudge (winner)

The Internet gossip columnist demonstrated to the world that a combination of brazen flair and modern technology can run rings around the hidebound journalism-school graduates who comprise the cream of the American media.

Drudge, whose trademark trilby was a more and more frequent sight on television talk shows as the year progressed, has been shunned by the mainstream as a risk-taking maverick, but he was more often vindicated than not.

Paula Jones (loser)

An Arkansas native, now living in California, whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Mr Clinton set off the train of events that led to his impeachment.

Although the case was dismissed by an Arkansas judge last April before it came to court, Mr Clinton agreed to settle last December, rather than risk the case being revived on appeal.

While Ms Jones received $850,000 (pounds 530,000), much if not all of that will go on lawyers' fees and she did not even get the presidential apology she had stood out for.