Yesterday they were released and replayed on every television channel. CNN, which had been bringing military analysis of Iraq for the past week, switched to discussions of dry-cleaning and adultery. All this is already available as a transcript, so the content does not matter. In any case, Bill Clinton has emerged the political victor, and Congress will struggle with impeachment hearings beginning tomorrow.
White House reaction was described as "somewhere between none and indifference". All that is left is the human drama, for want of a better word. The near- impeachment of Richard Nixon relied heavily on secret White House tapes that formed the centrepiece of the Watergate hearings.
The only thing the Lewinsky-Tripp tapes have in common with them is deletion of expletives from both sides but most often from Ms Tripp. "(Expletive) him and the little motorcade he rode in on," she says of the President.
Ms Lewinsky comes over as naive, foolish, over-trusting and somewhat self-absorbed, but basically understandable. Ms Tripp, by contrast, is relentless. She hectors, demands, wheedles and often fails to sympathise. She is sarcastic and sometimes just plain mean.
But the temptation to judge must be tempered by knowing where each is now. Ms Tripp recorded the conversations in secret and is the subject of a grand jury investigation in Maryland. Ms Lewinsky, by contrast, has just signed a contract that will make her a dollar millionaire.
Ms Tripp's taping habit has its origins in the suggestion of a friend, the literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, that she get firm evidence before writing a book. The result was a set of 37 tapes that will doubtless be the ideal Christmas present for younger relatives, supplemented in February by Monica's Story, by Andrew Morton.Reuse content