TV tears and celebrity boxing mask hard times

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The characters from from the long-running Whitewater affair have gone their very different ways.

Some have gone to jail, others are cashing in, others have launched political careers of their own. The man at the centre of it all, Bill Clinton, stalks the political landscape like an unhappy shade, running what must be the first after-office political campaign, to rebuild his tarnished reputation and pay off his multi-million legal bills.

The second may be easier than the first. A $10m (£7m) advance for his memoirs, which will surely deal with Whitewater in detail, should take care of any cashflow problems for the foreseeable future.

The most prominent of them is, of course, Hillary Clinton, loser of vital legal billing records in 1994 and humiliated spouse of 1998. Today, she is Senator for New York and may one day run for the White House herself.

The flamboyant Jim McDougal died a largely forgotten figure in prison in 1998. His former wife Susan went to jail for contempt of court, having refused to answer questions of from Mr Starr. The second special counsel, the most dogged pursuer of the Clintons, is back in private law practice.

Monica Lewinsky is walking that fine tightrope of celebrity, insisting she wants privacy in which to rebuild her life but happily appearing on television to promote her endeavours.

By all accounts she's not doing too badly, either. "A more mature Monica," one critic wrote approvingly, "sat on stage this month at New York's Cooper Union to field unscripted questions for a two-hour TV documentary, 'Monica in Black and White.'"

Linda Tripp, Monica's confidante and betrayer to Ken Starr, has fallen on harder times. She has breast cancer, her former job at the Pentagon has gone and, according to the Washington Post, she has been forced to put her four-bedroom Maryland house on the market after narrowly staving off foreclosure. She now rents a cottage in rural Virginia.

Paula Jones, whose sexual harassment suit against Clinton for what happened in the Excelsior Hotel, Little Rock, in 1991 led indirectly to Ms Lewinsky's global celebrity, has become part of America's latest celebrity industry, the wheeling out of old celebrities for a second 15-minutes.

Her debut however was not encouraging, a defeat in Fox TV's debut celebrity boxing match at the hands of Tonia Harding, the former Olympic skater most famous for trying, back in 1994, to have her main rival knee-capped.

For many Clinton aides, the main legacy of Whitewater was the hefty legal bills incurred when they were summoned to testify before grand juries and Congressional hearings. Government compensation covered some, but not necessarily all of these outlays.

Some have prospered from the affair. George Stephanopoulos, among Clinton's closest advisers in the early stages of Whitewater but later turned critic of the former President, is now flourishing as a TV political pundit and presenter.

Rahm Emmanuel, another Clinton protegee, is poised to be elected to Congress from a district in Chicago. Erskine Bowles, his former Chief of Staff in the latter stages of the scandal, is seeking Jesse Helm's old Senate seat in North Carolina.

Robert Reich, once Labour Secretary, is running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Massachusetts. But he has fallen out with his old Rhodes Scholar friend.

As usual, whoever loses, the lawyers prosper. David Kendall, Mr Clinton's personal attorney, is much in evidence. So, too, is the suave Robert Bennett, the $475-an-hour superlawyer who defended Mr Clinton in the Paula Jones case. Today, he is representing Enron in its legal travails, that could last as long as Whitewater.

Robert Ray, whose final five-volume 2,200 page report this week should be the last word on the affair, is running for the Republican Senate nomination in New Jersey.