The Breakfast Table

Estrich and Taylor Jr.

Dear Stuart:

What timing.

Here we are, back at Slate, just in time for the President to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit. The unthinkable becomes a footnote. What a difference a year can make. If he’d settled it before his January deposition, none of this would have happened. All he had to do was say he was sorry for whatever it was that he couldn’t remember, and then explain the next day that he said it to protect his friends, family, etc. from the intrusion on their privacy….

Which leads me to my favorite question. Why didn’t he settle before testifying? How could his lawyers have ever let him go into that deposition, if they’d known how vulnerable he was? Here he is being sued for allegedly demanding a blowjob from a 24-year-old employee, and you know your client had a secret relationship involving blowjobs with another 24-year-old employee would you let him go into a deposition? Not to mention the independent counsel down the block, the media, your political enemies, etc.

The only explanation that makes sense to me is that the lawyers didn’t know the truth–that they thought Monica Lewinsky was a stalker with a crush, that it was handled, under control. The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client; he loses the objective judgment that the lawyer is supposed to provide. Bill Clinton didn’t want to tell his lawyer (and/or his wife) the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and because of that, he’s had to tell the world….

But does the world care?

The President received a three-minute standing ovation last night at a fundraiser at the home of Power Rangers producer Chaim Saban, who now works for Rupert Murdoch. All told, he raised $4 million in the last 3 days. He is the best fundraiser Democrats have, still. It is not the picture of a man on the verge of impeachment. What is going on in Washington hardly seems real when you leave it….

I know. We have permission to talk of other things this week. I’m clipping, I really am. But I keep coming back to this. This is what the country and the world are doing right now. It is the international soap opera.

I know you respect Ken Starr. But tell me. Are you at all troubled by the kind of investigation his office conducted? By the precedent it sets? By the atmosphere of sexual “gotcha” that it’s created?

I don’t want to know about Henry Hyde’s past, or anyone else’s. But I think for now, it’s all fair game, and my guess is that there are some pretty nervous folks on Capitol Hill, and maybe even in the news media. All I can say is that I’m happy to be an old married lady at the breakfast table with you….

Best, Susan

PS Someone said last night that if Edward Bennett Williams had still been alive, he’d have asked Betty Currie if she thought the President ought to settle that lawsuit….