The initial phase of the Clinton counter-thrust, which hit the beach on the Sunday chat shows, leads everywhere. The main theme is not defend Clinton so much as attack Starr. The TV appearances of James Carville and Paul Begala are noted all around, as is the return to the White House of Harold Ickes, Mickey Kantor, and Harry Thomasson (filming “A Place Called Hopeless?”). Everybody also reports that negotiations between Ken Starr and Monica L.’s lawyer continue.
USA Today reports that the strategy includes Clinton issuing a fresh denial at 10 AM (ET) this morning at an event focusing on his child care proposals. The Washington Post says this move was still up for debate as it went to press.
USAT and the Wall Street Journal state that ABC News reports that Clinton and Lewinsky were seen “in an intimate encounter” in the White House in 1996. The front-page of the Los Angeles Times has this too, but with no mention of ABC as the source.
The WP lead reveals that Clinton has directed his pollsters to find out how much the scandal has affected his standing with the public. The New York Times says an internal poll has already shown a drop of 15 percentage points. Independent polls mentioned in the dailies also indicate slippage. The Post paints a backstage picture in which anxious aides fear that the president is not widely believed. And, the paper says, several administration officials and Democrat operatives privately say they are worried that Clinton may not be telling the truth. Some Democratic congressional staff members tell the Post that Clinton’s plan to omit all mention of the controversy from the State of the Union speech is “totally surreal.”
The NYT lead is accompanied by a large picture of Bill and Hillary coming out of church yesterday morning sharing a big ole laugh with the minister. (They must have really enjoyed the sermon, “The Eight Commandments.”) The Times notes that in their public remarks Sunday, the pro-Clintonites were careful not to attack Lewinsky. “We don’t want to push her into Starr’s arms,” is the explanation. The paper also states that Clinton loyalists are “greatly distressed,” and mentions that William Cohen recently looked unusually depressed and shaken. Cohen is quoted as saying in a private meeting that if the accusations are true, “it’s all over.”
Another case of staff distress is reported by the WSJ, which recounts how, at a public forum in D.C., Clinton health-care adviser Chris Jennings broke down in tears in the middle of a speech.
The Journal editorial “Bonfire of the Presidency” counters the suggestion coming from some quarters that Monica L. has an overactive imagination with the question, “Did a delusional 24-year-old make up the point about perjury not often being prosecuted in civil cases?” The Journal finds all the psychopathology in the case elsewhere: “.[T]he roots of this crisis lie somewhere in the psyche shaped by Mr. Clinton’s genes, troubled childhood and life experiences.”
The story of the Pope’s departure from Cuba after a five-day stay makes everybody’s front. A big part of the stories is his condemnation of the U.S. embargo of the island. But the pontiff also criticized Cuban atheism and called for the protection of all Cubans’ rights.
The NYT reports that a new study from the CDC shows a continuing, and in some ways, growing disparity between the health of blacks and whites. Some examples: The number of diabetes cases rose 33 percent among blacks, three times the increase among whites. Ditto for infectious diseases. And from 1987 to 1995, the death rate for black mothers in childbirth jumped 48 percent, compared with an overall rate of 7.6 percent. And blacks still have two times the infant mortality rare of whites.
In light of the decision by Sonny Bono’s widow to run for his congressional seat, the LAT front page reports that among first-time House candidates from 1916 to 1993, 84 percent of the widows won, while only 14 percent of the other women did.
The NYT runs an op-ed by writer Janna Malamud Smith that states “If we’re going to make simplistic rules about truth-telling, mine would start here: Ms. Tripp should have told Ms. Lewinsky why she invited her to lunch.. ” Elsewhere on the page, Anthony Lewis makes a point in passing that’s been overlooked thus far: Ken Starr first got Ms. Tripp to wear a wire and then used its fruits to get permission to widen his investigation. Shouldn’t the permission to widen have preceded the wire, which was in fact the widening?