At the start of Monica Lewinsky’s great week–the Andrew Morton book, the Barbara Walters interview, and an interview with British television’s Channel 4 (for a reported $640,000)–the British press is full of her. “Britain will see more of Monica in March than any other country on the globe,” the Independent of London boasted Monday, saying she would be touring bookshops, TV stations, and radio studios in a dozen British cities. “With all of us–or all of us who can still summon the interest–Monica will share the emotional journey she took when she fell in love with the leader of the free world and later fell into the cross-hairs of special prosecutor Starr,” David Usborne wrote from New York.
London’s Sunday Mirror started the ball rolling with an “exclusive” interview with Andrew Golden, who described himself as the person who introduced Lewinsky to Morton and was “the first journalist ever to talk to America’s most infamous woman–ahead of Barbara Walters, Jon Snow [her Channel 4 interviewer] and even before special prosecutor Kenneth Starr gave her the go-ahead to tell her side of the story.” Lewinsky is quoted as saying, “I’d like to think I would live on in a book. I like to be able to reach up on my book shelf for one of Shakespeare’s plays and I would like to think that people will do that with this [Morton’s] book.” The Sunday Mirror interview was widely picked up across Europe Monday, with La Stampa of Turin, Italy–under the headline “Sexgate, the last secret: a green skirt”–focusing on Lewinsky’s account of her first meeting with Clinton at which, according to her, he admired the skirt but said he would like to see what was underneath it. She obliged.
The British celebrity magazine Hello! ran an interview last week with Monica’s father, “the man who knows her best.” Dr. Bernard Lewinsky said, “The entire family has been stressed to the limits, and Monica feels terrible about it.” Asked if Monica carried a share of the blame for her relationship with President Clinton, he replied that it had been “a relationship between two adults,” but that “it was totally irresponsible for the president to get involved with Monica to begin with.” He added, “I respect him as a president, but I don’t respect him as a man.” Dr. Lewinsky said that Monica’s stepmother Barbara had “taught Monica to knit, which was something that has been extremely helpful” and that he had never reproached her “or told her that what she did was right or wrong–I just told her I loved her.”
The Guardian of London reported Monday that Osama bin Laden, America’s most wanted foreigner, has been spirited away from his pursuers with the connivance of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia. The Taliban “actively orchestrated” his disappearance, the paper said, and sent him with 10 armed guards to an abandoned mountain guerrilla base. He was traveling “with about 25 men, including trusted lieutenants who are also wanted for the bombing of US embassies in Africa, and Amin al-Zahrawy, the leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad,” the paper added. “The Taliban has deliberately stoked the confusion surrounding his disappearance earlier this month to protect him when he is at his most vulnerable.” The Guardian said the Taliban has admitted that bin Laden might still be in Afghanistan.
The British papers are still dominated by the controversy over allegations of institutionalized racism in the London police force, made by an independent judicial inquiry into a botched police investigation into the murder of a young black man. The conservative press is strongly critical of the proposed solutions to the problem. The Daily Telegraph said Saturday in an editorial that some of the report’s conclusions “border on the insane,” such as one recommending criminal prosecution of “offences involving racist language or behavior where such conduct can be proved to have taken place otherwise than in a public place.” The editorial also attacked the government for adopting numerical targets for the recruitment of ethnic minorities by the police. “The American experience has shown that voluntary forms of affirmative action can be beneficial, but once quotas are mandated by law, they soon become counter-productive,” it said.
According to the Pan-Arabic weekly Al-Mushahid Assiyasi, prospects for ending the long-running Lockerbie dispute have been boosted by a complicated deal with Saudi Arabia under which Libya will buy $1.7 billion worth of weapons from South Africa –weapons that the Saudis had been due to purchase but have now decided not to. In exchange, Saudi Arabia will work to lift the sanctions that have been in force against Libya since 1992. The sanctions are due to be “suspended” once the two Libyan citizens suspected of involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of a PanAm plane arrive in the Netherlands to stand trial before a Scottish court.
According to a report in the Pan-Arabic al-Quds al-Arabi Friday, Saudi Arabia is not the only Gulf state to have shelved arms deals. Editor Abdelbari Atwan reported that all the Gulf states, hard hit by the collapse of oil prices and blaming Western countries for it, have taken an unpublicized decision to “freeze” arms purchases so that their Western suppliers will also feel the pinch.