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Starr Struck

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Over the next few weeks, the world will be treated to seamy details from the Tripp tapes. Those who have heard them say they are very graphic, and somewhat kinky. But the president's sexual peccadilloes are not really the point. What will finally start to grate on people is his callous stupidity, his selfish recklessness. This president likes to drag people down with him. It's only a matter of days before Vernon Jordan is cooked. And what about Hillary? The present circumstances have made her risky trade-off of fame for personal unhappiness seem that much more creepy. And poor Monica Lewinsky. Unofficial White House sources are already starting to leak that she was a flirt and a little "unstable."

Then there's the rest of the country. Here we are at the high point of the Clinton presidency, suddenly rich and fatted, poised for the flood of good news. The magic list of shiny new initiatives is all set to be unveiled at next week's State of the Union. And he risks it all for . . . a blow job.

TV lounge lizards are already talking impeachment. It's far too soon for that. Even if Lewinsky says Clinton told her to lie, he can always say that she misunderstood him, or that it was all Vernon Jordan's idea. But as Clinton should know by now, Congress is crawling with people obsessed by the fantasy of impeaching him. These folks are, right now, breaking out the champagne. Fortunately, though, the truly obsessed are a fringe crowd. The rest will probably come to their senses enough to realize that Monica Lewinsky is not Watergate. Nixon committed a crime, then asked his staff to lie about it. That's different from indulging in guilty, but legal, pleasures.

So Clinton figures to wriggle out of this one, too. Aside from a few Vince Foster addicts, Americans will be squeamish about following Starr's investigative forays into Clinton's bedroom. Nixon corrupted an entire political system. Clinton merely corrupted himself. If it came to an impeachment vote, most congressmen would likely conclude that the president's sex life is his own business. Most Americans, even if they feel personally betrayed, would probably agree. A sympathetic few might even feel his pain.


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