Inside Politics

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Rep. Martin T. Meehan, who as co-author of a prominent campaign-finance reform bill is considered by some to be an expert on ethics in government, yesterday praised the Clinton administration for its ethical purity.

Tony Snow, host of "Fox News Sunday," asked the Massachusetts Democrat if President Clinton had made good on his promise to have the most ethical administration in the history of the republic.

"I think he has," Mr. Meehan replied.


The sex-and-lies scandal has brought such ridicule upon the presidency that advertisers are using it to sell their products, writes New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

In one Tommy Hilfiger ad, a young beauty "is squatting on the blue Oval Office rug, her knees over the presidential seal, her eager face looking up," Miss Dowd said.

And a Los Angeles computer retailer ran an ad in the Los Angeles Times "boasting that its prices were `dropping faster than the president's pants.' "

The columnist added: "Mr. Clinton has condemned himself to provide lurid entertainment for a society addicted to lurid entertainment. He has a double-entendre presidency, where the nightly news is now the nightly gross-out, where talk of an address to the nation collapses into snickering about a dress to the nation."


Despite first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's apparent composure in recent months, "She's really had a hard time," one of her friends tells New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer.

"She and the president have made a point of being as affectionate as ever with each other in public, and White House aides recently adjusted his September schedule so that he will now accompany her on a trip to Ireland that she had planned to take alone," the reporter said.

"In private, some recent visitors have detected strain. A White House dinner last month ended with the men and women separating into two casual groups, almost, according to one guest, `as if Clinton couldn't wait to get away and be with the guys.' "


Pat Robertson says he has to believe that possible "skeletons in the closets" of some congressional Republicans could explain why they've treated President Clinton with "kid gloves" in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"I don't know what skeletons are in the closet, but . . . I imagine there are some. And they don't want to get into that kind of a nasty struggle," the founder of the Christian Coalition said Saturday on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields."

Mr. Robertson, who described Mr. Clinton as a "liar" and "serial philanderer" in the CNN interview, was asked about threats purportedly being made by unnamed Democrats to expose "sexual improprieties" or other character flaws of GOP House leaders, should Republicans elect to conduct impeachment hearings against the president.

The threats were detailed in a report recently on the Internet by Salon magazine.

Such retaliation is "not fair . . . that's not the way you're supposed to play it," Mr. Robertson said, adding:

"But there's some thought that those FBI files were taken for a purpose. And who knows how much raw data has been accumulated on the private lives of individuals?"

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he believes the report in Salon was "unfounded. …