Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal

By Robert Busby | Go to book overview

3
Protecting the President: Damage Limitation and the Lewinsky Scandal

From the outset, several familiar aspects of scandal politics characterized the Lewinsky scandal. As experienced by Nixon and, to a lesser extent, by Reagan, Clinton endured a vociferous onslaught on his political office. He faced legal challenges to his authority and found himself immersed in a pitched battle against Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. To the Clinton White House the tactics used by Starr, and particularly his conclusions and interpretations, smacked of partisanship and excess. It appeared as though he possessed an elastic mandate, and would trawl Clinton's past until he found a questionable matter which could be laid against the President. There seemed to be no end to the investigations and no lack of funding either, as the Republican-controlled Congress appeared satisfied that the investigation and cost were warranted ventures. Clinton was saddled with an investigation of his private activity that was immovable and, from the standpoint of the White House, highly questionable. When considered in isolation, the Starr investigation, having begun in 1994 and having achieved little by 1998, appeared to pose few problems, with the Independent Counsel receiving little public enthusiasm or support for his investigation. However, hand-in-hand with a Republican party eager to undermine the position of the President, it held greater force, and resulted in a political and legal assault upon Clinton's position and credibility. When Starr filed a report on the Lewinsky matter recommending grounds for impeachment, the fact that the GOP held the Congress and dominated pivotal congressional committees made the matter all the more serious for Clinton. Irrespective of public opinion and based primarily on a ‘he said–she said’ interpretation of events, Clinton found himself in the most serious Constitutional predicament since Watergate, and became only the third President, after Nixon and

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Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables and Exhibits vi
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Clinton Scandal Epidemic 15
  • 2 - The Lewinsky Affair 46
  • 3 - Protecting the President: Damage Limitation and the Lewinsky Scandal 70
  • 4 - The Starr Investigation 117
  • 5 - Impeachment and Trial 137
  • 6 - The Media: Intrigue and Revulsion 170
  • 7 - Public Opinion: Reluctant Observers 187
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 224
  • Index 248
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