Lewinsky Story Slows Down, Grand Jury Pace Speeds Up Analysts Say Clinton Has Little Choice but to Come Forward and Tell His Side of the Story
Linda Feldmann, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
At the end of another week in the Monica Lewinsky saga, the story has settled into that familiar feeling of water dripping on a rock.
New droplets of information, or alleged information, continue to emanate from the murky reaches of the various teams, both legal and political, at war over the president's future.
Presidential aides and protectors - this week, it was long-time confidant Bruce Lindsey, former Secret Service agent Lewis Fox, and former personal aide Stephen Goodin - continue to file into federal court to be questioned by a grand jury. Other key figures, such as Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan and Ms. Lewinsky herself, the former White House intern alleged to have had a sexual relationship with the president, sit in the wings, awaiting their turn in the courtroom. Sooner or later, independent counsel Kenneth Starr will likely want to hear from the president himself. Keeping quiet Through it all, President Clinton has steadfastly avoided presenting his own version of events to the public - despite suggestions from former and current aides that there is a story to tell, and that it needs to be told. All of this leads to the ultimate political question: Are the walls closing in on Mr. Clinton? Analysts are divided as to whether Clinton can stonewall the Lewinsky matter ad infinitum. The president's greatest human shield - strong job-approval ratings by the public - is still in place, but it's not a very reliable shield, says political commentator William Schneider. "It can't protect him for a long period of time," says Mr. Schneider, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, "and it can turn on a dime when new information comes out." Schneider notes that polling data aren't heading in the president's favor. The number of people who think the president did have a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and lied about it is growing, he says, because there's no alternative story. In addition, the number of people who think Clinton needs to say more about the Lewinsky matter - earlier this week, CNN put that figure at 51 percent of the public - is growing. Statements this week by Clinton's former chief of staff, Leon Panetta, and his press secretary, Michael McCurry, added to the perception that the president can't maintain his silence forever. On ABC's "This Week," Mr. Panetta said that "obviously there was something more here" than the president has revealed so far regarding his relationship with Lewinsky and "it's got to be explained to the American people. …