Impeachment: Key to Conviction
Jude Wanniski
January 7, 1999


Memo To: Jonathan Alter, Newsweek columnist
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Watch Lindsey Graham

I've watched you recently on several shows making the same arguments against the President's conviction in a Senate trial that I made for months. If you would like, I will gladly send you a record of all the memos and letters I'd written in defense of the President — being willing to allow him his reckless behavior and his definition of what really went on to dispose of the perjury and obstruction of justice charges. I'd even passed recommendations on how to assist the President's defense to a number of his closest advisors, who I know well enough to be able to engage in strategy talk.

What caused me to change my opinion, Jonathan, is the bombshell dropped during the hearings by Rep. Lindsey Graham, the young South Carolina Republican, when he highlighted the testimony that Sid Blumenthal gave before the federal grand jury. Sid acknowledged that when he confronted the President about the Monica Lewinsky story early last year, immediately following the President's deposition in the Paula Jones case, the President told him that Lewinsky had come on to him, threatened him unless he had sex with her, which he said he refused to do, and that she described herself as "the stalker." Graham tells me he was unaware of this testimony until his Judiciary Committee GOP colleague, Mary Bono, showed it to him. He says he immediately realized its implications and did a Nexus search, expecting to find stories about Lewinsky being a stalker and sure enough, there they were, a pile of them. He says he doesn't know why Kenneth Starr did not highlight this testimony, which he told the "Evans&Novak" show last weekend was, in his opinion, "one of the worst things [Clinton] did in this case." My thought was that Starr's people did not realize the President would turn to Sid with this false story, knowing that as a former journalist and a shameless admirer, Sid would spread the story. And so he did. In the hearings, Graham made the point that if it were not for the blue dress, the President would have permitted the young woman he had played with in the Oval Office to be destroyed in a he-said, she-said confrontation.

This was an evil act, Jon. I'd talked myself into believing the stalker story had come from the knife-fighters, Carville or Begala. But when it became clear the President himself had put this into motion, I was no  longer able to sustain the elaborate rationales I had developed in my mind and heart in his defense. It is then I could relate to Henry Hyde's point that the impeachment process was not to punish the President, but to cleanse the Oval Office. Lindsey's "bombshell," which I wrote about on December 10 and which Novak made the subject of his column on December 14, is one of the major reasons the House moderates chose to vote for impeachment. When he dropped the bomb, Graham asked the women on the committee especially to see how bad the President behaved. This goes far beyond sexual harassment. It is the kind of behavior a rapist uses when asserting that yes he did have sex with the girl, but she had come on to him. Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA], practically jumped out of her shoes screeching at Graham for having dared to suggest he knows how a woman might think. He had hit a nerve with her, as he had with me.

I'm writing to you, Jon, because I can easily put myself in your shoes, because that was exactly where I was a month ago. There is much more going on here than meets the eye. Take a look. You will see why the White House is fighting the calling of witnesses, because they are scared to death Blumenthal will be called. It is because I believe he will be called, along with Betty Currie, who also said the President coached her on the point that Monica came on to me, that the burden on Clinton to escape conviction is very great indeed. If as part of this deal Sid Blumenthal can be called as a witness, the odds against acquittal will lengthen. The women of the United States would be rocked, I think, if they had to focus on this evidence. Sober Democratic Senators would have a hard time rationalizing this in voting acquittal. When asked, Rep. Graham, who will be one of the House managers, told "Evans&Novak" that he thinks "that needs to be talked about." I think this could be the undoing of the President... and if is, it will be the result of Sonny Bono's wife Mary seeing it in the transcript when nobody else did. Check it out and you will look a lot smarter in your Newsweek column as events unfold.