How I Changed from Conviction to Acquittal
Jude Wanniski
February 3, 1999

Memo To: Matt Drudge
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Op-Ed

I'm sending you this op-ed exclusive after having it rejected Monday by The Wall Street Journal. The op-ed editor, Max Boot, thought it too personal, but I think your readers would appreciate seeing how I, as a serious defender of President Clinton, came to change my mind and become an advocate of conviction. (I don't know how to do this except in the first person.) The Journal did devote its lead editorial to this topic today.

My belief is that very few Americans are aware of the significance of the testimony of Sidney Blumenthal, who is today being deposed by the House managers. On "Larry King Live" Monday night, for example, Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat, seemed to think that Clinton "expressed concern that Monica was worried she would be viewed as the stalker." This was after Bill Bennett of Empower America said of Blumenthal: "If he repeats and we see on videotape essentially what he said under oath, that is the President after using Ms. Lewinsky in the way that he did for his own delight then comes into Sidney Blumenthal's office and begins to talk about her as a stalker trashes her and so on. This, I suppose in the eyes of the Senate, in the eyes of most people, won't rise to the level of impeachment, but we will get yet one more measure of the kind of man we are dealing with who uses a woman in one way, and then goes to a colleague and tells lies about her. And you know if that's the guy everybody is happy with, then let them live with it."

Sen. Murray obviously was not paying attention at the Senate trial, nor do I think were most Americans. I would not have been had I not been paying attention during the House impeachment hearings, which is when I changed my mind. Here, Matt, is the op-ed on how it happened.

How I Changed to Conviction From Acquittal
By Jude Wanniski

For the first eleven months of 1998, I was a Republican defender of President Bill Clinton. I changed my mind while watching the impeachment hearings of the House Judiciary Committee, when it became obvious to me that the President had done something so iniquitous that he should no longer be permitted to remain in office. I realized he was prepared to destroy the life of a young woman to save himself the embarrassment of admitting what he had done with her.

As they will attest, Democrats close to the President know I actively was making the argument that none of the revelations which surfaced about his sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky were reason for his removal. Even if he lied about it, the relationship was consensual, and if the First Lady could forgive his sins, so could I. The Democrats who knew I was trying to help Mr. Clinton survive his ordeal include New Jersey Senator Bob Torricelli, New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, and presidential counselor Bob Shrum.

Even when I learned in September the President had not told the fiill truth about the nature of his relationship, I took a position similar to that of former President Jimmy Carter: While the House had probable cause to impeach Mr. Clinton, the Senate would probably not vote to convict. This is because it appeared the President then would be able to successfully defend himself on the facts, which his lawyers did not contest in the House proceedings.

My position would be the same today if it were not for the "Lindsey Graham Bombshell" as I described it at the time on my website. It was when I learned for the first time that the President was the source of the news stories about Ms. Lewinsky being "a fantasizer," the "stalker" who concocted the taped stories she told to Linda Tripp. The stories seemed credible, as it seemed even less credible that the President would do the things in the Oval Office that Ms. Lewinsky told Ms. Tripp he did. The President's forceful denial to the American people had reassured me.

Even when he admitted to the federal grand jury in August that he had in improper sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, my assumption was the earlier stories about the "stalker" had been cooked up by Jim Carville or one of the President's other trouble-shooters. It was only when South Carolina Republican Rep. Lindsey Graham read from the Starr referral during the impeachment hearings that I knew I'd been wrong all along about the President.

Rep. Graham subsequently told me, the testimony of presidential aide Sidney Blumenthal had been so buried in the Starr report that he hadn't seen it at all. It was Rep. Mary Bono [R-CA], the widow of the late Sonny Bono, who spotted it and showed it to Rep. Graham, who sits next to her on the Judiciary Committee. Mr. Graham told me he immediately saw the grave importance of the President telling Mr. Blumenthal that Ms. Lewinsky had demanded sex with him, and he had refused even when she threatened him as one known to her friends as a stalker," who would get her way.

At a break in the hearings, Mr. Graham said he went to his office and did a NEXUS search, discovering in a matter of minutes dozens of stories that appeared in the national press in the days immediately following the President's conversation with Sidney Blumenthal. It was clear to Mr. Graham that Mr. Blumenthal had broadcast the story to his many friends in the press corps, which was the reason he was summoned before the grand jury. Kenneth Starr's investigators had been talking to the reporters who'd written the "stalker" stories and the finger pointed to Mr. Blumenthal, who seems not to have learned the truth himself until August, seven months after he broadcast the lie.

It was Lindsey Graham's conclusion that if the blue dress had not turned up, the President would never have had to change his story. It would have been Lewinsky's testimony against his denial, leaving her for the rest of her life as the "fantasizer" and "stalker" who had put the First Family and her country through this dreadful episode in our history.

Was it criminal for the President to have told Mr. Blumenthal this lie? Not necessarily. Mr. Blumenthal seems to have rationalized it on the grounds that his boss wanted him to pass on the phony story to the First Lady. After all, Hillary Rodham Clinton was responsible for bringing Mr. Blumenthal into the White House from his last job at The New Yorker, and she would trust him. The problem is that Mr. Blumenthal broadcast the story far and wide and the President knew about them for the next eight months.

It may not have been a crime. It certainly struck me as something worse. It was an evil act. It may not have been a high crime against the state, but in compounding the felonies we know Mr. Clinton did commit, it told me the President must be removed from the office he desecrated with that evil act.

Not to punish him, but as Rep. Henry Hyde has said, to cleanse the office. We are all sinners, but how many of us would knowingly destroy the life of an innocent girl simply in order to cover our shame?

Mr. Wanniski, a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, is president of Polyconomics, Inc., Morristown, N.J.