• U.S.

Clinton’s Crisis: Truth or…Consequences

28 minute read
Nancy Gibbs

Americans like to bring their children to the White House, maybe get a picture, take a tour, hear a story. This is where one man decided to free 4 million slaves, others to wage a just war, to build a Great Society, to topple an “evil empire.” Great men, when they take custody of the presidency, make the Oval Office shine, stake their claim to a portrait on the creamy walls. Lesser men, at the very least, are expected not to smear mud on them. When Bill Clinton got the keys six years ago, the voters knew he brought a lot of debris with him, joints he didn’t inhale and truths he didn’t tell and women he hadn’t slept with (“They were awake at the time,” his aides privately explained). It was a leap of faith by the voters that put him there. At the very least, they wanted him to keep the office clean.

That is why last week the allegations of a President spotting a fresh face in a ripe dress at a White House party, and eventually inviting her into a private study off the Oval Office for oral sex, and remarking that if she never told, no one would know, was enough to inspire first dizziness, then a regicidal rage. Through Clinton’s peaceful, prosperous tenure he has been forgiven a world of winks and wiggly answers about youthful indiscretions and adult lapses of judgment. Last week even his apologists didn’t know where to begin.

The only image as troubling as the spectacle of a teetering presidency was the possibility that a flirtatious, love-starved girl given to bragging about her conquests might have been spinning some ruinous fantasy about a love affair with the President. Monica Lewinsky’s story was so tawdry, and so devastating, it was hard to know which was harder to believe: that she would make up such a story, or that it actually might have happened.

Without proof, both possibilities were left to squirm side by side. Either Lewinsky was lying when she swore under oath that she had never had a sexual relationship with the President, or she was lying through the hours of conversations she had with her friend Linda Tripp, who would later betray her, keeping a tape running to spin a web that would catch a President. As each new tape surfaced, each new detail arose, of Secret Service logs showing late-night visits when Hillary was out of town, of presents sent by courier, of a dark dress saved as a souvenir, spattered with the President’s DNA, the American public began stripping Bill Clinton of the benefit of the doubt. A TIME/CNN poll last week found half of Americans saying he lacks the moral character to be President and should be impeached if the charges prove true.

That assessment was already looking generous by the weekend, as Americans resigned themselves to turning on the news or picking up their papers and having to read stories that painted the White House as a harem, the President as a lecher and the government as a hostage to his libido. No matter what he does, the President now faces a steady flow of ugly leaks from the conversations Tripp recorded or recalled having with Lewinsky. In those conversations, Lewinsky is graphic in detailing, and at times denigrating, the President’s sexual characteristics and performance. Clinton, she claimed at one point, had a strict rule: oral sex only. “At my age,” she says he told her, “you can’t take the risk of intercourse.” Lewinsky jokes that if she ever got to leave her job at the Pentagon and return to the White House, she would be made “Special Assistant to the President for b___ j___.”

Even White House soldiers trained by years of muscular damage control staggered last Wednesday when they picked up their morning papers. The first few hours were horrible, easily the worst day in a presidency with more than its share of bad days. Within the hour they faced a parade of hyperventilating talk-show hosts clutching the Constitution and handicapping the prospect of impeachment proceedings; of psychologists explaining how to tell children that the President might be a liar and a serial philanderer; of network anchors jetting back from Havana, where they had thought maybe the big story of the week would occur; and of Clinton explaining that yes, the American people had a right to hear an answer about whether he had seduced an employee, but no, he wasn’t ready to give it just yet. The normally surefooted White House spokesman Mike McCurry couldn’t get through the daily press briefing without getting stuck in the contrivances of strict legalese over what was meant by denying any “improper relationship.” “I’m not going to parse the statement,” he said, not once, but five times. “It speaks for itself.”

“It’s like we’re standing under Niagara Falls, looking for a boat to get us out of here,” McCurry said privately. Many in the White House had the air of experienced plane-crash investigators going about their business with grim efficiency. As with past scandals like Whitewater and Travelgate, the White House operation divided cleanly between the President’s legal team–Charles Ruff, David Kendall, Bob Bennett–who didn’t want Clinton to talk, period, and his political strategists, who wanted to send him out to calm the waters. And so, true to form, the President did both: gave his interviews but didn’t say anything. And that only made matters worse.

By this time everyone has learned that a Clinton denial must be decoded. The man who once said he had “never broken the laws of my country” when answering questions about his marijuana inhaling (he was at Oxford at the time), and who claimed to have “caused pain in my marriage” to avoid having to use the singular or plural when discussing his love affairs, now faces an audience no longer naive about presidential double-talk. Thus when Clinton sat down with Jim Lehrer on Wednesday afternoon and repeated, in heavily lawyered cadences, that “I didn’t ask anybody not to tell the truth,” reporters pounced on the use of the double negative as another linguistic trapdoor. Try as it would, the White House could not seem to manage a believable denial all day.

And so by Wednesday night it was time for someone to take charge, and it was certainly not going to be the President. He was wiped out, flat on his back, depressed by the enormity of what faced him. That collapse was by itself taken as a confession of guilt even by those who had kept the faith for years. While the President lay dead tired on the sofa, Hillary went to war.

It all had a familiar feeling. Six years ago this past weekend, just after the Super Bowl, Hillary Rodham Clinton held up her head with the velvet band, nodded like Nancy Reagan in her mother-of-the-bride sea-green outfit and saved her husband’s dying presidential candidacy on 60 Minutes. Choosing his words carefully, Bill denied he had had a “12-year affair” with Gennifer Flowers; Hillary’s expression of faith in him was far more persuasive than his answers; and Clinton went on to victory. To those who wondered why she didn’t walk away then, and hasn’t since, a close Clinton friend for two decades replies: “They do not have the kind of marriage you and I have.”

Whatever the latest charges against her husband, he is protected by her utter loathing of the man who brings them: Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Hillary has always seen Starr as a deeply compromised, highly partisan enemy appointed out of political vengeance by a three-judge panel headed by conservative Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle. The Clintons have been dodging his searchlights for nearly four years now, as he rooted around old Arkansas land deals and Vince Foster’s death and Travelgate and other alleged White House transgressions. The only consolation was that however much Starr tried to stretch his jurisdiction, some things were still out of bounds.

But they weren’t off limits to Paula Jones and her lawyers. They have spent the past three years focused only on the President’s love life, tracking every woman the President ever worked with, leered at, was alone in a room with, to try to prove a pattern of sexual harassment. Last week they let on they were considering deposing the President’s cousin many times removed, Catherine Cornelius, to see if their relationship went beyond kinship. They have suggested that the list of women in their sights is a mile long.

Up until now, the whole Jones operation always had a burlesque quality to it; however plausible her charges that then Governor Clinton tried to seduce her in an Arkansas hotel room, her affiliation with avowed Clinton haters helped the White House dismiss her crudely as just another book-deal-hungry gold digger. The catastrophe for the White House last week was that all the charges that were manageable when they were separate had suddenly become one scandal, indivisible. When Monica Lewinsky, subpoenaed to testify in the Jones case, whispered to Linda Tripp that Clinton had urged her to deny the affair, Starr wired Tripp up for confirmation. Then he went to the Justice Department to demand a skeleton key that would give him access to the whole ugly universe of sexual misconduct. It was Hillary’s worst nightmare; the man she hates most in the world now has the right to probe the issues most painful to her. Even if the Jones case were somehow settled tomorrow, which it won’t be, Ken Starr will never go away, and all the dark corners of their marriage will now be his for the hunting.

So while others whispered resignation and worried about felony charges, Hillary decided the Clintons would both come out swinging. “We need a field general,” she declared. None lives at the Clinton White House anymore. The Old Guard, always spoiling for a good fight, was gone long ago. Many people who are left want to leave. Most wouldn’t dream of asking the President whether the charges were true, and wouldn’t get an answer if they did: many aides were simply too stunned and tired to trust their judgment about what to say. While the nasty spin said Monica was too fat, too dumb, even for Clinton, those with a pulse murmured privately, as one put it, that “she fit the type too well.”

So there was really only one person who could muster the troops, just as she had in Arkansas in 1980, in New Hampshire in 1992 and in the Executive Residence in 1994, when the Democratic Party died. By Thursday, Hillary was putting together a new, combative team. She wondered if her old, ousted alter ego Harold Ickes could come back, and she added Mickey Kantor to the legal team, more for his political skills than his legal ones. Adviser Sid Blumenthal created a gigantic diagram inside his office outlining with circles and arrows the byzantine Republican conspiracy surrounding the tapes. A fierce argument raged over whether the First Couple, singly or together, should sit down for some big, cathartic confessional on the state of their union before Tuesday’s State of the Union. But that idea was rejected, and by Saturday Hillary was fighting on several fronts at once.

First, she asked attorney Bob Bennett to try to move up the trial date of the Paula Jones case, now scheduled to start in May, to keep that scandal from dragging out any longer. Besides, even if Jones has a case, it’s a hard one to prove; and were Clinton to emerge victorious from that trial, he could try to spin it into a big, warm blanket vindication. Then she decided that she would be the one to do the talking; she agreed to sit down for a Tuesday Today show interview. If she had lost faith in everyone else’s ability to do damage control, she still had faith in her own. “They are digging in for the fight of the century,” said a senior official tonight. “They are rolling out artillery, antiaircraft guns, and talking about never surrendering.” There are at any given time 250 interns strolling the 18-acre White House campus, enrolled in the ultimate political science class; and much of the staff is not much older. In the early years it felt like a children’s crusade: the President was in his forties, most of his staff were in their thirties and the rest in their twenties. One full-time staff member in the press office was 19. Kids and Cabinet officers seemed to have equal standing in the meetings that went on forever and ever. This was the land of the adolescents who dissed Air Force generals, wore multiple earrings and squeezed into every photo op with the President.

The interns didn’t just work at the White House; they seemed to live there. And Clinton was known for hanging out at the offices and cubicles where the prettiest ones worked. “It’s a group of men who look,” said a female aide. “They all look. It’s a construction-worker mentality.” Clinton made fun of George Bush for not having a phone line that he could dial out on; last week a White House official said, “There was a reason.”

It sometimes seemed as though ambitious West Wing staff members made a point of recruiting the prettiest interns–not only for their own aesthetic pleasure but in hopes that it would inspire the boss to come around more often. That tactic did not go unnoticed by the few senior women on the President’s staff. A former White House aide tells TIME that on several occasions late in 1995 and early 1996, attractive young women were transferred to the nether reaches of government because Clinton kept dropping by unannounced to flirt with them. When Clinton “got too chatty with somebody,” explained the former aide, “a couple of the older, more senior women on the staff would see that these women got moved.”

And that is just what happened to Monica Lewinsky. She had arrived in Washington in the summer of 1995, the daughter of a Beverly Hills cancer doctor and a sometime Hollywood gossip writer. Lewinsky had just graduated as a psychology major from Lewis and Clark College in Oregon and had come to the White House to seek her fortune filing and photocopying and answering the phones. Maybe get invited to a party. Maybe even get to meet the President.

Interns would usually see the President’s schedule a day ahead of time but were told to keep their distance. “We were briefed a number of times about what to do if the President is going to be in the building,” says a fellow intern. “They’d say, ‘Follow protocol. Get out of the way.'” A plum assignment was anything that required a blue pass for the West Wing, which allowed an intern to roam the West Wing more or less at will. Betty Currie, one of the President’s private secretaries, was “an untouchable,” off limits for networking, and any unsolicited conversation at all from interns.

But Monica was not just any intern. The portrait that was painted last week, by the tapes and the tabloids, was of a rather insinuating, flirtatious young woman with a habit of walking into bosses’ offices with coffee they did not ask for. She told her friend Tripp that she met the President at a party that November, where she appeared in a fetching dress and caught the President’s eye. Soon after, they began their relationship, she claimed, around the time she was hired as a regular White House staff member, working in the East Wing office of the legislative affairs shop, blue pass around her neck.

But by the following April, she was out of the White House, moved to a job at the Pentagon in spokesman Kenneth Bacon’s Office of Public Affairs. As fate would have it, however, Bacon’s office was the wrong landing pad for a young woman who loved to gossip. Sitting not far away was Linda Tripp, another former White House aide, who had joined the Bush Administration as a secretary and later ran afoul of the Clinton team. Though Tripp was earnest and efficient, with good instincts and a gift for prose, few White House staff members had good things to say about her last week. “She was awful,” says one former official who worked with her in the White House counsel’s office. “She was surly; she was sullen; she had a chip on her shoulder and a nasty look on her face.” She routinely fought with the other assistants. “We thought she was a Bushie,” says one official, “but the real problem is that no one liked her. She was difficult, contentious; the other secretaries just hated her.”

How Tripp came to start taping her young friend is itself a cautionary tale for White House damage controllers. Tripp had a history of befriending women who told tales of intimate encounters with the President. She certainly shared the view of those who disapproved of the frolicsome Clinton culture, and was pleased by the 1996 publication of former FBI agent Gary Aldrich’s book in which he alleged that sex toys dangled from the White House Christmas tree. Tripp was annoyed by the efforts of the President’s men to discredit the author.

When she was still at the White House, she saw a volunteer named Kathleen Willey not far from the Oval Office, her makeup smudged, her blouse untucked. Last summer, when Newsweek ran a story about Tripp’s account of Willey’s saying that Clinton had kissed and fondled her, lawyer Bennett publicly challenged Tripp’s honesty. But lawyers for Paula Jones saw Willey and Tripp as golden witnesses and aimed subpoenas at them. Tripp anticipated that she would be asked about Lewinsky and that the White House would challenge anything she had to say. So last August she sought the advice of a friend, a literary agent and former Nixon operative, Lucianne Goldberg. Goldberg has represented the Arkansas state troopers who went public with stories of Clinton womanizing, as well as a woman named Dolly Kyle Browning who has been trying to sell an account of her own alleged affair with the President. The agent had approached Tripp through an intermediary months before to suggest she participate in a book on former White House lawyer Vince Foster; Tripp had been the last to see Foster before his suicide. The women never struck a deal, but they became close, and Tripp followed Goldberg’s counsel on what to do about Lewinsky: she went to RadioShack and bought a tape recorder.

Tripp’s conversations with Lewinsky–some taped, some just recalled–tell a steamy story of sex and power, pressure and confusion. The women spoke all the time, in the Pentagon corridors, over coffee, when they met after work for a drink or drove home together. Lewinsky spoke of at least a dozen sexual encounters with Clinton, perhaps as many as 20. She claimed she would go to the White House, usually in the late afternoon or evenings, and be cleared in by Currie. When Lewinsky and the President couldn’t rendezvous in person, they allegedly did it on the phone. The phone sex picked up in frequency as her invitations to see Clinton tapered off after the Willey story broke last August.

Lewinsky’s account alternates from puppy love for the man she refers to as “handsome” to sorrow that she didn’t get to see him as much as she wanted, to eventual bitterness at “the Creep” who let her be banished to the Pentagon. Talking to Tripp, she referred to his intrusive staff as “the protectors” and to ex-girlfriends in the White House as “graduates.” At times the very amount of detail strains credulity. In one exchange, Lewinsky laments that when she tried to get into the White House one night to visit the President, the guard turned her away, saying another woman had got there first.

There is throughout the account the sweet-and-sour scent of a high school romance. Lewinsky talked of presents they exchanged: he gave her a dress and a volume of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; she gave him ties and a statue of a frog (an old Clinton obsession), along with love letters and a sexually explicit tape; the packages were addressed to Currie and delivered by private courier.

Lewinsky also brought at least three microcassettes from her home message machine and played them for Tripp at the Pentagon. The President can be heard saying hello, but leaving no lengthy messages and certainly nothing incriminating. But in her conversations with Tripp, Lewinsky referred to the President’s legal coaching: when she expressed fears about records of her comings and goings and what Currie might say one day in a sworn deposition, Clinton supposedly replied, “There’s no proof. Look them in the eye and deny it.”

Even more damaging are the conversations that occurred after Lewinsky was subpoenaed by Paula Jones’ lawyers in December. She said Clinton told her to see his friend Vernon Jordan, and he’d help her out. She met him in his Dupont Circle office, and she presented Jordan a list of public relations firms she’d like to work for. The next time they met he picked her up at the Pentagon to go meet a lawyer and draft her affidavit. “Take your anger and frustration with the President and vent them on me,” he told her at the time, adding that perjury in a civil case is rarely prosecuted. Jordan confirmed last week that he had indeed helped her find a lawyer and guided her toward several job possibilities in the private sector, at American Express or at Revlon, where he serves as a director.

In his statement explaining how one of the most powerful men in Washington came to be job hunting for a 24-year-old secretary, Jordan maintained that he helped Lewinsky because he himself stood “on the shoulders of many individuals who have helped me” and that “to whom much is given much is required.” He also said that in their conversations Lewinsky had adamantly denied having an affair with the President, which begs the question of how that subject came up in the first place.

By last month the corridor conversations between Tripp and Lewinsky had gone from girl talk to a deadly serious question about whether to lie under oath about the behavior of the President of the United States. Lewinsky apparently told Tripp she intended to deny the affair in her deposition and urged Tripp to do the same. Lewinsky warned Tripp that if she testified about the affair while Lewinsky and Clinton continued to stand fast, she would be isolated and vulnerable and her job would be in jeopardy. Excerpts of a small portion of the tapes, released by Newsweek, quote Lewinsky discussing whether to lie about her relationship with the President. “I would lie on the stand for my family,” she says. “That is how I was raised… I have lied my entire life.” She adds, “I will deny it so he will not get screwed in the case, but I’m going to get screwed personally.” She also discusses Tripp’s faking a foot accident to delay the deposition, and quotes her mother as saying the idea is “‘brilliant.'”

In a sworn affidavit on Jan. 7, Lewinsky reportedly denied having a sexual relationship with Clinton. But Tripp meanwhile was pursuing a very different strategy. Lawyer Kirby Behre, retained by the White House to prepare her for congressional committees and grand jury investigations into Travelgate and Vince Foster’s suicide, did not seem to Tripp terribly interested. So she decided it was time for a more aggressive defender. She brought her tapes to James Moody, a solo practitioner who specializes in fighting regulations, whom she had met during the Bush Administration. Moody had little faith in Janet Reno’s Justice Department and agreed with Tripp that they should turn the tapes over to Starr.

For Starr, whose investigation had been going heaven only knows where for four years, Tripp was a gift from God. They met on Monday, Jan. 12, and Moody was stunned by the speed of Starr’s response. The next day, Tripp was outfitted with a body wire so they could tape her meeting with Lewinsky at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. Once again Lewinsky discussed her plans to cover up the affair, and her hopes that Jordan would help her land a good job.

That Wednesday, Lewinsky drove Tripp home from the Pentagon and offered her a mysterious set of “talking points” about how to handle her deposition. It was clear Lewinsky hadn’t written the document herself, but she didn’t say who had given it to her. The document recommended that Tripp change her story about Willey, suggest that she could have smeared her own makeup and messed up her clothes. And it recommended that Tripp dismiss Lewinsky as a liar and a stalker of the President, in effect supporting Lewinsky’s sworn statement that there was no affair.

But Starr now had evidence that would potentially support charges of perjury, suborning perjury and obstruction of justice. He approached the Justice Department and received formal permission to expand his inquiry. When Newsweek called to say it was preparing to run the first detailed account of the Lewinsky affair, Starr pressured the editors to hold off, to allow him time to enlist Lewinsky’s aid in stinging Jordan and potentially the President as well. When Lewinsky met Tripp at the Ritz-Carlton again on Friday, she quickly found herself surrounded by FBI agents and prosecutors and directed upstairs to confront her predicament.

And so began the strangest and most pivotal chapter in the whole drama: the Getting to Know You duet between Ken Starr and Monica Lewinsky. In exchange for immunity, he wanted her to tell him all the details of the affair, and most important, to agree to wear a wire that would let him catch Jordan trying to keep her quiet. Otherwise, he had the tapes that would allow him to prosecute her for perjury. Faced with this choice, Lewinsky fell apart. She cried. She asked for her mother. “My life is ruined,” she said.

It would take a while for her mother to reach Washington by train from New York City; Monica was frantic, and Starr’s team had to calm her down. They bought her cookies. They watched Ethel Merman with her on TV. They took her shopping in the mall downstairs at Crate & Barrel. Lewinsky’s father back in California had reached a longtime family friend, a medical malpractice lawyer named William Ginsburg, and Ginsburg reached Starr’s team by phone around 10:30 that night. Ginsburg asked them to write down the terms of an immunity deal and fax it to him. We have no computer, they replied. Write it on hotel stationery, he suggested. They refused. Ginsburg offered to fly to Washington that night by charter if they would just put something in writing. No deal.

By the next evening, Ginsburg had arrived in Washington and gone to Starr’s offices, where they told him the deal was off. And so the big squeeze tightened. Starr had been burned before, offering Clinton buddy Webb Hubbell a light sentence if he would sing about Whitewater, and getting little in return. This time around, Starr needs Lewinsky in order to make his case work, but knows that she alone is not enough. He needs some corroborating evidence of obstruction of justice to head off a he-said/she-said battle, in which the Leader of the Free World would have the advantage. Starr was prepared to immunize Monica before the story broke; she would have had a chance to produce new evidence by secretly taping or gathering statements from others to support her obstruction story. But by the middle of last week, when the cover had been blown, she may have had nothing left to give but old trinkets and a stained dress.

So it became all the more vital to portray her as a vulnerable victim of an ugly power struggle. Ginsburg may not be a criminal lawyer, but he knows how to do p.r. The bearded, besweatered, avuncular lawyer, looking every inch the indignant father figure, gave a string of carefully chosen television interviews. He directed his fire both at Starr and the President for “savaging” a “child.” “My client…is at the vortex of a storm involving three of the most powerful people in the United States: President Clinton, Vernon Jordan and Kenneth Starr.”

The “immunity dance” proceeded in fits and starts through the week–part flirtation, part bluff, part intimidation, which will need to end in an embrace for both sides to survive. It was clear by week’s end that Lewinsky herself was now a target of a criminal investigation. Starr told the FBI he was going to need “additional resources” to do all the legwork. And he began issuing subpoenas that would send agents throughout the city with a vacuum cleaner.

By this time the historical echoes were so loud, it was time for a flashback: it came when FBI agents descended on the Watergate to search Lewinsky’s apartment. They knew what they were looking for: her black and dark blue dresses; some T shirts Clinton allegedly gave her; a gold pin and trinkets from the Black Dog gift shop on Martha’s Vineyard, where the First Family vacations; some hats; the volume of Whitman; a computer. Meanwhile, Starr subpoenaed the Pentagon and the White House for phone, computer and personnel records on both Tripp and Lewinsky. He served Lewinsky with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury this Tuesday.

Certainly no audience to the spectacle was more entranced than the G.O.P. lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who shared the general belief that when your opponent is shooting himself in the foot, you don’t get in the way. Early on, the Republican leadership spread the word to members not to comment or get involved in the scandal lest they lend credence to the idea that this is just another Republican attack. “We’re trying to keep the fruitcakes under control,” said one G.O.P. staff member. “For us it’s better if this thing drags on for a while,” the staff member joked. “At least we don’t have to come up with an agenda.”

Thus Newt Gingrich said he wanted to wait until all the facts were in; Trent Lott said that the allegations were “very serious” but that he’d been in Mississippi for two days and wasn’t sure about the details. The political calculation among Republicans could be that a wounded Clinton who serves out his term is better than an incumbent President Gore who has put all this ugliness behind him. It was a measure of the President’s free fall that his own former chief of staff Leon Panetta told the San Jose Mercury News that if the allegations are true, it might be better “if Gore became President and you had a new message and a new individual up there. The worst scenario is if there’s substance to it and it drags out.” For their part, other leading Democrats were loudly silent.

In the midst of last week’s public carnage, it’s hard to imagine, but there were those who could see a strategy forming. Clinton will never resign, they insist; he will fight every inch to avoid becoming the second President in history to resign in disgrace, as opposed to one of several tarnished by sexual scandals that future historians might just decide to ignore. He will try to change the subject, with lots of purposeful activity, outlined in the State of the Union, a new balanced budget, a response to Saddam Hussein. Let people get used to some further degradation of the public discourse; spread the word, quietly, that Lewinsky was a flighty, gossip-mongering groupie. Above all, trust that if the affair ever wound up being tried before the Senate, that is the last body that would comfortably sit in judgment of a man who believes that a relationship based on oral sex is neither sexual nor a relationship.

That doesn’t mean that there will be anything left of his presidency. Clinton’s grandest ambitions for his have already, repeatedly fallen prey to his scandals; one reason the whole health-care initiative fell apart was that it was a bad idea, but the other was that lawmakers could just ignore him as long as he was in deep trouble over Whitewater. A leader without ideology, with no movement to lead or party to follow, has only his stature and powers of persuasion to move an agenda. And those are dwindling fast. –Reported by Jay Branegan, Margaret Carlson, Michael Duffy, J.F.O. McAllister, Viveca Novak, Douglas Waller and Michael Weisskopf/Washington

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