Former interns try to dodge spotlight

Andrew Donohue

Amid the media frenzy surrounding an alleged affair between a White House intern and President Clinton, past interns remain tight-lipped about their Washington experiences.
Rebecca Mathern, a fourth-year student in the College of Liberal Arts and former White House intern, declined to comment Tuesday on allegations of an affair between Clinton and former intern Monica Lewinsky.
According to the Minnesota Student Association office, many former White House interns nationwide have formed a boycott against any relations with the press.
The issue has become a hot topic around campus, not only affecting Mathern, who is also a former MSA vice president. The alleged Lewinsky affair has sparked heated discussion in classrooms and faculty circles.
Mathern interned at the White House in spring 1997, a year after Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. She declined to comment on the recent allegations because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
Each year, the White House receives about 1,500 applications for one of about 800 to 1,000 internship positions. Most of its interns are college students aged 18 to 23 who do not get paid for their work.
Faculty members around campus were not as tight-lipped as Mathern.
“It’s a shame for the country and for every individual involved in it,” said political science professor Lawrence Jacobs. “I don’t see how anyone gains from this.
“Republicans looking for short-term gains will see a public disapproval everywhere,” he said. “Even if a Republican gains control of the presidency next term, it will be tarnished.”
But Bill Gilles, the University’s College Republicans chairman, said he’s surprised so much of the issue’s blame has been placed on the Republican Party.
“This seems to be different from the other scandals surrounding Clinton, like Whitewater, because the major networks are pushing it, not just conservative talk show hosts,” he said.
Mark Rotenberg, University head attorney and former attorney in President Reagan’s legal counsel office, said the balance between political and legal officials at the White House has been offset by an over-legalization of the accusations against the president.
“The legal system has overwhelmed the political structure,” he said, “so the president hasn’t been able to address the overwhelming public and policy ramifications of this scandal.”
Discussion surrounding the allegations has also reached into University classrooms.
Political Science Professor Steven Smith said his entire class on the U.S. Congress was devoted to student question and reaction Friday.
Smith fielded questions regarding the legal issues of the allegations, including the impeachment process and impeachment issues that have arisen in the past.
“A little open-mindedness would help us all,” Smith said.
Both Smith and Jacobs addressed the problems surrounding media coverage.
“The media has run ahead of the facts, and it has become repetitive,” Smith said.
Jacobs said the media bloating of the alleged affair has overshadowed more important news.
“I mean, Jesus, the Pope was pulled off the front page,” Jacobs said.