Tripp set up Lewinsky out of greed

o now we’ve all heard Monica’s voice.
Since the infamous “Tripp tapes” were released on Nov. 17, they’ve been played on every news-oriented show on TV. The tapes are doing a good job of upstaging the actual impeachment proceedings. None of the information is new, since the transcripts were released in October, but the interest in actually hearing them draws attention to something that was very silent before. Lewinsky didn’t have a voice.
This has made it has been incredibly easy to vilify Lewinsky.
We’ve seen her scuttle from car to courthouse, knowing only about her sometimes kinky sexual liaisons with the president.
Throughout the ordeal, Tripp, Clinton, Starr and even smaller players in the drama like Vernon Jordan have had a chance to speak.
Though Lewinsky may have chosen to not address the public, she is not exactly in control of the situation around her. The political pressure of grand jury testimony and the general pressure of having a cameraman around every corner is difficult enough for even a seasoned politician to handle, much less someone who’s never been in the public eye before.
Since January, when the allegations of perjury began, she’s been presented as calculating and scheming. We’ve heard about the dress, the cigar and the time she lifted her shirt to show Clinton the top of her thong underwear. She’s been portrayed as a conniving slut.
The giggly, at times wailing voice on the tapes is definitely not the voice of a political monolith who brought the president to his knees, so to speak. Her discussions with Tripp are not about plotting or scheming. The discussions show someone who is totally infatuated, with all of the giddiness and tears that go with it. This is not the Monica we’ve seen for the past 11 months.
Then there’s the other voice. The voice that solicits more and more information, encouraging Monica to keep her dress as evidence and to pressure Clinton for a job. Tripp’s voice.
In the tapes, Lewinsky tells Tripp that next to her mother, Tripp is the one she trusts the most. All the while, Tripp is taping their conversations. She taped 22 hours of conversation between herself and Lewinsky.
When the press discusses Tripp’s relationship to Lewinsky, they refer to her as Lewinsky’s “friend.” Friends simply don’t do what Tripp did.
What Tripp did was unthinkable. She betrayed a young woman who looked to her as a mother-figure. When she got the information she needed, she made a beeline for Ken Starr.
The tapes are what led to the impeachment proceedings. Before January, Starr’s investigations were faltering. There was no evidence upholding allegations of “Filegate,” nor was there any evidence to uphold “Whitewater.” Starr admitted this in the hearings. When Tripp brought the tapes to him, he used them to expand his Whitewater investigation and take it into an entirely different direction. The only allegations left standing involve perjury and Lewinsky.
By chasing after anything and everything to continue his reign as independent counsel, Starr made a mockery of the political and judicial system. Congress has already vowed to redo legislation surrounding independent counsel procedure so no one else will have the freedom Starr has had with time and money.
His own team is starting to crumble as well. His ethics adviser, Sam Dash, resigned this week, publicly denouncing Starr’s decision to testify before Congress. Dash said that in testifying, Starr has “unlawfully intruded on the process of impeachment.”
Dash defended Starr for a long time — even allowing him to stay in private practice while performing as independent counsel. When Starr called for Clinton’s impeachment during his testimony, Dash threw up his hands and quit.
Tripp’s connections to Starr are muddled at best; and she always seems to be linked to controversy. When Vince Foster committed suicide, she was one of the last people to have seen him alive and submitted testimony to Congress defending White House conduct in the aftermath of the incident.
Later, she criticized their conduct as “suspicious” in a book proposal reported in the New York Times.
Tripp was also known as the source for unproven allegations about President Bush’s personal life. And she was the one who first brought Kathleen Willey to the attention of the Jones’ legal team.
This time, she had another book proposal, tentatively titled “Behind Closed Doors — What I saw at the Clinton White House.” She has presently backed out of the deal, citing “editorial differences.”
Her current position in the public eye is also beginning to have ramifications for her — beyond jokes about her appearance.
She is now being investigated for federal perjury since the FBI discovered that the tapes are probably duplicates and possibly altered. A Maryland grand jury is investigating whether the tapings were even legal to begin with.
She also tells conflicting stories about why she was taping. On one hand, she says it was to protect herself, but she was also planning to use them in her proposed book. She has said that Lewinsky was trying to get her to lie about the affair, though it’s not clear to whom or why.
The reasons are divergent and don’t form any sort of cohesive truth. Now, with the tapes’ release, we’re able to associate emotion and a voice with Lewinsky and hear exactly how coercive Tripp was with her.
It’s time to rethink the “tramp” view of Monica. She was manipulated by Tripp. Lewinsky was by no means honorable in her actions with Clinton, but it was the sort of violation that should have been dealt with by a family, not the media and definitely not a grand jury.
Sara Hurley’s column appears every Monday. Send comments to [email protected]