Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson doesn’t deny he offered Monica Lewinsky a job. But his testimony to Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors raises questions about whether he told the whole truth.
(Page 2 of 14)
Lewinsky rushed over to the White House. Alone with the president, she said she wasn’t really interested in a government job. Instead, she and Clinton talked about having Vernon Jordan help her get a job (a topic she had also brought up the night they had their big fight on the phone). Then, as Lewinsky recounted the story to Tripp, the president kissed her on the head and said he had something else to tell her. “He said, ‘Oh, one more thing that I talked to [White House Chief of Staff] Erskine [Bowles] about was trying to get John Hilley to give you either a written recommendation or a verbal recommendation so that, you know, he’ll give you a good recommendation for your work here.’”
Although one might expect Lewinsky to be heartened by the president’s response, it in fact made her terribly nervous. “I’m going to tell him that I don’t think Erskine should have anything to do with this,” Lewinsky told Tripp that night. “I don’t think anybody who works there should.”
“I don’t see how that’s a problem,” Tripp said.
“Because look at what happened with Webb Hubbell,” Lewinsky answered. “I don’t know. I just think Vernon is a lot safer.…There’s a big difference I think somebody could construe, okay? Somebody could construe or say, ‘Well, they gave her a job to shut her up. They made her happy. And he works for the government and shouldn’t have done that.’”
Bill and John and Betty and Monica
On Sunday, October 12, the president flew to Venezuela, the start of a week-long visit to Latin America. Back home, Lewinsky was preparing to send Clinton a “wish list” of jobs she would be willing to accept in New York (she visited a local Barnes & Noble for a book of job-hunting suggestions). She wrote that she wanted to be an assistant producer at any of the networks, do news/political segments at MTV, work at one of several public relations firms, or do “anything at George magazine.” At the bottom of the list she added a final note:
“I do not have any interest in working [at the U.N.]. As a result of what happened in April ‘96 [when she was removed from the White House], I have already spent a year and a half at an agency in which I have no interest. I want a job where I feel challenged, engaged and interested. I don’t think the U.N. is the right place for me.”
She sent the note to Clinton on October 16, when the president was still in Latin America. But by then it was too late; Clinton, apparently disregarding Lewinsky’s statement that she did not want to work in government, had already set the U.N. job machinery in motion.
Shortly before leaving for Latin America, the president told Currie to have a chat with John Podesta, at the time a top Clinton aide and now White House chief of staff. As Podesta later testified, Currie “reminded me who Miss Lewinsky was…that she wanted to move to New York.” According to Podesta, Currie asked “whether I could give her any referrals of any people she could talk to about getting a job in New York.”
As it turned out, Podesta was traveling with the president, as was Bill Richardson. During a long flight aboard Air Force One, Podesta brought up the topic of Lewinsky with the U.N. Ambassador. Podesta, as he later remembered the conversation, told Richardson that Currie had “a friend who was moving to New York, who was a low level, entry level public affairs person, and could he take a look at her?” Podesta said Richardson responded “that he might have something at the U.N., that they had some positions in their public affairs office. And I said to him, ‘Why don’t I have Betty get you a résumé of the young woman?’”
With that, Richardson began a series of rapid — almost rushed — moves to accommodate Lewinsky’s job wishes. He returned from Latin America on October 19, a Sunday. It was an extremely busy time; his schedule called for him to return to the office on Monday for three days and then fly to the Congo on Thursday the 23rd. In addition, the crisis over Saddam Hussein’s refusal to allow full freedom to United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq was beginning to make significant demands on his time.
Nevertheless, when Richardson got to work on Monday, October 20, he told his long-time assistant, Isabelle Watkins, to “keep an eye out” for a résumé coming from Podesta’s office. Watkins told investigators that sometime later, perhaps the next day, Richardson asked if she had received the résumé. She told him she hadn’t, and he asked her to get in touch with Podesta’s office to see what was going on.
Starr’s prosecutors wanted to know why, since he was so busy, Richardson had the Lewinsky matter on his mind immediately after his return from Latin America. They questioned Richardson about the issue during a videotaped deposition in April. “Do you believe, sir,” prosecutor Tom Bienert asked, “that you might have told Ms. Watkins upon returning to your office after the South America trip, words to the effect of, to keep an eye out for a résumé coming from Podesta’s office on an applicant?”
“Yeah,” Richardson responded. “I think so. Yeah.”
“And do you believe it’s accurate,” sir, that after not hearing anything from Ms. Watkins about the matter, that perhaps a day or two later you would have asked her again about the matter?
“No, I think I just asked once,” Richardson said. “I think, you know, we were pretty busy then.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?