The bulletin on the radio, "Cutler Named...

WHEN I HEARD

March 10, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

WHEN I HEARD the bulletin on the radio, "Cutler Named White House Counsel!" -- I thought it was Bruce Cutler.

He's John Gotti's lawyer and one of the best Mafia lawyers in New York. If Clinton had hired him in the first place, instead of a New York corporate lawyer, Bernard Nussbaum, the White House Whitewater cover-up would probably have been much more successful. Of course, somebody may be dead now. (Come to think of it, somebody is dead.)

But it is Lloyd Cutler, not Bruce, who is the new White House counsel. Lloyd Cutler is at 76 Washington's oldest active fixer, now that Clark Clifford, 87, is devoting full time to staying out of jail himself.

I shouldn't say "fixer." What Lloyd Cutler is, in the argot of Washington, is a "wise man." This is not to be confused with a "wise guy," which is Mafia argot.

Some people refer to Lloyd Cutler as a "presidential adviser." I think the only president he ever advised was Jimmy Carter. He advised him right out of the White House, some critics of the Hon. Mr. Cutler like to say. Maybe, but at least Carter went out the old fashioned way -- defeated for re-election -- rather than resignation in fear of impeachment.

If my choice for Whitewater independent counsel had gotten the job, Lloyd Cutler couldn't be White House counsel. My choice was, in part, Steve Sachs. He's the former Maryland attorney general now practicing criminal law in Washington as a partner at the firm of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering. The Cutler is Lloyd. You couldn't have two members of the same firm on opposing sides in a case like this.

I say Steve Sachs was my choice "in part" because I proposed a joint independent counselship: Mr. Steve Sachs and Mrs. Steve Sachs. Sheila Sachs is a lawyer in the Baltimore firm of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander.

I thought it was important for the independent counsel in Whitewatergate to be a husband and wife team, since the chief suspects are a husband and wife team.

I even wrote a screenplay about it. A madcap Washington comedy a la Frank Capra. The Sachses' investigation produces squabbles between Bill and Hillary. Steve makes a deal with Bill, indicting Hillary on the basis of Bill's testimony about what she did in Little Rock. Sheila makes a deal with Hillary. She gets immunity if she tells the House Judiciary Committee considering an impeachment resolution what Bill did as president to cover up what she did in Little Rock.

What crazy, heartbreaking complications! Bill and Hillary break up! Steve and Sheila break up! But then they all get back together and work out a fix that results in all four living happily ever after!

But seriously, folks, Hillary Clinton is suspected by some to be the lawbreaker and villainess in the Whitewater drama. She is not the first first lady ever to come under such a dark, dark cloud, either.

Monday: The traitor in the White House.

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