No more disclosures from her husband, Hillary Clinton says Strategy of silence likely to work at least for now, Democrats say

January 29, 1998|By Paul West | Paul West,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON SUN STAFF WRITER JONATHAN WEISMAN CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- The White House stiffened its stance against public disclosure in the Monica Lewinsky controversy yesterday, as first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said President Clinton plans to say nothing more to the American people on the subject.

"You won't hear any more from my husband," Mrs. Clinton said in a TV interview. She urged the country to be patient and await the outcome of the special prosecutor's investigation.

Her words were the clearest sign to date that the White House has decided to resist making a fuller disclosure to the public as Clinton attempts to survive a sex scandal that could cripple his ability to govern.

Clinton has flatly denied that he had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, 24, a former White House intern, or that he urged her to lie in her sworn statement in Paula Corbin Jones' sexual misconduct lawsuit. But he has declined to answer further questions.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry confirmed that Clinton would have nothing more to say "for now" about Lewinsky.

He also said there were no plans to make public Secret Service records that detail her visits to the White House. Earlier, the White House had indicated it would release copies of the records as soon as they were assembled. The records were turned over to the office of the Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, this week.

In his State of the Union message Tuesday night, Clinton made no mention of the scandal. Polls after the speech showed a rise in his job-approval ratings.

His strategy of silence, Democrats said, is likely to be an effective one, at least for the moment.

"At some point it will be important to talk to the public," said Paul Maslin, a Democratic political consultant. "When that has to happen, I don't know."

The White House is playing for time as the investigation presses ahead, he said. The longer it takes Starr to complete his probe, "the stronger the president's position will be," said Maslin.

Republicans, meantime, stepped up their criticism.

"Their strategy will be to drag this out and drag this out, then blame Ken Starr," said Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican from Pennsylvania.

Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, charged the White House with "foot-dragging, obfuscation and all sorts of sleazy tactics" throughout Starr's investigation of Clinton and his wife.

As the scandal has unfolded over the past week, Mrs. Clinton has assumed her familiar role as her husband's most ardent defender and strategist. In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," she said that her husband needs to focus his full attention on his job.

"At any minute, somebody could do something that threatens our troops around the world. There could be a terrible tragedy that has to be responded to right away," she said. "We can't afford to have a president distracted."

Citing the continuing investigation by Starr, she said, "Nobody can expect the president to say anything more publicly." She added that Clinton's close friend Vernon Jordan, who also faces accusations of encouraging Lewinsky to lie under oath, would say nothing more either.

Later, Mrs. Clinton flew to Hartford, Conn., where she visited a day-care center, took part in a panel discussion at Trinity College and briefly addressed students.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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