Appeal would hurt Clinton on more important points

May 11, 1998

The Detroit Free Press said in an editorial Thursday:

PRESIDENT Clinton ought to accept the ruling that his aides cannot claim executive privilege on the Monica Lewinsky investigation and address whatever substance there is in the argument. That claim may have bought him a little time, but it is ultimately a losing argument and obscures more serious privilege questions.

Judge Norma Hollaway Johnson has evidently ruled that the dTC president cannot claim executive privilege for Bruce Lindsey, Nancy Hernreich or Sidney Blumenthal.

Behind closed doors

Since the procedure has been closed, it's hard to tell precisely what the argument was. But the claim that conversations with them are protected from grand jury questions is thin. If the president appeals, he will be inviting another Supreme Court defeat on a process question.

Other, more legitimate questions -- the obligations of the Secret Service, for instance, and Hillary Rodham Clinton's invocation of spousal privilege -- are weakened by being thrown in with this dubious claim. Those claims are far more deserving and need to be fought as far as it takes to protect the president's rights. Invoking executive privilege with a patently political underling such as Mr. Lindsey cheapens the whole argument.

Mr. Clinton has fared well when he confronts the substance of claims against him. He has not done well on process questions or when he plays for time. He needs to meet the remaining challenges posed either by the Paula Jones lawsuit or by Kenneth Starr's investigations. He does himself no service by trying to win on points or privilege.

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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