Goldberg delights in tripping up Clinton Scandal: With a measure of pride and a sense of vindication, a self-proclaimed Clinton hater surveys all that she has wrought.

September 27, 1998|By Jeff Stein

IT'S STILL dark in Manhattan, but on the morning of President Bill Clinton's televised testimony, Lucianne Goldberg is up and tapping away at her computer, sending e-mail, monitoring the flashing lights on her telephone console, drinking coffee and smoking the first of her Larks from an 18-carat Dunhill holder from Harrods.

"I got my M&Ms, my popcorn, my vat of coffee," she writes gleefully in an e-mail message to me, anticipating the beleaguered president's grand jury tape. "Yes, we Clinton haters love this stuff."

Tap-tap-tap. I can almost hear her trademark whiskey cackle through cyberspace. "I have to do two television shows later today, so I better work up some opinion on it all," she writes to me. "Oops - they just showed a picture of the spinach dip dress! Gotta go wallow."

Every scandal has its Deep Throat, its player behind the scenes. Zippergate, as it's been called, has Lucianne Goldberg, the 6-foot-tall, blond-haired Brunhild of the anti-Clinton right. If the president ever gets into a helicopter for a premature final flight from the White House lawn, he can blame the Manhattan-based literary agent for his downfall.

Goldberg, as "insiders" know, set the philandering president into a free fall when she persuaded her pal Linda Tripp, the disgruntled White House office snitch, to tape her telephone conversations with 20-something sob sister Monica Lewinsky, the president's erstwhile girlfriend. Then, off they went to Kenneth Starr, the former Bible salesman with the bottomless investigative budget. The rest is not quite history, but Lucianne Goldberg has certainly made the history books.

A measure of pride

In a cyber-conversation held last week as the nation digested Clinton's TV testimony, Goldberg surveyed all she had wrought with a measure of pride.

Everything she revealed about Clinton and Lewinsky back in January had turned out to be true, she crows.

"Every stroke of it. I said that this was gonna happen, that this was all true, that everything Linda said, and I said in her stead, would pan out. I said just wait, and you'll see. There's been some wacko stories out there, but they didn't come from this office," she insists.

Speaking of wacko stories, "Some talk jock in Florida called and suggested the National Enquirer's next story is about bondage with neckties," she tells me.

"This is all news to me. I'm supposed to be the authority, because I know what's on the tapes. But I never heard of the cigar stuff. That came from grand jury testimony," she adds.

It's all over but the impeachment proceedings and book auctions. Offers for Lewinsky's first-person tale have reportedly reached $10 million, though "respected" publishers are turning up their noses. Goldberg's own client, Tripp, might fetch considerably less, I suggest, because the public sees her as "the office snitch."

"That's because we haven't had an opportunity to spin her!" Goldberg retorts. "I mean, c'mon!"

Goldberg and her friend Linda Tripp, insists Goldberg, are "just two menopausal broads who've been fighting the biggest, most vicious slime machine in history. That's what its been - it's no exaggeration. They could make Mother Teresa look like a hooker, for Chrissakes."

Meanwhile, Starr's office has cast a gimlet eye on Linda Tripp's tapes, alleging in a footnote to last week's supplementary report that the cassettes might have been altered or illegally copied. If Tripp copied them herself, or knew about their being copied, she might have committed perjury, Starr's office says. She is also under investigation by Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who wants to determine whether Tripp violated state law by taping Lewinsky, without her consent.

Goldberg smells a rat.

Conspiracy theory

"The number of tapes duplicated gets bigger and bigger," she writes, saying the reported number was only four a few weeks ago - "four dubbed with some start and stop action, that's all" - and now it's nine.

"Anyway, they weren't altered, they were copied, and we know who did it," she adds coyly. "Dum-de-dum-dum."

"I don't know what Starr is up to," she adds, "but I'm going to find out. It may be a ploy. This whole thing is being orchestrated."

By who?

"Who do you think?" she shoots back, evidently accusing the White House.

Starr and the White House hand in glove? Some conspiracy that would be. But if anybody can dig up more intrigue in Democratic ranks, it's the brash-talking impresario with the anti-liberal agenda.

Ironically, Goldberg was a Democrat, a volunteer in the Kennedy White House. She was a "press bunny" in the Lyndon Johnson campaign. But when the Democrats turned left, she turned right and launched a career in the dirty-tricks trade.

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