The Monica Tapes



A different kind of look into Bill's mind appears in the tapes of Monica Lewinsky's  phone calls to Linda Tripp made during the last three months of 1997. These calls were recorded by Linda without Monica's knowledge  for Special Prosecutor Ken Starr and are a part of the  evidence released by the House Judiciary Committee on thirty seven tapes with a playing time of twenty two hours. I listened to the tapes during a marathon broadcast on KSFO in San Francisco from Friday to Sunday in November l998.

These tapes are a longer and more emotional version of Monica's testimony before the grand jury. Through Monica's love,  anger and depression we hear about Bill and their failed relationship. No one altered Monica's oral diary unlike the books written by Bill's friends which went through an editorial process.  Monica talked to Linda several times a day for over a year but is on tape from October  to December 1997 after she and Bill had been lovers for eighteen months  from November 1995 to May 1997.  Bill's other lovers, Gennifer and Dolly  who told their stories in books  had longer relationships with Bill,  twelve and thirty three years respectively but their fantasies, activities and visits with Bill were not verified by physical evidence, logs, witnesses, interrogations or tapes although there were Gennifer-Bill telephone recordings made public in 1992.

After their affair was over, Monica remained in contact with Bill and sought a job in New York where her mother lived. She didn't find a job she wanted despite the help of UN Ambassador Bill Richardson and Bill's friend, Vernon Jordan. Some of the phone conversations are about this job search. Finally the demand of Paula Jones' attorneys for a deposition led to her affidavit denying a sexual relationship with Bill.  After being threatened with a perjury charge by the Special Prosecutor, she negotiated immunity from prosecution and then testified before a grand jury in August 1998.  It was reported in November 1998 that she was going to do a television interview with Barbara Walters and write a book.

The hours of rambling dialogue are evocative of Handsome Bill as Monica longs for a call from him, wants him to get her a job, plots to conceal their relationship from deposition and is suspicious, angry and tearful. The subject of this serious girl talk is mostly Monica in jokey and chatty tones with threads about love, friends, hair, food, weight, moms, clothes and travel. Monica's posture was naive and questioning while Linda was tutorial about jobs and relationships. Monica's need for attention interrupted Linda's television time so it is heard in the background. One hears fragments of Linda's conversations with her cat and dog and sometimes she talks to visitors. At times the calls interfered with Linda's meals so the talk went on as she ate. They gossip about friends and coworkers whose names are sometimes deleted. Expletives are censored. Monica's endurance on the phone often exceeds Linda's bedtime so she pleads for sleep and signs off.

Monica says Bill is "hiding" and wonders if "he stopped liking me" or if he has a new relationship. She is obsessive about Bill and she speculates wildly, "maybe he's on drugs" when he doesn't call back.  At other times Monica feels sabotaged by the White House staff in her efforts to reach Bill with gifts, notes and an appointment. Anger and depression are heard as Monica says that Bill "yelled at me... he scared me." Appointments with Bill are made and broken. The emphasis shifts over time from her return to a job at the White House to work in New York to get away from Washington and to the private sector to get away from the government. Reality intrudes at times when Linda  says of Bill, "he's a guy" and Monica agrees. Linda's judgment is that "he needs supervision" and they recall the role of Betsey Wright who screened the women coming to Governor Bill's  office in Arkansas.

Linda was told to make the tapes by Lucienne Goldberg who said she should to do this to protect herself from being "destroyed," that is called a liar after she told the story of Bill's affair with Monica to Ken Starr. Linda had a right wing orientation like the other conservative Republicans who facilitated the Monica tapes,  Lucienne Goldberg,  Ken Starr and the Jones' attorneys. Literary agent Goldberg said maybe Linda would get a book contract for the story of the President's affair with Monica.

The relationship  between Monica and Bill can be approached in terms of the stereotypes. Monica is a material girl of the Madonna legend seeking fun and connections, love and sex, success and fame, a Los Angeles vixen with big hair, a big chest and a short skirt among the White House suits and secretaries. Monica jokes about asking Bill for a position as the President's special assistant for blow jobs and she wants them to run away together. While in mourning for the lost Bill, she has an affair with   "a nutrition guy" at at a fat farm mentioned in the tabloid press and she notices that Vernon Jordan is "quite the ladies' man."

Bill fits the errant husband formula,  a horny fifty who seeks sexual conquests with charm and explanations about his need for love. Like a country western ballad,  Bill tells Monica as he had told Gennifer and Dolly about his loveless marriage with a cold, bad tempered wife who is a lesbian.

What can we learn about Bill Clinton's inner life from the Monica-Linda tapes that we don't already know? Bill's passivity, deceptiveness and charisma are among his many traits  listed earlier  but they receive new dimensions from the words of Monica, the Wounded Stalker and Linda, the Righteous Snitch. Monica and Linda are both stressed during their intersection and their insights reflect this anxiety. Bill emerges from this dialogue as more passive in his relationship with Monica then in his earlier love affairs with Dolly and Gennifer or in his courtship of Hillary for that matter. He met Hillary in his twenties and Gennifer in his thirties.  He met Dolly in his teens when he was really quite inhibited in his relations with girls but later in his twenties and thirties he was not so passive in his affair with her .

Does passivity in love mean passivity in life or for that matter does activity in affairs of the heart mean an aggressive career?  Of course not but love is life. Examples  muster themselves. Monogamous Truman was at least as  active in love as adulterous Roosevelt. Both were active Presidents.  LBJ was an active President while Bush was a more  passive president though both had affairs.

Bill's deceptions speak in the tapes. His changes of mind

and heart during their affair deceive Monica and perhaps Bill  himself according to the Monica-Linda tape duet. This is illustrative of his narcissism and superego deficits which affect both his political and sexual behavior. Bill believes everything he says at the time he says it according to biographer David Maraniss. Narcissists need instant gratification and one of the ways to get it is to offer it to your lovers, voters and friends. This brings us back to the flaws of Bill's superego  described in the section on this topic.

Bill's  charisma is elusive. I've already assigned his sex appeal for both women and men to Bill's genetics with a reference to Elvis but this discounts his performance.  Monica saw Bill as a "a beautiful soul...this incredible person...a little boy...I fell in love (with the President on) July 4, l997."  Billy Graham, the evangelist says Bill has "a tremendous personality" that  makes the women "go wild." A man whose only meeting with President Bill was a chance encounter in a country restaurant recalls the raw emotional power of Bill's intensive listening to him express his political opinions. Bill wasn't talking; he was listening.

-December 25, 1998, pl


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An excerpt from Bill Clinton Meets The Shrinks, by Paul Lowinger
Copyright 1998 by Paul Lowinger


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The "Unofficial" Bill Clinton