Timothy Noah: Happy Birthday, Monicagate! An affair to forget.

Roundup: Talking About History

The press loves anniversaries of big public events because they're predictable, a quality seldom found in the news. Coverage can be planned in advance. Stories can be written, laid out, and put to bed without any worry that later developments will compel revisions. Sputnik is turning 50? Let's cover it. The only thing it can possibly do while we're not looking is turn 51.
Given this predisposition, I find it worth studying the rare instances when the press accords a significant anniversary little attention. In November 2006, I offered a few tentative thoughts about why the 20th anniversary of the Iran-Contra scandal went largely ignored. Today, let's consider the 10th anniversary of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

It was 10 years ago on Jan. 12 that Linda Tripp notified Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's office that she had audiotapes of Monica Lewinsky telling her that she'd had an affair with President Bill Clinton, and that he'd urged her to lie if asked about it under oath. (For the full chronology, click here.) Ten years ago on Jan. 13, Tripp wore a Federal Bureau of Investigation wire while discussing this further with Lewinsky at a hotel bar in the Pentagon City shopping mall. Ten years ago on Jan. 16, the FBI had Tripp lure Lewinsky to the bar once again, this time to allow FBI agents to swoop down on Lewinsky, haul her off to a hotel room, and question her about the affair and whether the president had suborned perjury or obstructed justice. Ten years ago on Jan. 17, President Clinton, while being deposed by lawyers for Paula Jones—the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging that Clinton harassed her sexually while he was governor of Arkansas—stumbled into the perjury trap that Starr had set:

Q. Did you have an extramarital sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky?
A. No.
Q. If she told someone that she had a sexual affair with you beginning in November of 1995, would that be a lie?
A. It's certainly not the truth. It would not be the truth.
Q. I think I used the term ''sexual affair.'' And so the record is completely clear, have you ever had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, as that term is defined in Deposition Exhibit 1, as modified by the Court. ...
A. I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her.

Ten years ago on Jan. 19, Matt Drudge ran an item about all this on his Web site, the Drudge Report, cribbing from an unpublished Newsweek story. As I write this, not even Drudge is flogging the anniversary!...

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