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16 January 1999

Smile-a-while: Forever officially young

Synopsis: A misinformed manager made it legal--Mo’s forever young.

Statement by Rep. James Rogan (R-CA)
United States Senate, 1/14/99

We’re pretty sure you know the drill. Monica Lewinsky turned 22 on July 23, 1995, four months before she met The Big He. So President Clinton never laid eyes on that “21-year-old intern” we’ve all heard described. In fact, by the time Mo flashed her thong at Vile, she was almost 22 and a half!

But saying “21” just sounded so good, conservative spinners couldn’t resist it; they proved it wasn’t only Vile who had fallen in love with Mo’s youth. And, given the inability of the mainstream press to resolve the simplest issues of fact, they were all soon describing that “21-year-old intern” whom Wild Bill had in fact never touched. (For past reports on the age-of-Mo, see archive listings, below.)

But when it comes to sensitive matters like this, one wants to believe that a lady is legal. So we were especially thrilled, on Thursday last, as somber House managers took to the senate, and the much-praised Jim Rogan recorded Mo’s age in the annals of solemn proceedings:

ROGAN: The president committed perjury before the grand jury when he testified about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old intern who by definition was a subordinate government employee...

The analysts roared here at HOWLER World Headquarters. Six minutes later, he did it again:

ROGAN: The president said his sexual contact with Ms. Lewinsky began in 1996 and not in 1995, as Ms. Lewinsky had testified. This was not a mere slip of memory...You see, under the president’s version, in 1996, Monica Lewinsky was a paid White House employee. Under the facts as testified to by Ms. Lewinsky, when the relationship really began in 1995, she was not a paid employee at the White House, she was a young, 21-year-old White House intern.

Needless to say, our blood simply boiled at the thought that Bill Clinton would mislead us about minor facts!

But why in the world should we be surprised that Rogan misstated the matter? All over Washington, pundit-penseurs had also made Mo forever young. Mary McGrory, in the Washington Post, the same day that Rogan spoke:

MC GRORY (1/14): Others involved in the scandal have done stupid things, including the president, who in the middle of fighting a court case on sexual harassment, embarked on an affair with a 21-year-old intern.

Mark Shields, it turned out, had done a silly thing too, in the Post back on 12/29:

SHIELDS: In his three public statements since admitting to an “inappropriate relationship” with a 21-year-old White House intern, Clinton had revealed a political tin ear.

We hear you! Our favorite Post foible occurred on 1/10, as Post polling director Richard Morin discussed the wording of past poll questions:

MORIN: Language problems have challenged pollsters from the very start of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Among the first: How to describe Monica herself? The Washington Post’s first survey questions referred to her as a “21-year-old intern at the White House.”

Nothing biased about wording like that. Even our sagacious buddy, Walter Shapiro, had stumbled (USA Today, 12/11):

SHAPIRO: I’m not in the mood to analyze the evidence for impeachment or to review the depressing details of Clinton’s self-destructive entanglement with a 21-year-old intern.

If it were anyone but Walter, we’d have some fun with the stated reluctance to focus on facts.

Yep--all over town, pundits seemed to agree. With Monica frozen at age 21, the story just read a lot better. And indeed, even Ken Starr had felt that way, back when he penned his Starr Report. He could have stated her age correctly. But even Starr spun--he tortured his logic--to keep his dear girl 21:

STARR REPORT: Monica Lewinsky worked at the White House, first as an intern and then as an employee, from July 1995 to April 1996. With the assistance of family friend Walter Kaye, a prominent contributor to political causes, she obtained an internship starting in early July, when she was 21 years old.

Well--that’s how he told the tale in big print. But down in the footnotes, in the world’s smallest print:

STARR REPORT: Ms. Lewinsky turned 22 on July 23.

She was a “21-year-old intern” for roughly two weeks. That’s the period Ken Starr set in stone.

Just remember folks, it isn’t the sex. This scandal? It’s all about lying.

Visit our incomparable archives: Enjoy every installment in our age-of-Mo series:

THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/8/98: Forever young
THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/98: Still forever young
THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/10/98: Leno gets it right!
THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/11/98: Still forever young, continued