"Meet the Press"

(The following, provided by NBC News, is a transcript of "Meet the Press" from Sunday, March 1, 1998.)

       Tim Russert NBC News

       David Broder "Washington Post"
       Robert Novak "Chicago Sun-Times"
       David Maraniss Clinton Biographer
       Margaret Carlson "Time Magazine"

       God Supreme Being

       MR. RUSSERT: Welcome again to "Meet the Press." Our issue this Sunday morning: Crisis in the White House. Is the President on a collision course with the House Judiciary Committee? Will it go that far? Will he be forced to resign? And what about all these leaks? We'll bring in our roundtable panelists in a moment, but first, let's turn to our special guest this morning, God. It's good to have you here.

       GOD: Thank you. It's good to be here.

       MR. RUSSERT: First of all, tell us, have you been following this mess in Washington?

       GOD: Yes, I have.

       MR. RUSSERT: And what do you think? Are you upset by what's going on?

       GOD: Yes, I am upset by what's going on in Washington -- as I am about a lot of things. It doesn't speak well for mankind.

       MR. RUSSERT: It certainly doesn't speak well for the current state of politics, or the media. Nevertheless, I'm sure the question on most people's minds is whether or not the President of the United States is telling the truth, and I'll make that my first question to you: is Bill Clinton telling the truth?

       GOD: About what?

       MR. RUSSERT: About his alleged affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky who, it has been reported, visited the White House thirty-seven times after her employment there, ostensibly to carry on a sexual relationship with him. He says there was no sexual relationship, in spite of overwhelming circumstantial evidence to the contrary, and he claims he never coached, or advised anyone, meaning Ms. Lewinsky, to lie under oath. Well, what is it? Is the President telling the truth? Or is he lying?

       GOD: You said a mouthful there -- no pun intended -- but let me take them one at a time, if you will. First of all, she visited the White House forty-nine times, not thirty-seven.

       MR. RUSSERT: Really? Forty-nine visits to the West Wing of the White House?

       GOD: Yes -- well, most were to the West Wing. Forty-four, to be exact. Three times they met in the sauna, once in the screening room in the East Wing, and once in the pantry behind the kitchen.

       MR. RUSSERT: And, did she, did they have, sexual relations?

       GOD: Just oral sex. But it was pretty intense.

       MR. RUSSERT: So I guess that puts the kibosh to the President's adamant denials of any kind of sexual relationship -- but what about suborning perjury? Did he tell her to lie in her deposition? Did he tell Monica Lewinsky to lie to Ken Starr?

       GOD: Well, no, not exactly.

       MR. RUSSERT: What do you mean, not exactly?

       GOD: He told her not to say "anything but the truth." He didn't say she couldn't lie.

       MR. RUSSERT: I don't understand.

       GOD: It's legal semantics, with the idea it could get him off -- again, no pun intended. You see, he said "don't say anything but the truth" so that later on, when they ask him if he told her to lie, he can say, "I never asked anyone to tell anything but the truth."

       MR. RUSSERT: So it sounds to me as if he was hanging her out to dry. She could lie, but he wouldn't back her up if it came to it.

       GOD: If it came to what?

       MR. RUSSERT: If it came to Ms. Lewinsky being prosecuted for, essentially, lying to protect the President.

       GOD: I guess you could characterize it that way.

       MR. RUSSERT: And what about all these leaks? Where are they coming from?

       GOD: Practically every leak has come from someone who works for independent counsel Kenneth Starr. I won't name him. A couple of leaks relating to Ms. Lewinsky's statements to Linda Tripp that she had lied in the past came from the White House.

       MR. RUSSERT: Could you tell us who in the White House?

       GOD: Again, I won't name names, but it's someone who works with Paul Begala.

       MR. RUSSERT: Okay, let's bring in our panel: from the Washington Post, veteran columnist David Broder; Bob Novak from the Chicago Sun-Times; Clinton biographer David Maraniss; and, from Time Magazine, Margaret Carlson. Let's start with David Broder.

       MR. BRODER: Thank you. God, did I hear you correctly when you said Monica Lewinsky made forty-nine visits to the White House to see the President?

       GOD: That's correct.

       MR. BRODER: How did she slip through unnoticed and, apparently, unlogged by White House security?

       GOD: It wasn't very hard. It's not like people didn't know what was going on.

       MR. BRODER: Is that true? Were people in the White House aware that the President was carrying on an affair with a twenty-four year old intern?

       GOD: Yes, most of them, to varying degrees. You'd have to be blind not to notice.

       MR. BRODER: So, it would seem there are a lot of people willing to go down with the President.

       GOD: No pun intended.

       MR. RUSSERT: Bob Novak. Like many conservatives, you've stayed on the sidelines throughout this crisis. Have God's answers to these very critical questions gotten your dander up?

       MR. NOVAK: Oh, my dander's been up for quite awhile. I was just waiting for the story to really break before I chimed in. And it looks like this is the break, or "smoking gun." Tell me, God, because I'm not all that clear about what you said before regarding Mr. Clinton's coaching of Ms. Lewinsky's testimony: Did he or did he not ask her to lie to Ken Starr?

       GOD: Again, it's a matter of semantics. Of course, he was hoping she would lie on his behalf, but he had to leave himself an out, and that's why he used that terminology.

       MR. NOVAK: Well, I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the President has committed an impeachable offense.

       MR. RUSSERT: Bob, in case you haven't noticed, the polls are saying the country is fed up with this story. So why are we prolonging it?

       MR. NOVAK: To get at the truth.

       MR. RUSSERT: Well, you just heard the truth.

       MR. NOVAK: And the truth is that the President had an affair with a twenty-four year old intern and then asked her to lie about it when deposed by the independent counsel. I've never heard of anything so outrageous in all my life. Let me ask you this, God: did Vernon Jordan go to this young woman and tell her in no uncertain terms that she could have a job at Revlon -- or the United Nations -- as long as she denied having a sexual relationship with the President?

       GOD: Well, he was a little less obvious than that.

       MR. NOVAK: But he was, basically, bribing her with a nice job in order to buy her silence? Isn't that correct?

       GOD: Well, basically, yes.

       MR. RUSSERT: David Maraniss, you've written the definitive biography of Bill Clinton, maybe you can shed some light on his questionable behavior, which seems, by this point, to be almost pathological.

       MR. MARANISS: It certainly appears that way, but if you go back to his early days in Arkansas you find a young man with an exuberant love of life, and women, and a strange fascination for taking chances with women, many of whom have remained loyal to him and have kept surprisingly quiet about their respective affairs.

       GOD: The President's made love to two hundred and thirty-one women.

       MR. RUSSERT: But it could be the one woman he technically never did make love to who is the cause of his downfall. What do you think about all this, Margaret Carlson?

       MS. CARLSON: I can tell you this: I hope God leaves my personal history alone. But seriously, so what if Mr. Clinton fooled around? It's none of our business. I don't care if it was forty-nine times or a hundred and forty-nine times. I don't care if he's made love to two hundred and thirty-one women or a thousand women. And I don't care if it was oral sex or anything else. It's not our business.

       MR. RUSSERT: And you don't think lying to the American people and asking someone to lie for him is our business? Remember, we elected this man, we hired him to run our country. What kind of moral leadership is he providing if we're all aware that he's been lying to us?

       MS. CARLSON: The public doesn't care.

       MR. NOVAK: Well, it should.

       MR. RUSSERT: David Maraniss, they used to call Bill Clinton "the comeback kid." Can he come back from all this?

       MR. MARANISS: It never pays to bet against him. His whole political history has been one marked by defeat followed by a miraculous redemption. I wouldn't be surprised by anything at this point.

       MR. RUSSERT: If the economy, let's say hypothetically, if the economy were faltering, rather than booming as it is, do you think Bill Clinton would still have a nearly seventy percent approval rating in the polls?

       GOD: Me?

       MR. RUSSERT: No -- David Maraniss.

       MR. MARANISS: Oh, no, I don't think any President would be popular during a faltering economy.

       GOD: What about Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

       MR. MARANISS: Well, the Depression wasn't his doing. He was sworn in more than three years after the market crashed.

       MR. RUSSERT: Let's go around one last time...David Broder, your final words.

       MR. BRODER: I hope that, whatever the outcome, that this situation be resolved, and quickly, so we can move on to Social Security, the crisis in the Gulf, and other matters.

       MR. RUSSERT: Bob Novak?

       MR. NOVAK: I'd like to second what David Maraniss said, that if the economy were going badly, Mr. Clinton right now would be on a one-way flight back to Arkansas.

       MR. RUSSERT: David Maraniss?

       MR. MARANISS: Well, even after hearing the facts, I say we should never underestimate the resiliency of William Jefferson Clinton. He's proven us wrong so many times before.

       MR. RUSSERT: Margaret Carlson?

       MS. CARLSON: I find it ludicrous that, because he's President, Bill Clinton has to endure infinitely greater scrutiny of his private life than, say, a president of a corporation. Why don't we just leave him alone and let him do what we elected him to do -- run the country.

       MR. RUSSERT: And finally, God, what do you think will happen next? Can the President hang on? Will he resign? Will he be impeached? And how will the world react if he is? Surely, you know what's going to happen.

       GOD: I know, but I won't say.

       MR. RUSSERT: No? Not even a brief glimpse of the immediate future?

       GOD: Well, all right. The President will be impeached in the House, but avoid conviction in the Senate.

       MR. RUSSERT: And when will this happen?

       GOD: In late December, early January.

       MR. RUSSERT: Well, that wraps up another edition of "Meet the Press." David Broder, David Maraniss, Bob Novak, Margaret Carlson, and of course, God, thank you all. Next week, the attorney for Monica Lewinsky, William Ginsburg, will be here, along with the President's longtime friend and defender, James Carville, plus Internet gossip-monger Matt Drudge, and our special guest will be former Clinton advisor George Stephanopolous, whose recent statements have distanced him from the President but may have brought him closer to a run at a Senate seat in New York. All that and more, next week on "Meet the Press."

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