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National Perspective

Washington Insight

September 23, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

FASHION NOTES: According to documents released Monday, the president may have misled the public on more than one intimate issue dividing Americans. In 1994, President Clinton, responding to a student's question at an MTV forum, revealed that on the boxers-vs.-briefs debate over men's underwear, he comes down on the side of briefs. But a July 30 memo drawn up by lawyers for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr reports that former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky said Clinton wore boxer shorts on one occasion and blue briefs on another. In another wince-inducing passage from the same memo, gumshoes from the Office of the Independent Counsel reveal that on their way to an assignation, Clinton kidded Lewinsky about the boots she wore to trudge to the office in a snowstorm. "Chelsea has some like that," he observed.

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LEGALLY POSSIBLE: One of the nation's leading privacy experts argues that Clinton has an arguable legal case for suing Congress. Georgetown University law school professor Larry Gostin notes that in 1977, the Supreme Court upheld the idea that even the president enjoys a constitutional right to have some personal information about him protected. Clinton, now fighting for his presidency, is unlikely to press such a case, Gostin acknowledges. But if he did, he could argue that Congress has gone too far, releasing a lot of private information that was unnecessary for a legitimate public purpose, with the intention of embarrassing him and invading his privacy. Gostin advised that the House Judiciary Committee's massive and rapid release of documents, suggesting a less-than-systematic concern for the protection of individuals' privacy, could be Exhibit A in such a suit. And there's a roomful of boxes still to come!

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LITTLE BY LITTLE: U.S.-Iranian relations are thawing, but they're not nearly warm enough to allow an official meeting between the heads of state--even at the United Nations. But in a new diplomatic milestone, there was a long bilateral meeting between their planes of state over the last few days. Last weekend, as White House aides waited aboard Air Force One for Clinton to arrive for the short flight to New York, they were somewhat stunned to see Iran Air--the official plane of Iran's President Mohammed Khatami--land at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. Administration officials, concerned about potential threats to Khatami's plane, made arrangements for the plane and its pilots to stay at Andrews while Khatami was in New York attending the annual opening session on the U.N. General Assembly. In New York, meanwhile, in the highest-level meetings between the two countries in 20 years, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Iranian officials.

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BOTTOM LINE: Gail Jones Sanchez, a school board member from Northern California, had an unenviable task last week as she attempted to persuade members of Congress to put down their reports from Starr long enough to focus on education funding. Here's the gimmick she used as she trolled the halls of the Capitol: At every congressional office, she unveiled a pay stub from her son, Myron R. Sanchez, who is a teacher in Watsonville and makes $1,544.13 a month after taxes--less than $20,000 a year. "I want to show the legislators how little beginning teachers make," she said.

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