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National Perspective

Washington Insight

September 30, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

NO DEAL: And the winner of the first-TV talk with world-famous former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky is . . . Oprah? Nope. Winfrey announced the non-interview on her show Tuesday, explaining that when Lewinsky's people asked to sell foreign rights to the interview, she backed out. Although the selling of such rights is not unprecedented, Winfrey said it felt too much like she was paying for the interview. Lewinsky's spokeswoman, Judy Smith, wouldn't comment. Who's next? Barbara, Larry, Katie? Stay tuned.

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ROLLING: Before Linda Tripp taped Lewinsky, Lucianne Goldberg taped Linda Tripp. Twice--on Sept. 18, 1997, and 10 days later--Tripp's former literary agent and confidante Goldberg recorded her phone conversations with Tripp as the two discussed how to document the stuff of brewing White House scandal. "I always tape my important calls," Goldberg says. In response to a subpoena, Goldberg said, she turned her Tripp tapes over to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, along with the Lewinsky tapes she had. The conversations include Goldberg's urging, Tripp's agonizing and her final decision to go ahead with the plan. One important difference between the two sets of cassettes: Tripp, unlike Lewinsky, knew her words were being saved for posterity, Goldberg says.

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NABBED! Moles, the spying kind, have long been a top concern of the FBI and other intelligence agencies. But it was mice and related health code violations--"plumbing fixtures in disrepair, unclean food contact surfaces," etc.--that closed the cafeteria on the 8th floor of the FBI's forbidding headquarters in Washington for two days last week. "I'm surprised they didn't get it for being too leaky," says one government wag. Not noted for its tolerance of criticism, the FBI reacted to the slap from the health department by dispatching its own cleaning crew to attack the problems, which it blames on a private food contractor.

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NEWS UP CLOSE: When Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott turned on the news Monday to catch up on Hurricane Georges, he got more than he expected. CBS-TV's Dan Rather, as it turned out, was broadcasting from Lott's front yard in Pascagoula, Miss. "And I could observe the debris and parts of piers and cement blocks sitting in my front yard," Lott told reporters Tuesday. But there was no shot of the house, so the Republican leader returned home Tuesday to have a look.

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MONICA-FREE: A smiling Mike McCurry, the soon-to-depart White House press secretary, happily reported that the news media in Portugal had agreed to restrict their coverage of the president's private life. But, he added, there was no truth to the idea that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had proposed permanent U.N. Security Council membership for Portugal.

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RATS AGAIN: For decades, the White House has been plagued by rodents. Mice have shown up in the Oval Office from time to time. Most recently, the problem was a rat, discovered by Peter Maer of CBS News when he arrived in the press room at 6:10 a.m. McCurry said the General Services Administration promised to deploy the necessary traps to capture and exterminate the creature. He apologized to any persons who were offended by an encounter with a rat in the press room. "I know the feeling," he said.

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