by HELEN THOMAS

Jesse Helms, Monica Lewinsky and Senate Record

WASHINGTON - In the days of old, lawmakers had a lot of immunity on what they said on the floors of Senate and House chambers. But don't count on it in this day of instant communications. Some of the most insulting diatribes by the congressmen against one another often went unreported. Today the lawmakers can scrub the record. But their words are already in the public domain. When Sen. Jesse Helms, Republican from North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered one of the final speeches on the floor before the Senate rejection of the nuclear test ban treaty, he mimicked a mock telephone conversation between President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, claiming Blair said: "Give my regards to Monica."

Helms obviously was referring to Clinton's liaison with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to the impeachment ordeal Clinton survived. Helms was heard by his colleagues and by those in the press gallery. But when reporters looked at the transcript of the day's proceedings, Helms' Monica remark was deleted. A few years ago, Helms told Clinton not to come to North Carolina "without a body guard." He later apologized for that remark. But this time, he is letting stand his widely publicized shot at the president. When Clinton was asked about a possible personal vendetta against him by the GOP, he said he thinks that often in politics "when a person is taking a position that he simply cannot defend, the only defense is to attack the opponent." He added that it showed the opposition "didn't have a very strong case."

Why Clinton won't read 'kiss and tell books' by aides
President Clinton seems to make it a point not to read the many books about himself and about fellow politicians. Some of his loyal aides have rushed into print with their "kiss and tell" books and undoubtedly there will be more after the president leaves office. He reportedly did not read former close aide George Stephanopoulis's tome about the inside workings of the Oval Office or his former political strategist Dick Morris's hardly flattering book. Nor has Clinton read the controversial Edmund Morris biography of former President Reagan, titled "Dutch." The president indicates that he plans to write his memoirs but may take his time after he leaves office.

Clinton may have thought he was home free from Lewinsky questions. But that was not the case at his recent news conference when he was asked to comment on Judge Susan Webber Wright's decision that he intentionally lied in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case deposition. "When I am out of office, I will have a lot to say about this," he said, adding, "Until then, I'm going to honor my commitment...to go back to work."
Thomas, UPI White House reporter, is the longest serving individual to cover the U.S presidency. Her column appears in USAfrica The Newspaper, USAfricaonline.com and The Black Business Journal.