Monday, January 26, 1998
Monica's friend anything but

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Friends are supposed to be honest with each other.

That's not what we saw last week with Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky.

Unbeknownst to Monica, Linda turned on her tape recorder while they were talking and then passed the tapes along to law enforcement officials. From what I've read and heard, the tapes allegedly contain discussions about an affair with the president of the United States.

Linda and Monica are friends. Although Linda is 24 years older than Monica, they strolled the malls together. They went shopping. They had lunch. They gabbed on the phone. According to media reports, Monica looked up to the older woman. Linda became her mentor.

Monica confided in her. She felt safe telling Linda things. She should have. They were friends.

While Monica was telling, Linda was taping. She took the tapes to Kenneth Starr. He's investigating the president.

With friends capturing your every word like this, who needs enemies bearing tape recorders?

What Linda did was perfectly legal. And totally rotten.

It's not against federal law to tape these conversations.

Christo Lassiter, University of Cincinnati professor of law, told me that federal statutes are clear on this matter. As long as one of the parties in a two-party chat between private citizens knows that the taping is going on, everything is on the up-and-up.

It's easy, too.

''You can get what you need to do the job at any Radio Shack,'' local private investigator Chuck Klein said.

''It's low-tech. Microcassette recorder, a tape, batteries and a small microphone. But it works.''

I'm not here to debate who's telling the truth in this affair. As far as this part of the story is concerned, it doesn't matter.

What matters is that a friend taped another friend's conversation. And did not share that information with the so-called friend. That's sleazy.

Where I come from, that's not being a friend. That's being two-faced.

Just friends

As soon as he heard the story of what Linda did to her friend Monica, Tony Grasha had a immediate reaction.

''That's no friend,'' the UC psychology professor and expert on relationships told himself. ''That's a false friend.''

To him, ''Tripp was out to get information to pass on to someone else. She passed herself off as a friend. She put on a false face.'' He sees a bizarre trend coming from this.

Since Linda betrayed the lunch-time confidences of Monica, it won't be enough for restaurants to have smoking and non-smoking sections.

''They'll have to have bugged and bug-free rooms,'' he said. And he was only half-kidding.

Friendship rings

False friends come in many sizes. They can get you drunk and drive off with your car. They can kiss and tell. They can spend your money till you're broke. They can ruin your life.

True friends would rather die than do anything like that.

That's why I have always held them in such high esteem. To me, friendship is something sacred.

You don't betray your friends. You don't do things behind their back. You're upfront with them. Always.

If they do something that's wrong, if they are in trouble, it is your right and obligation as a friend to try to set them straight. You tell them what you have seen, why it's wrong, what needs to be done.

And you also make a point of asking: How can I help?

That's what friends do.

You never say: Could you speak a little louder into the microphone?

Friends trust each other. They share their troubles, their dreams and their good news. If you can't talk with a friend, who can you talk with?

This whole sordid business about Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky has me worried. It leaves me wondering: Without friends, where would we be?

In more trouble than we are now.

Presidential Crisis coverage from Associated Press

Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

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