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Hill Still Standing By Her Man

Five days remain until President Clinton is scheduled to testify before Ken Starr's grand jury. The showdown is Monday.

Between now and then, the president and his advisers will be concentrating on what to do, how to do it, and how to handle the critical first days and hours after he does it.

The adversary circle is small and tight. No more than half a dozen, usually less, especially when the most sensitive things are discussed.

Mrs. Clinton heads and leads the circle. Whatever she thinks of what her husband has done and however they are dealing with it between themselves, Hillary remains a lioness in his defense.

In l992, when Clinton's campaign for the presidency was wobbling, Mrs. Clinton invoked Tammy Wynett's country-music mantra "Stand By Your Man." Well, in light of all that has happened since, one wag has said, "Even Tammy Wynett would sitting down by this time." Well, maybe. But not Hillary.

She is once again demonstrating a fight-to-the-finish, never-give-in determination. For better or for worse, she remains in many ways the heart and soul of the Clinton presidency. She is certainly Mr. Clinton's own Secretary for Defense.

Does even the first lady know, really know, all that her man has done? Who knows, who can say? What we do know is that in these crucial days and hours, she is leading the team deciding what to do before the grand jury and planning a course for the critical, perhaps decisive hours and days immediately after the Monday showdown.

One of the things that has been discussed inside the White House, and apparently in the tight, inner circle, is the possibility of the president speaking to the American people Sunday night, before the grand jury appearance.

Current indications are that this idea is losing out in favor of the president addressing the nation shortly after his grand jury ordeal. But there are also arguments against that.

The point is that many of the most important decision have not yet been finally made. They still are in the process of being decided.

Starr, too, of course, has some important decisions in the process of being made.

Does he or does he not take what it has to Congress in September? Does he or does he not concentrate in his report to Congress mostly if not entirely on the Monica Lewinsky business in his effort to convince Congress that the president has committed perjury and obstruction of justice.?

These are the hours and days of decision. They are not easy for any of those involved.

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