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Pundits Ponder Clinton Calm

Political pundits and legal experts have been watching the movements of President Clinton and independent counsel Kenneth Starr, analyzing both men as the Monica Lewinsky investigation approaches a possible boiling point.

Although Starr addressed an Institute of Judicial Administration in Toronto, he made no mention of the Lewinsky case. Sticking to his topic - the recent Supreme Court term - Starr did mention a recent decision reaffirming that the attorney-client privilege extends beyond death.

(Click here for an explanation of attorney-client privilege by CBS News Legal Correspondent Kristin Jeannette-Meyers.)

Starr lost that case in the high court when he sought the notes an attorney had taken of a conversation with Vincent Foster, just before the White House aide was found dead.

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According to a source, the White House plans to appeal to the Supreme Court to stop Starr's demand that presidential confidant Bruce Lindsey testify before the Monica Lewinsky grand jury.

Beyond the appeals to maintain attorney-client privilege, Mr. Clinton has portrayed a cool non-reaction to the investigation, including news last week that Lewinsky had received immunity from Starr. Mr. Clinton's calm has been a cause for closer speculation into what spin doctors may be advising the president to say when he testifies before a grand jury on Aug. 17.

Howard Kurtz, political author and Washington Post writer, told CBS 'This Morning' Co-Anchor Jane Robelot that the president "has always been extroardinarily discliplined at 'compartmentalizing'," a term that explains his unconcerned public image in a time of political crisis.

This demeanor is meant to show the public that Mr. Clinton is hard at work on the American public's problems, and not distracted by other issues, Kurtz said.

Although Kurtz says he doesn't expect the president to offer a mea culpa confession to the public, other observers of the investigation are calling for just that.

Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers says her old boss, President Clinton, may have to "change his story in some substantial way" in his grand jury testimony about Lewinsky.

Mr. Clinton needs to give the public "some overarching explanation" for his relationship with the former intern, Myers said at an American Bar Association discussion Sunday on Starr's investigation.

Starr's spokesman, Charles Bakaly, defended his boss as a "very duty-bound" person who will submit a report to the House on his investigation if he believes a report is warranted.
"The only persn in this room that knows any of the factsÂ…is me, and I can't talk about them," Bakaly said.

Starr had been scheduled to appear on the panel, but he canceled and sent Bakaly in his place.

ABA President-elect Philip Anderson questioned Starr's judgment in taking on the Lewinsky matter at all.

"I think the judgment of the public in this case will be that, in the exercise of wise prosecutorial discretion, this matter should not have been pursued," said Anderson, who once worked in the same Little Rock, Ark., law firm as Mr. Clinton.

Anderson said the investigation was weakening public confidence in the judicial system. "I think the public sees a judicial system that has become a captive of our political system," he said.

Myers said she did not know the facts and did not want to guess at potential changes in Mr. Clinton's previous explanations and denial of any sexual involvement with Lewinsky.

"If he sticks to his gunsÂ…this thing never dies," she said. "If he tells whatever the truth isÂ…I think the American people are very forgiving."

Bakaly defended the length of the investigation, saying President Clinton began asserting legal privilege less than a month after Starr began inquiring in January whether the president had sex with Lewinsky and illegally tried to cover it up.

Other lawyers attending the ABA's annual meeting seemed as divided as other Americans over the investigation.

Their verdict: Starr's lawyering is brilliant. But some attorneys questioned using those talents to investigate the Lewinsky allegations.

"Starr's completely out of control," said Arthur Olick of New York City, a former federal prosecutor who now practices criminal and civil law. "He's unlimited and uncontrolled; he's a new branch of government."