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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Paula Jones' One-Way Ticket to Palookaville

April 03, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

Upon learning in Africa that a sexual harassment lawsuit against him in Arkansas had been thrown out, President Clinton was seen strumming a guitar and drumming a drum. He must be trying to swear off sax.

I can't confirm that the president swung into a medley of "Heartbreak Hotel," "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Me and Mrs. Jones."

But I do know that April Fools' Day was one fine day for our feckless leader.

Clinton got a favorable judgment. If he truly did proposition a woman in a Little Rock hotel, it hadn't been illegal, only "odious."

(Somewhere, Bob Packwood must be asking himself, "How come nobody let ME off with only being odious?")

The reprieved president was relieved.

He immediately broke the good news to his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, that a judge, Susan Webber Wright, had just dashed the hopes of Paula Corbin Jones and her trusty advisor, Susan Carpenter-McMillan, in a case that seemed to affect a tremendous number of women with three names.

Clinton's first reaction was to ask "if it was an April Fools' joke," said Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary.

McCurry should have said, "Yes! Gotcha!

"Your whole staff got together last night and said, 'Let's see. How can we fool the president? I know! Let's tell him his sexual harassment case got dropped! That'll be a RIOT!' "

*

Paula Corbin Jones' 15 minutes might be up. In the last week or two, her face was on the cover of Time. In the last day or two, her face was hard to find. She was secluded inside an apartment in Long Beach, with her husband, her two kids, and probably Kato Kaelin in the guest room.

Her advisor says, "She wants to live in Arkansas and raise her family."

I wish she would.

Her attorneys say she'll appeal.

I wish she wouldn't.

Ms. Jones, leave it alone. A lot of people do believe you. A lot of them also believe that all you had to do was wait. Just wait until the president left office. Sue him then. Treat him "like any other citizen" then. But no, you had to drag the chief of state of the most powerful nation in the world through this squalor now, midterm, just because you couldn't wait any longer for your pound of flesh.

Because that's all this case was ever about.

It wasn't about money. Clinton's lawyers reportedly offered Jones a tidy sum to make this case go away.

No, she had to have an apology. Lust means having to say you're sorry.

Either that, or she had to have the president's head (or whatever) on a platter.

It couldn't wait until 2001. Forget the government, forget the economy, forget Iraq, forget everything, just get that naughty Democrat in here and prove he misbehaved.

That 1991 hotel incident supposedly left Jones with "sexual aversion trauma," which will undoubtedly be the subject of an upcoming Jerry Springer.

("My Sister Met the Governor and Now She's Got Sexual Aversion.")

But the judge tossed the case, claiming Clinton's alleged conduct "did not result in any physical harm . . . did not result in distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it."

Legally, her honor could find no reason to proceed with a May trial.

If Jones' lawyers ask a court of appeal to reverse the judge, however, this thing could drag on, and on, and on, into the next century, throughout the Clinton presidency and right into the Colin Powell administration.

Hey, Paula:

Be a reasonable person. Let it go. If you've got a life, get on with it.

*

I have to be honest, though. I'm a little disappointed. I was intrigued by how the trial in Arkansas would go.

"Please state your name and address."

"William Jefferson Clinton, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington."

"And what is your occupation?"

"President of the United States."

"And when you were governor of Arkansas, do you recall being alone with a woman in a hotel room?"

"Could you be more specific?"

"With that woman over there?"

"Which one? The tall one?"

"No."

"The blond, on the jury?"

"No! I mean Ms. Jones!"

"Oh. Uh, I don't recall."

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