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The Truth, Mainly - 07/14/1997

Deep gloom descends over our Salacious Gossip Focus Group

Well, shoot.

That's what we'd say in my hometown when a particularly salacious piece of gossip died on the vine before we could get the full flavor of it.

You know—when Billy Bob took Carlotta Mae to Dodge City and didn't come back until the next day. Not for the salacious reason we all hoped would enliven us, but because, as it turned out, Carlotta Mae's grandma's gall bladder was acting up again and needed sympathy.

We were sorry about the gall bladder, but we were even sorrier that our worst hopes didn't pan out.

And now those of us in my Salacious Gossip Focus Group are saying "Well, shoot" because it looks a little less certain this month that the Paula Jones case against Bill Clinton will pan out.

Our group was founded back in 1993, its task "to identify salacious non-issues to distract voter attention from national health care. That assignment—along with beer and pizza money—was provided by something called GOPAC. Whatever that was.

We had lots of fun talking about Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones and Madonna and Marilyn Monroe. She's not really dead, you know. Lives in the White House basement, luscious as ever.

And we even mixed a little political analysis with our salacious gossip and came up with an explanation of the President's behavior:

He began his Presidency trying to be a good Democrat—attempting things like integrating gays and lesbians into the military, making our health care less about profits and more about taking care of sick people, even if they're poor. But he got his feelings hurt when the other side said bad things about those proposals, so he began acting like a Republican on the grounds that if you can't beat them you should join them.

But a Democrat can't act like a Republican for long, we decided, without damaging his psyche. And it was our focus group's fascination with the salacious that gave us the key to our diagnosis of the damage.

We figured Clinton decided that if he couldn't been a good Democrat by getting humane legislation through Congress, he could at least look like a good Democrat by imitating the randiness of past party heroes like JFK, LBJ, and FDR, all of whom, we know now to our vicarious delight, Messed Around a Whole Lot.

So our theory was that during the day, Clinton would make the same kind of proposals to Congress that Nixon, Hoover, or Coolidge (none of whom ever Messed Around at all) might make. Then after dark, he'd maintain his Democrat credentials by rutting around like a horny moose.

We were quite proud of our explanation. It was insightful, we thought, and salacious.

The Truth, Mainly


But now we're saying "Well, shoot" because our theory may be coming unraveled. The evidence:

•Clinton's lawyers last week officially asked Paula Jones what "distinguishing characteristics" she claims to have seen on the President's body.

•Time magazine (July 7) says Arkansas State Trooper Ronald Anderson admits in an affidavit that "three of his colleagues were given a contract by Arkansas lawyer Cliff Jackson guaranteeing them jobs paying $100,000 annually for seven years in return for making allegations in December 1993 that they arranged and covered up Clinton dalliances. Jackson, a longtime Clinton opponent, denies the story."

•Trooper Anderson also told The New Yorker (July 7) that as a part of Gov. Clinton's security detail—and with an eye towards a future procure-and-tell book—he had confirmed stories of gubernatorial infidelities, even though many of them "were nothing more than old fish tales, with little, if any, basis in fact."

•One of Paul Jones' attorneys, Daniel Traylor, told The New Yorker he plans to resign from the case for several reasons, one being that when his client made her claims public at a conservative political rally, "I saw and smelled all those Republicans [and] I got worried."

•And Stuart Taylor, who argued in The American Lawyer last fall that Jones had a stronger case against Clinton than Anita Hill had against Clarence Thomas, has just come out with an article in Legal Times called "New Disclosures Could Cloud Jones' Credibility."

None of that, thank God, proves that the President is innocent, so our group still has some hope of high scandal. But there was a palpable cloud of gloom over our last meeting.

So we're trying to prepare ourselves for the worst: the disclosure that even if Bill Clinton really does have "distinguishing characteristics" on his whatchamacallit, he's still no John Kennedy.

Maybe in more ways than one.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.


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