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'He's Only Human'

   

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By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 23, 1998; Page A12

DALLAS, Sept. 22—Nelson Thompson came out of The Dollar House carrying two quarts of motor oil, with his friend Tiki Jones walking behind him. Within seconds, he was leaning into the open hood of Jones's eight-year-old Pontiac, pouring in the oil.

"Didn't watch it," he said, bent over the engine. He meant President Clinton's grand jury testimony about his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky. "Down here, people don't really worry about that."

"Down here" in South Oak Cliff, a neighborhood of mostly low- and moderate-income black and Latino residents -- five miles south and a world removed from the money and mirrored office towers of downtown Dallas -- "down here" where Thompson has lived all his 28 years, people have more on their minds than what Clinton and Lewinsky did or did not do together.

Thompson works nights as a delivery driver and likes to relax during the day. He said he did not bother turning on the TV to watch the videotape of Clinton's Aug. 17 testimony. Jones, 25, also said she did not watch. She came home from her job at a document management company and spent the night caring for her sick daughter.

"My opinion hasn't changed," said Thompson. "I still think he can run the country. He's a good president."

"The way they want him to step down -- I mean, he's only human," Jones said. "Everybody makes mistakes."

"He was just being a man, going with his manly instincts," Thompson added, smiling.

The Dollar House is in a shopping strip at Keiser Boulevard and Polk Street, where the commerce is typical of South Oak Cliff's neighborhoood economy. Beside The Dollar House is a tumbledown barbershop, and next to that is the Save-A-Lot grocery. A common window motif is black iron bars. People come and go all day in old cars, busy with personal affairs, the president's predicament low on their lists of concerns.

"Get out of his business and leave him alone and let him run the country," said Barry Thompson, no relation to Nelson Thompson. He was getting a $10 haircut in the barbershop. "I know if I had a little affair or something and I was confronted about it in front of the entire country, I may lie about it, too."

Thompson, 49, a copier repairman who has been married for 30 years, said he watched a little of Clinton on TV when he got home from work, then switched to "Monday Night Football" -- his Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.

"Basically everyone I know feels the same way I do," he said. "He's doing a good job. So let him keep doing it."

James Veasley was clipping Thompson's hair. "Oh, I've paid a great deal of attention to it," he said. But he watched the videotape out of curiosity and empathy, not anger or disgust. "I've been in the same boat as the president, and I can very well tell you that these things with women, they happen."

Veasley, 50, said he had a dalliance a few years ago that ended his marriage. "I feel sorry for the president," he said, "because he's doing a good job, as far as the country is concerned."

Of the coverage of the president's personal problems, Veasley said, "enough is enough." The country has too many other, more important problems, he continued, and should not be wasting so much time and energy dealing with a sex scandal.

"Down here, people worry about bills," Nelson Thompson said. "They worry about trying to make it. They worry about what's going to be for dinner tonight. You have a lot of people down here just trying to survive."


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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