By John P. Martin
John Mahoney, a Navy worker, saw the news on the Internet. He passed it on to Charyl Keiger, an office worker. Police officer Mike Watson caught the Court TV bulletin. The waitresses near the bar server hadn't even heard.
But once the word spread that a judge had dismissed Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton, few in the evening crowd at Ireland's Four Courts restaurant in Arlington struggled to summon a reaction.
Some hailed the ruling as an end to a frivolous case overplayed by the media. Others insisted the president had unfairly squirmed out of yet another tight spot. Nearly all viewed the case as more about politics than sexual harassment, and predicted the ruling would have little impact on workplace attitudes. Although they uniformly professed to be tired of the case, most were anxious to read and hear more.
Inside Four Courts, a cozy Wilson Boulevard crossroads for courthouse workers, Metro riders, young professionals and old regulars, the televisions were tuned not to news stations but to a soccer game as Maxine Giordano nursed a beer and chatted with Bob Groves.
Giordano, a 34-year-old manager at a telecommunications firm, heard about the ruling at work and groaned with a fellow Republican over Clinton's latest victory.
"It's like: I just knew it, because he's just so slippery," said Giordano. "Nothing ever sticks to him."
A few feet down the bar, Keiger sat plucking chicken wings from a plate. She greeted the news with a thumbs-up.
"I grew up when women didn't know they could sue for sexual harassment. I think it should be executed lightly," the Arlington resident said. From what she saw and read, she said, Jones did not deserve to win.
At the next stool, Mahoney scoffed at suggestions the decision might stifle claims of sexual harassment. In the Jones case, the Rosslyn man said, "I think a lot of people were in it for the money."
Others quipped that the president is held to lower standards than his constituents. Watson, 35, who lives and works in Arlington, joked that he'd be begging nickels on the Wilson Bridge if he talked the same way at work that then-governor Clinton allegedly did to Jones seven years ago.
"With the president," he said, "it seems like everything's thrown out on a technicality."
Back near the kitchen, there was little sympathy for Jones.
"She didn't prove her case," said a waitress who would identify herself only as Carolyn, carrying a bowl of cream soup to a waiting bartender.
Another waitress, who would give only her first name, Jennifer, said she wasn't interested.
"I haven't been following it as much as some other people have," she said. "I think there are more important issues."
On that, most agreed. Still, they admitted the dismissal was likely to generate plenty of talk around the office cooler in the coming days.
Scott Richmond, a 38-year-old District resident who works as a government consultant, declared it time to put the issue to rest "for the country's sake."
But will that happen?
"No," he replied, before returning to his newspaper.
The reason, Giordano said, is simple: "It's the president of the United States."
James Thomson, a 75-year-old retiree, had paid little attention to the case before the ruling. He suggested doing the same in its wake.
"I think it's good," said Thomson, pushing aside a plate of chicken bones and preparing to down his coffee. "Now we can get back to Dow Jones."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company