For Many, Ruling Was Welcome News
CHICAGO, April 1 Weary from a hard day on the job, John Pruitt was visibly moved by the news that a judge had suddenly tossed out Paula Jones's lawsuit against the president. It was, Pruitt said with a wide smile, reason to celebrate.
"Does this mean that I never, ever, have to hear Paula Jones's name again?" said the Chicago shoe salesman. "Does this mean that it's finally safe to turn on the TV again without hearing about what Paula Jones ate for lunch today?"
With exaggerated glee, he answered himself: "Yesss."
It is not that Pruitt is the biggest fan of President Clinton's. And he most definitely does not believe the president is an innocent. "There are too many women out there saying that something happened for nothing to have happened," Pruitt explained. "But I don't think he did anything criminal. And I don't think it's a big enough deal to spend $50 million of taxpayers' money investigating."
From New York to Los Angeles, Chicago to Kalispell, Mont., today's announcement that a federal judge had dismissed Jones's civil suit seemed to stir something in the American people. For a sampling interviewed soon after the news became known, it stirred relief.
There may indeed be at least some truth in Jones's allegations, most agreed. But to many outside the Beltway, Clinton, Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and the Republicans are like actors in a bad soap opera that is updated every hour on the hour. It's a titillating enough story for a while, but quickly loses its appeal.
"I figured that he might have messed with a few women, but ... I'm glad they threw it out," said Corey Washington, a 28-year-old security guard from the Bronx in New York. "His personal life is his personal life. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt."
Kevin Dunnigan, a financial planner in Kalispell, Mont., said the news hardly surprised him. What Clinton may lack in character, he more than makes up for in perseverance, Dunnigan said. "There's no question in my mind that he's guilty of a lot of that stuff, but he's the best at turning tables I've ever seen," Dunnigan said. "He can turn bad into good."
With the economy humming along, most people interviewed seemed too preoccupied with their work, their families and their own lives to pay much attention to the drama unfolding in Arkansas and Washington.
"My whole point about the matter is it's bad enough that we have problems here in the United States: homeless, starving people," said Sellars Washington, a 41-year-old security guard from the Bronx. "Here we have one of the best presidents in a long time and what he does in his private time is his business. Why should we spend taxpayer money to read about dirt?"
Sentiment was similar in the Washington area. "I thought it was just based on the evidence. It was getting exhausting," said Mark Sullivan, 34, of Washington. "I think the media had lost sight of everything going on in the country." But Sheff Richey, 47, of Alexandria, said: "I can't stand Clinton. I would have liked to have seen it go to trial."
Several people blamed the Republicans for orchestrating a dirty tricks campaign, designed to soil the reputation of a wildly popular Democratic president. If that was the case, many seemed to agree, their plans backfired.
"I think [Jones] was lying from day one," said Lucinda Raine, a 37-year-old consultant for a line of cruise ships. "She never had a leg to stand on. I think it's all a big conspiracy by the Republicans to get [Clinton] out."
Here in Chicago, Eric Mitchell shrugged his shoulders when he learned of the judge's decision. Then he laughed. "Folks here don't care about that foolishness," he said. "That's for politicians and lawyers and the media in Washington, D.C., to worry about. People in Chicago have got real stuff to worry about. People here are more worried about whether Michael Jordan is going to retire this year than anything having to do with Paula Jones."
Staff writers Tom Kenworthy in Kalispell, Allan Lengel in Washington and Devon Spurgeon in New York and special correspondent Cassandra Stern in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company