All the president's women

The end of Paula Jones's case leaves Bill Clinton in the clear for the moment. Mary Dejevsky looks back on the saga so far
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The Independent Online
THE Paula Jones case is dead: Long live President Clinton! This was the mood yesterday evening from the White House party travelling with Mr Clinton in Africa, and from Mr Clinton's lead lawyer in the case, Robert Bennett, at the news that an Arkansas judge had thrown out Paula Jones's sexual harassment claim against the President for lack of evidence.

Until yesterday, it seemed that the rest of Mr Clinton's presidency could be dogged by allegations of sexual indiscretions. New accusations had emerged almost daily, even during Mr Clinton's Africa tour. From Kathleen Willey's televised accusations two weeks ago that Mr Clinton kissed and groped her near the Oval Office, via an allegation last weekend about a 20-year-old rape, to the confession by a former Miss America on Tuesday that she slept with him 16 years ago, the list of alleged Clinton conquests exceeded a dozen.

The parade of women alleging a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton was precisely what his campaign managers had feared when he ran for President six years ago. Graphically termed "bimbo eruptions" by the aide, Betsey Wright, who was entrusted with deflecting them, the accusations had been successfully sidelined then, only to reappear after his election, largely thanks to Ms Jones.

Ms Jones, however, was the only one of the President's accusers to take him to court and her central accusation had remained consistent ever since she initiated the case in 1994. She said that Mr Clinton invited her to a hotel room in 1991, tried to kiss her, dropped his trousers and asked her for oral sex - which she refused. The grounds for her claim, however, shifted - from damages for loss of reputation, to psychological suffering and harm to her career.

There was always a question, however, whether the one incident described by Ms Jones at a distance of more than three years was sufficient to warrant her sexual harassment claim. According to her account, Mr Clinton accepted her refusal and let her go, briefly barring her was ask her to keep "between us" what happened. Evidence that her career was harmed was considered slim. Her claim for trauma was registered on the basis of a psychologist's report only this year.

Lack of primary evidence was one reason why, it was believed, Ms Jones's lawyers solicited testimony from other women from Mr Clinton's past. They wanted to prove a pattern of behaviour that would make her account more credible and cast Mr Clinton as a serial harasser. This tactic was not entirely successful, however, as several of the women described consensual relationships and specifically denied impropriety on his part.

In throwing out the Paula Jones case, Judge Webber Wright has probably brought to an end the constant accusations about Mr Clinton's sex life, or at least their potential to cause damage. None of the many women alleged to have been involved has shown any sign of intending to sue.

The only "sex" case against Mr Clinton that remains involves the White House trainee, Monica Lewinsky, but even this now looks weaker. On the face of it, the accusations against Mr Clinton - that he falsely denied having an affair with Ms Lewinsky and induced her to deny it under oath - are more serious as they could open the President to a criminal charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, and to impeachment. These accusations were subsumed into the continuing criminal investigation into the Whitewater land deal (see below) because they appeared to support suspicions that Mr Clinton used his power to conceal illegality.

However, the reason why Mr Clinton allegedly wanted Ms Lewinsky to lie (and may have rewarded her with good jobs for so doing) was intimately connected with the Jones case. Ms Lewinsky was one of the women summoned to give evidence in that case, and it was her evidence that Mr Clinton may have wanted to influence.

But if the Paula Jones case is now dead, the main reason for Mr Clinton's "crime" - if there was one - falls away. It does not mean no crime was committed, but it makes it less relevant. The Whitewater prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, now has to decide whether to proceed with the Lewinsky inquiry to support the contention that Mr Clinton used his power to silence witnesses, or to concentrate on other - less titillating and certainly less entertaining - aspects of his investigation.

ON THE RECORD: WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT HIM, AND WHAT HE SAID ABOUT THEM

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

Age 50, the one and only wife. Married since 1976. She said in January 1998: "It's a vast right-wing conspiracy." He said, on television, in 1992: "I have acknowledged causing pain in my marriage."

DOLLY KYLE BROWNING

Aged 51. High school sweetheart, now a lawyer in Texas. She says they had an on-off affair from school days and she chronicled it in a fictional self-published book, Purposes of the Heart". He says: she was jealous and resented the fact that he had never slept with her.

PAULA JONES

Aged 31. Former Arkansas state employee who tried to sue Clinton for sexual harassment. She alleged Clinton invited her to an Arkansas hotel room in 1991 and asked her to perform oral sex. She refused. He says nothing of the kind happened and he can't recall meeting her.

KATHLEEN WILLEY

Aged 52. Former air stewardess, White House volunteer and Clinton campaign worker. She says Clinton tried to kiss and grope her when she went to the Oval Office to ask for a job in November 1993. He says: "There was nothing sexual about it."

GENNIFER FLOWERS

Aged 48. Former reporter, singer and Arkansas state employee. She says she had "an ongoing relationship for many years" (from 1977 to 1989) with Clinton: "the truth is, I loved him".

He says they did not have a 12-year affair but did have sex once, in 1977.

ELIZABETH WARD GRACEN

Aged 37. Miss America in 1982, a television actress. A friend said Elizabeth told her how Clinton forced her to have sex in 1982. She said in 1992 that she did not have any liaison with Clinton. She says in 1998 that she did have sex with Clinton in 1983 - "a very bad error in judgement". He says: nothing.

MONICA LEWINSKY

Aged 24. Former White House trainee. She said (in secretly taped confidences to a friend) that she had 18-month affair with Clinton. She says (under oath) that there was no sexual relationship. He says (on television, repeated under oath): "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms Lewinsky."

CHRISTY ZERCHER

A former stewardess on the presidential jet aircraft, Air Force One. She said (to the tabloid Star newspaper last week) that Clinton fondled her during a flight. He says: nothing.

OFF THE RECORD: THE ONES WHO ARE SAYING NOTHING

JUANITA BROADDRICK

A nursing home supervisor. A friend said (in 1992) she gave him a graphic description of being raped by Clinton in 1978 during a conference in Arkansas. She says (under oath) that nothing happened. The White House says the allegations are "outrageous and false".

BETH COULSON

Lawyer appointed to Arkansas appeal court by Clinton in 1987. Rumours say her rapid promotion was due to a relationship with him. She says (under oath) there was no sexual relationship. Clinton says he stayed at her house, but only as a friend.

MARILYN JO JENKINS

Arkansas power company worker. A state trooper says he took her to the Arkansas governor's mansion several times in 1992. She says the meetings were innocent. Clinton says they met several times as friends and colleagues.

SHEILA LAWRENCE

Widow of Larry Lawrence, former US ambassador to Switzerland and big Democratic Party donor. A Washington columnist said she had an affair with Clinton. She says (under oath): "It's ... completely untrue", and is suing. He says there was no relationship.

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