Shrug from the sidewalk in Main St, USA

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The Independent Online
IF YOU wanted to know the outcome of the trial of President Clinton - as if it was in much doubt - Times Square was the place to be. You could not miss the acquittal headlines rushing by on the electronic ticker or blaring from the NBC Jumbotron - a giant TV suspended in the sky - at the square's southern end.

This, though, was an historic event without an audience.

"Trial? What trial?" asked Jimmy Funghini, the doorman at the Doubletree Hotel, under the shadow of the Jumbotron. He was joking, of course, but like nearly everyone else in this city, he had long ago grown weary of the business. Mr Funghini shared in the sentiment of the vast majority - that at last politicians in the capital, President Clinton included, "will be able to get on with the business of the country".

Not that the President comes out smelling like Valentine's roses. "He needs a smack right on the back of the head for what he did - really, he was pretty stupid," said Mr Funghini. "But I never believed that he should be impeached, I just don't think so."

On the corner by the hotel, a white-bearded tramp was collecting money in an old cigar box. From Puerto Rico, Abraham said: "I told my people before the trial started that he was going to get off. Listen, they all do it down there and the Republicans were paying people to go after the President."

In the police sub-station that sits immediately beneath the ticker, there was a rare voice of disappointment at the verdict. The cop in charge yesterday, who asked to remain anonymous, thought the President should have been thrown out. "If I had committed perjury and lied like he did, I would have been out of a job and people would have been angry if I didn't lose my job," the officer explained.

And there were hints of chagrin too on 47th Street, lined with jewellery shops owned by the Jewish community. "He lied and he owes another apology to Lewinsky," said one owner, who gave only his first name, Abe. "You know there are plenty of people who committed perjury who are sitting in jail now. Clinton is happy-go-lucky and he gets away with it. That bothers me."

On 6th Avenue, Rich Munchgesang, a building engineer, was clearing a street drain outside Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel. But Mr Munchgesang had tuned out months ago. "So he lied, but what was he meant to say there, right in front of his wife? That he had slept with another woman?"

The news programmers are going to have to find new subjects to report, but the Lewinsky affair is just heating up for the publishing industry, which is expected to unleash an avalanche of titles. Among them there will be, Ask Not, Tell Not: The Triangulation of William Jefferson Clinton, and The Point of Knives: The Triumph and Tragedy of Kenneth Starr. Whether there are readers out there with enough appetite for such books remains to be seen. One, however, is certain to get attention. It is Monica's Story, compiled by Ms Lewinsky with the help of the British biographer Andrew Morton.