Warts and all

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The Independent Online
What has Bill Clinton got that Tony Blair hasn't? To use the three reasons why women like Bill (as adumbrated in this paper yesterday by my colleague Suzanne Moore): politics, empathy and marriage to a strong woman. Tone surely qualifies on numbers one and three. So it's Bill's empathy that explains his credit in the gender bank.

Chambers' 21st Century Dictionary defines empathy as "the ability to share, understand and feel another person's feelings". And in Bill Clinton's case, the desire to share is almost palpable. But according to a young woman called Paula Jones, it is not only feelings that the President likes to share. Ms Jones's lawsuit against the President for pro-active empathy is likely to be heard in court now that the election is over.

Hers is a strange tale. A receptionist at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, she was called to the then Governor's bedroom by a state trooper. Ms Jones decided that Bill probably wanted to discuss her career (perhaps the telephonist at the Statehouse had just retired, and Paula was aware of the vacancy), so up she climbed, and in she went.

Once inside, she says, Clinton "took my hand. He was loosening his tie. He told me, 'You have nice curves; I love the way your hair goes down your body.' " Things quickly went from bad to worse. Governor Clinton (whose "face was just red, beet red") approached the sofa on which she was sitting and "as he sat down, he lowered his trousers and underwear". This is, I would imagine, an undignified and uncomfortable posture in which it must be quite easy to fall over, but which is by no means physically impossible.

But then Ms Jones lands the killer blow, the one that may well stand up in court. "There were," she reveals, "distinguishing characteristics in Clinton's genital area." Not, of course, that she stopped to look, because - understandably - she jumped up and left the room. And although the White House contests these claims with the utmost vigour, the Daily Telegraph correspondent Stephen Robinson wrote that "somehow her account rings true, in all its salacious detail".

Well, perhaps. Ms Jones has filed an affidavit in which she has described those "distinguishing characteristics" in Clinton's genital area which she noticed. She is not prepared to reveal what these were until the case comes to court, when the description may help her to get the half a million quid damages she is claiming for the trauma of seeing Bill's willy.

But we can speculate. Now, all of us men hope that we have distinguishing characteristics in our genital areas (in fact, most of us hope that we have the same one). We would not like to think that we are completely indistinguishable genitally from our partners' former boyfriends, brothers and fathers. We would have to admit, however, that most such distinguishing features would not be visible on cursory inspection - that a degree of familiarity would be required.

So what was it that the startled Paula noticed in the nanosecond between the dropped shorts and the flight for the door? What so burned itself into her retina, and impressed itself into her mind? A mole will not do. Could it be immense size? Or minuscule length? An extraordinary bend to the left, or a remarkable bias to the right? Was it a luminous green, with mauve hangings? Or was it - as my friend John speculates - tattooed with the words "it's the economy, stupid"?

Well, pretty soon Paula will tell us. And we can expect calls for transparency and disclosure on the part of the President. A Senate Committee may examine Mr Clinton in private and find either for or against him. Hillary will go on a chat-show and quibble with Paula's description. "I'm sorry, but those just aren't the genitals I married, Oprah."

Meanwhile, Mr Stephanopoulos, Clinton's whiz election wonk, is expected any day, ready to advise Tony about how to show empathy to women. Show it, Tone, but just make sure it doesn't have any distinguishing features.