Analysis: A Victory For Clinton, But He's Not In Clear Yet
By Craig Staats/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (April 1) -- The Clinton White House finally won one Wednesday, when a judge declared Paula Jones' lawsuit against the president wasn't worth a trial.
But as good a piece of news as it was for President Bill Clinton, Judge Susan Webber Wright's ruling doesn't sweep away all of the president's problems. It doesn't even completely slam the door on Jones' lawsuit, since she can, and probably will, appeal.
For the president, the Jones case has been draining, financially, psychologically and even politically. His legal expenses are approaching $4 million, and, while his job approval rating remains strong, most Americans do not see Clinton as an admirable person with high standards.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll late last month found two-thirds of Americans think their moral standards are higher than his. For someone who likes to preach to his fellow Americans, that has to be personally humiliating.
Clinton's team immediately tried to claim vindication in the judge's ruling, even though Wright said that if true, Clinton's behavior toward Jones in that Little Rock hotel room in 1991 was "boorish and offensive." What the judge decided was only that there "were no genuine issues for trial."
So whatever happens to Jones' civil case on appeal, Clinton still has a larger worry: Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr's criminal investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair, and whether Clinton lied under oath and encouraged the former White House intern to lie, too.
That inquiry goes on, and, in the end, the biggest impact of Jones' lawsuit may be that it flushed out Lewinsky, who became new grist for a high-profile grand jury investigation.
Starr said the ruling has no effect on his inquiry, and he plans to continue working "to complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible."
But in the court of public opinion, Starr may find it even tougher going now, since one set of accusations against Clinton has been judged to have no legal merit.
Starr may think he's investigating possible perjury, but polling suggests the public thinks he is probing Clinton's sex life, for no good reason. Americans don't like that, and they would like it to end.
Starr will continue, though, and that could lead to impeachment hearings in Congress. If that happens, months from now, Wednesday's victory for the Clinton will seem rather singular.