The Victim in the Centerfold

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One
thing for sure, when you see Penthouse magazine's December
photo spread of Paula Jones you have no trouble believing that Paula
made come-hither eyes at Bill Clinton in the lobby of the Excelsior
Hotel in Lonoke, Arkansas, where the big business in town is, quite
appropriately, minnows for America's bait shops. Now that her photos
are scattered among the pages of erect members, just like the one
that only a few short years ago sent her heading for a lawyer in
paroxysms of indignation and terror about damage to her reputation,
the Jones girl is going to have a hard time passing herself off
as an imperiled ingenue.

Though
James Carville was mostly right about the Jones case being what
you get when you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, the real
question is what else could the architects of sexual harassment
law have expected when they dragged hundreds of thousands of dollar
bills through corporate and political America.

Penthouse
publisher Bob Guccione recently dragged the park with enough cash
for a college education and got 12 erotic photos of Jones: Paula
draped on a railing wearing nothing but her Hannibel Lecter jeans
– jeans sliced into horizontal one-inch strips reminiscent
of the Arkansas train deaths; Paula panting between banister posts
like an Afghan waiting to be picked up at the pound; Paula, saucy
and peachy, relaxing on a leopard settee hoping some lawyers will
call; and bare-naked lady Paula lying elegantly among a nest of
velvet pillows embellished with big cats. He even got Paula in her
Maidenform bra dreaming that she could be Bill Clinton's regular
girlfriend.

Career
victim-celebrity that she's become, Jones was recently on Larry
King whimpering that she's been abandoned. No one calls anymore,
she said, not the lawyers, the talk show hosts or the right-wingers.
Paula has been seduced and abandoned by Bill Clinton, the feminists,
the Supreme Court, the New York Times, her ex-husband and
the Christian Right. Though she's said that she "doesn't even
know the difference between a liberal and a conservative,"
she says she was manipulated by Clinton's enemies in their unrelenting
effort to ruin him. "The Republicans, are they the good u2018uns
or the bad u2018uns?," she asked New Yorker columnist Jeffrey Toobin
in the middle of the brouhaha.

None
of her far-right allies let Paula know their agenda, complains Joe
Conason, far-left author of the Penthouse article. "Do you
think they would actually tell me?," she wails. "No, they
didn't." Well, duh, Joe, it doesn't exactly take a stem cell
researcher to figure out that Paula's new friends, Bob Guccione,
Larry King, and you, are gonna quit calling pretty soon too.

Though
she says she wanted to settle sooner, Jones has no regrets about
shaking down the president of the United States for $850,000 for
exposing himself in the privacy of a hotel room, or for filing a
lawsuit against him for "sexual assault" because he allegedly
touched her thigh. The sexual encounter with Clinton was "forced,"
she told Larry King. If we are to believe Paula, Bill Clinton's
heated rush to skip the preliminaries may have come as a huge surprise
– but force? In contrast, Paula says exposing herself to millions
in the pages of Penthouse was just an adult woman exercising her
free choice.

But
who is Paula Jones, after all, to resist the lure of easy money
proffered by the full force of the federal government telling her
that she is a big time victim deserving of a pot of gold –
that power and wealth make men fair game for legalized blackmail,
that a touch to the thigh is "sexual assault," a sexual
request "sexual harassment," and a momentary light hold
on the arm "unlawful restraint"?

Jones
reveals in Penthouse that she was pressured into rejecting a $700,000
settlement offer from Clinton in August 1997. She blames Jerry Falwell
and other Clinton enemies for torpedoing settlement possibilities
and running up huge legal bills. Though she eventually was paid
$850,000 by Clinton, more than 80 percent of those proceeds went
to lawyers, including the one she hired to sort out how much each
of her other attorneys would receive.

In
Jeffrey Toobin's bestseller about the Clinton scandals, "A
Vast Conspiracy," Toobin, a legal analyst for ABC News and
a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, argues that despite
the president's own culpability in the matter, there was, indeed,
a conspiracy behind the Jones and Lewinsky cases, but it wasn't
the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton
had in mind. Rather, he writes, the vast conspiracy is "a conspiracy
within the legal system to take over the political system of the
United States."

Court
cases have become "a central part of any organized political
activity – even for those groups who could have used the ballot
instead of the subpoena," says Toobin. "As activists quickly
discovered, lawsuits had many advantages over traditional politics.
They required just a few people, and they moved quickly. Lawsuits
allowed civil rights workers, feminists, environmentalists, and
other activists of the political Left a perfect shortcut. They didn't
have to do the expensive and labor-intensive work of persuading
the masses to support their views; instead, they enjoyed prestige
and intellectual challenge in this new field, which they dubbed
u2018public interest law.'"

Legal
creations such as the independent counsel law allowed liberals to
win most of their political battles in courtrooms rather than legislatures.
The political Right soon discovered that it, too, could use the
courts to advance its agenda. This, combined with the merged goals
of two of the great social movements of the 20th century,
the feminist Left and the Christian Right, says Toobin, "pushed
the country precisely in the same direction, toward the idea that
the private lives of public people mattered as much as their stands
on issues." The merging of the feminist insistence that "the
personal is political" (meaning that private conduct, particularly
when it comes to sex, is fair game) with the social conservatives'
obsession with the sexual character of their political enemies insured
that sexual media witch hunts would become an inevitable fact of
public life.

The
chief villains in most sexual harassment cases are the forces that
constructed the laws, sloppy legislators and judges who have no
direct accountability for the inevitable results of the rules they
make, and the lawyers who profiteer from them. Jones was enticed
by her then-husband and others into becoming a weapon against the
president of the United States, just as Anita Hill was used as a
weapon by feminists and civil rights activists in the their attempt
to torpedo the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The real deal for women who allow themselves to be enticed into
sexual harassment suits is that their reputations are trashed while
legal eagles fly away with the cash.

Women
like Jones have been lured into becoming the workplace equivalent
of Third world terrorists strolling around the office with suitcase
bombs. As a result of a sexual harassment law that was, on the face
of it, meant to protect the wives and daughters of America from
undesirable sexual overtures and dirty talk, America has become
a place where dirty talk and sex scandals consume the airwaves,
force-feeding the ears of 11-year-olds with all the erotic details.
The line between public life and private has been obliterated, gender
relations have been infused with fear and mistrust, women have been
marginalized, children scandalized, and small time sexual sinners
who might otherwise make good public servants avoid running for
office.

Legalized
sexual shakedowns and fear of sexual blackmail have become the order
of the day.

In
an article in the December 2000 issue of Esquire, President
Clinton says he deserves an apology from the GOP conservatives who
impeached him – but it was Clinton himself who wheeled-and-dealed
into law the very same legal minefields that nearly destroyed his
presidency, rules intended for the rest of us that he thought he
could escape or avoid.

Though
Toobin concludes in "A Vast Conspiracy" that all the evidence
points to
Jones and Clinton having had a consensual sexual encounter in the
Excelsior
Hotel, Clinton was outmaneuvered by his own cleverness. He had re-signed
the independent counsel law that allowed Ken Starr to invade his
privacy,
bargained into law the provision that defined a touch as a sexual
assault, and signed onto the law that permits an investigation of
past paramours, consensual and nonconsensual, in sexual harassment
cases.

Unfortunately,
Clinton's impeachment was only the latest volley in the gotcha game
of personal destruction that has been going on in America for years.

Rather
than expect apologies, Clinton and his cohorts in the trial lawyers
lobby should issue a recall for sexual harassment laws that are
as shoddily constructed as Firestone tires.

November
11, 2000

Sarah
McCarthy, co-author of Mom
& Pop vs the Dreambusters: the Small Business Revolt Against Big
Government
, is a contributing editor at Liberty magazine
and a World Net Daily columnist.

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