What the foreign papers are saying.
Jan. 31 1998 3:30 AM

If Paula Jones hadn't been made the victim of a White House campaign to destroy her credibility, she would have abandoned her lawsuit against President Clinton last summer and "nobody would ever have heard of Monica Lewinsky," her husband, Steve Jones, told the Daily Telegraph of London. In an interview published Thursday in the conservative paper, Jones said his wife had been under such pressure that she had come "within a whisker" of abandoning the lawsuit. Pressed to accept a financial settlement that would have let the president off without so much as an apology, she is now adamant that Clinton be made to atone for calling her a "pathetic liar."


"The only settlement we're going to accept from Bill Clinton is: 'I was wrong. I apologise. I admit that I was in that room with Paula,' " Jones said. "We gave him wiggle room before. We were willing to let him say 'I may have.' But now we've collected a lot more evidence and the days of wiggle room are over. The word 'may' has been stricken. He is going to have to confess to everything on our terms now, or face Paula in court."

The interview was conducted at the couple's home in Long Beach, Calif., by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who, as a former Washington correspondent of the London SundayTelegraph, used to work with right-wing American political campaigners--"conspirators," Hillary Clinton would call them--to expose financial and sexual sleaze involving the president. (See Slate's review of his The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories.) Banned from giving interviews by a judicial gag order, Paula Jones was doing "her best to prevent their two young children running amok and raiding the fridge," while her husband spoke on her behalf, Evans-Pritchard wrote.

"These people in Washington just don't seem to understand that being called a whore means something, something we can't live with," Steve Jones told him, singling out Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett as the person mainly responsible for bringing disaster on the president. "If it had not been for Bob Bennett coming out on TV and saying that Paula's story was 'tabloid trash for cash' ... this whole thing could have been settled a long time ago with a quiet apology," Steve Jones said. "He chose the wrong girl to pick a fight with, didn't he? And now he's brought the President to the brink of impeachment. If I could give one piece of advice to Bill Clinton, it's get rid of Bob Bennett. Fast." (Jones is not alone in his opinion of Bennett. See this dispatch by Slate's Jake Weisberg.)

Coverage of "Monicagate," "Sexgate," "Sexygate," and (increasingly in Britain) "Fornigate" continued to be enormous in Europe, but much less extensive in the rest of the world. Editorial opinion almost everywhere continued to be dominated by two hopes: 1) that the American president, whatever his mistakes, should complete his term of office and 2) that the crisis should be rapidly resolved. As the headline over an article by the London Guardian's chief pundit, Hugo Young, put it Thursday: "Let's hope the lecher survives."

In Nigeria, an editorial in the independent Post Express deplored the way the United States was willing to put its business with Israel and Iraq on hold in order to "explore such inanities as that of a woman [Paula Jones] who is claiming $700,000 or $2 million just because, as she claims, she has intimate knowledge of the president's genitalia." This claim is as "wild as any," the editorial continued, pointing out that a recent survey in Britain showed that even long-married wives were unable to properly identify their husbands' genitalia "under experimental conditions." Incredulous that the "American system" would make "a monumental event" out of Lewinsky's contradictory claims, it concludes, "So far, all the ballyhoo over Bill Clinton's alleged involvement with these women could serve only one purpose. That of reminding us that after winning the cold war, America has lost control. Perhaps the cold war was a symbolic reminder to the world that the preservation of democracy can best come about through the natural conflict of dialectical forces. In the present circumstances, we may have to start thinking in terms of reinventing the Soviet Union. If only to help the Americans get their act together."

Quoted in his own newspaper, Corriere della Sera of Milan, Gianni Agnelli, the Italian industrialist, lawyer, and senator, said Clinton's plight reminded him of what Thomas Jefferson had said when he was criticized for having a mistress: "What do they want? A eunuch in the White House?" Agnelli spoke warmly, too, of Hillary Clinton, saying: "I know her well. She is a woman of the first rank. Of great quality. I wouldn't want her against me as a lawyer." In fact, Hillary seems especially popular in Italy. Also in Corriere, columnist Ennio Caretto wrote: "The facts have proved that, among many wrong personal choices made by Clinton, Hillary was the right one.

"The Lady Macbeth of Little Rock, as her enemies call her because of her toughness and her imperiousness, has been and still is his inspiration, his ace in the sleeve." Referring to her TV appearances this week, Caretto concluded, "It is certain, in any case, that Hillary, with her dignity and her firmness, under the able management of her dressers--her make-up, her haircut, her outfit, her imperial eagle pin [?] were all new--enchanted a good part of America. If Bill isn't among the best presidents of history, she, on the other hand, is among the best first ladies."