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Jewish World Review / April 23, 1998 / 27 Nissan, 5758

Roger Simon

Roger Simon "NOW" should change its name to "THEN"

WASHINGTON -- Four years after Paula Jones filed her sexual harassment suit against President Clinton and three weeks after a federal judge dismissed it, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has decided it might, just might, support Jones' suit.

In other words, the support of NOW is coming so late, the group should probably change its name to THEN. Bill's role in history

Where was NOW when Paula Jones needed it?

Standing on the sidelines, which means standing with Bill Clinton.

Clinton has been masterful at wooing the support of women. He was elected to the presidency both in 1996 and 2000 on the votes of women, losing the male vote both times.

It is no accident that Clinton continually stresses issues like school uniforms, v-chips and family leave, which, the White House believes, especially resonate with women voters.

But that is what the president does in his public life.

In his private life, Paula Jones says, he exposed himself to her in a hotel room and asked her for oral sex.

And now, NOW says, maybe the organization should take that seriously.

Or maybe not.

NOW is not sure. NOW wants to contact its 500 member chapters and see what they think.

Or maybe NOW could delay things even further. Maybe each member chapter could consult each member. And then maybe NOW could decide. Like sometime in the next century after Clinton leaves office. Or maybe in the 22nd century when everybody involved in the case is dead.

NOW claims that it was interested in helping Paula Jones all along.

Patricia Ireland, head of NOW, says that she tried to help Paula Jones back when Jones filed her suit, but her attempts were rejected.

"She rebuffed our efforts to help her and went with the right wing," Ireland said.

Funny thing, though, when I did a data base check of stories from 1994, when Jones filed her suit, I couldn't find any mention of NOW trying to help Jones and getting rebuffed.

Instead, I found a May 31, 1994, story in the Los Angeles Times about the people trying to help Paula Jones, including her first lawyer Danny Traylor and Patrick J. Mahoney, the leader of a militant anti-abortion group.

Mahoney, the Times reported, "said that after hearing Jones' story, he tried to enlist a number of conservative and feminist groups on Jones' behalf. ... Mahoney also said he tried to arrange a conference call among Traylor, Jones and Patricia Ireland, director of the National Organization for Women, to seek NOW's involvement in Jones' sexual harassment case. Ireland declined to take up Jones' cause, saying only that her organization would monitor the case."

And NOW is still monitoring things. But two things strike me about Ireland's statement that NOW didn't help Jones because Jones decided to go with the right wing.

First, so what if Jones went with the right wing? Do only left-wing women deserve the help of NOW? I thought NOW was supposed to care about the rights of women, not the politics of women.

Secondly, Paula Jones is still with the right wing. So why is NOW considering changing its mind and supporting her?

Could it be that NOW feels that all-out support for Bill Clinton is no longer politically correct?

Could it be that after accusations not just by Jones but by Kathleen Willey, who says Clinton groped her in the Oval Office, NOW is getting a little bit nervous about standing on the sidelines?

It is hard to say. Because NOW keeps twisting in the wind.

"What we are talking about is the strategy of having women-friendly workplaces and schools, not just for Paula Jones in this case but for all women in the workplace or in school," Ireland said on ABC's "Good Morning America" this week.

Which is why, Ireland said, NOW is considering whether to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Paula Jones when she appeals the dismissal of her suit.

But then, Ireland went on to say NOW may not want to help Jones after all.

"In this highly charged, political and partisan case, we may not see this ... as the best way to improve the lot of women in the workplace," Ireland said. "We don't want bad law made, and I certainly don't trust the right-wingers who are judging the strategy on this case."

So maybe NOW will support Jones. And maybe it won't.

But one thing is sure: NOW won't decide anything now.


4/20/98: Freedom to be a jerk?
4/14/98: Bill is Hef's kinda guy
4/7/98: South African memories --- and a paradise not yet found
3/24/98: Bill's 12-day safari
3/20/98: Peace for Ireland?
3/18/98: Flat tire? Spare me
3/13/98: Latrell Sprewell's genius
3/10/98: On truth and reality
3/5/98: No, I'm not harrassing Hillary
3/3/98: The Unforgettable Henny Youngman
2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.