The Breakfast Table

From Siren to Sibyl

Hey Kim,

The latest Paula Jones news–you alluded to it yesterday–is in fact pretty wild. I don’t mean only Jones’ photo spread in a British magazine, posing in the notorious Dropped Trou Suite itself, though that’s certainly, um, noteworthy. Her pics join a family of bizarre images that have spun out of the never-ending Clinton Show, most famously the sad Monica spread that appeared last year in Vanity Fair.

Such imagery–and I include Clinton’s own lip-biting pensiveness, among much other presidential iconography–has a depressing quality of self-referential display: It constitutes the sideshow of the News Fair. Subjects like these want the touch of a Diane Arbus, someone to grant them the grace of naiveté as public-affairs freaks. Instead they’re getting Barnum. Which way to the egress?

The more extraordinary Paula Jones news is the announcement of her new career as a telephone psychic. Fresh from pocketing $850,000 of Clinton settlement money (after her case was thrown out, yet), she’ll now sell you advice about your problems at, I think, $3.99 a minute. Nice career transition, that: siren to Sibyl. I’m tempted to pose a couple of questions.

“Madame Paula, who is the Republican presidential candidate who is worried about having been photographed while dancing drunken and naked on a bar? Look into your crystal ball, my per-minute seer, and tell me this: If Hillary runs for the Senate, will she ever go to Poughkeepsie? Will she take questions about anything that ever happened to her as a lawyer, or first lady, or futures investor? Will she acknowledge the legitimacy–even the existence–of a campaign press?”

What about you, Kim? You got any questions for her? By the way, at a reported $3.99 a minute, I’m not going to settle for declarative answers, or even Mother Shipton doggerel. I want Nostradamic quatrains, or I want a refund.

I think I detected a certain a certain degree of derision in your own references to Ms. Jones yesterday. And if I’m not mistaken, your reference to Larry Flynt as “loathsome” implies a certain judgment of him on your part. And here I thought high-minded reaction was my turf, and that you had staked out total detachment. (You also argued that Hollywood’s straightforward relationship between vice and profit represented a refreshingly simple agenda, a relationship that seems equally applicable to the enterprises of Mr. Flynt.) Is it Clinton alone whom you’ve placed in an emotional bell jar? About whose alleged actions you don’t give a rat’s ass? Rats’ asses seem otherwise to be in free distribution.

That brings me to my closing note: Paula Jones was not the only noteworthy press item out of Britain yesterday. The London Evening Standard joined the Telegraph in citing unconfirmed sexual allegations against Clinton in Britain. Suddenly, all the scandal updates are imported.

Best,

Charles