Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A President's Spare Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A President's Spare Time

Article excerpt

I start with a footnote - that day, many years ago, when I accompanied Dwight Eisenhower as he viewed an exhibition of his own paintings. I was a cub reporter and he was the ex-president and we both arrived late - so late that the rest of the press had left. I remember many things about that day, but here is something to keep in mind when any president bemoans the demands of his office: Ike told me he had more time to paint in the White House than out of it.

It is far too late for Paula Corbin Jones to subpoena Eisenhower to buttress the case she made - and won - when she said Bill Clinton is not immune from a legal suit while in office. For in addition to all the other legal arguments raised by the president's lawyers, the one that most bothered me was that he was too busy to deal with such petty matters as a sexual harassment suit.

This, after all, is the very president who tripped and hurt his knee at something like 1:20 a.m. while visiting golfer Greg Norman. And those of us who were writing during Ronald Reagan's presidency knew the occupational hazard of appearing on afternoon television. The president, having finished his official business a tad early, was likely to be watching - and might call on the telephone. Of course, Clinton did not base his claim of immunity solely on the I'm-too-busy argument. He had other, more substantive claims, and one of them struck me as persuasive: Others would come out of the woodwork and sue either him or succeeding presidents. That has been done only three t imes - Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy - and Kennedy for an auto accident, of all things. The Supreme Court noted the rarity of such suits. But none of those presidents lived in a litigious age, or one in which, for some reason, shame has almost totally disappeared. Since everyone has a past and even presidents are not perfect, such suits are almost certain to be brought more and more frequently. For this reason, I thought it was a good idea that Jones' suit be postponed until Clinton left office. …

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