The Jones Decision

ONE large part of the legal and moral overcast enveloping the White House has been cleared away. Judge Susan Webber Wright found that Paula Jones's lawyers had failed to substantiate their charges against President Clinton. She said the lawsuit didn't merit an appearance before a federal jury.

This may disturb some who believed Jones's account of an encounter with then-Governor Clinton. Judge Webber conceded that the incident, if it did occur, was "boorish and offensive." That's a quite separate matter, however, from Jones's assertion of litigable damages.

The investigation of independent counsel Kenneth Starr continues, with questions of obstruction of justice still hanging. So, too, do the public's doubts concerning the president's moral leadership demand further resolution.

The judge's ruling clarifies one legal matter. It strengthens the president's political position against his critics. It doesn't sweep aside issues of honesty and morality. There's still more air to be cleared.

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