More signals, however misleading, that President Clinton is serious about making peace with Republicans arrived yesterday at the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake when he sent his official sanction for the swearing in of a Republican as Utah's newest United States Attorney.

Well, OK, presidential approval of Paul Warner as Scott Matheson's replacement was actually given several weeks ago.But the timing was still entertaining. In light of the earlier events of the week, it certainly had the appearance of an olive branch.

It isn't every day a Republican signs on as a chief federal district prosecutor in a Democratic administration.

It's a political thing.

If you're keeping score at home, out of the 93 U.S. Attorneys in the country, it is now Democrats 92, Republicans 1.

***

"I'm grateful President Clinton saw fit to nominate Paul Warner," said U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch graciously - in sharp contrast to earlier in the week when he referred to Clinton as "that jerk."

It was Hatch who nominated Warner for the position just after the first of the year when Matheson, a Democrat, stepped down as Utah's U.S. Attorney after four years on the job.

A longtime assistant U.S. Attorney with a distinguished track record as a chaser of bad guys, Warner's appointment wouldn't have been a surprise in a Republican administration. But this isn't a Republican administration.

How did he buck the odds? Was it because in a state that preferred President Perot to President Clinton, it takes a Republican to prosecute a Republican?

***

Not that there aren't signs that this business of going ecumenical with Republicans isn't proving to be slightly unnerving for the Democrats.

The day before his swearing-in ceremony, Warner received a letter from Washington on Department of Justice stationery from his new boss, Attorney General Janet Reno, "welcoming him to the team."

But for some reason, Reno congratulated him for winning appointment as "United States Marshall to the district of Hawaii."

"Tempting offer," said Warner. "But I turned it down."

***

Lest there be any misconceptions about the two-party system still having life in Utah, Warner asked noted local defense attorney Ron Yengich, a Democrat and proud of it, to say a few words at the ceremony.

Ever savvy, and aware of the wisdom of a supplicating sort of approach in consideration of the current political climate, Yengich humbly referred to himself as "one of only seven Democrats openly practicing in the state - and after this week, maybe only three."

"I want to apologize for everything," he said, "and for everything any Democrat has ever done. Let's get that on the record."

***

Paul Warner went to law school with my brother, Dee, himself a former U.S. Attorney for Utah, who was also on the program yesterday, and who had a few school days stories to tell.

He told of becoming acquainted with Warner the first week of law school at BYU when stacks of law books still in their cases lay on the classroom floor.

Markings on the boxes said "This Side Up" and "Keep Dry."

The future U.S. Attorney bent down and wrote something on one of the boxes.

When he left, my brother walked over to read what he wrote: "You could soak this box in water, and these books would still be dry!"

So maybe he's more of a Clinton guy than we thought.