THE STARR REPORT
Copyright © 1998, 2015 by Jim Hull
(Please cite the author if you quote from this work)
I've read the complete text of the Starr Report of September 18, 1998 (it took hours; I skipped most of the hundreds of footnotes). I've also read the White House Rebuttal. Here are some reactions:
--Clinton and Lewinsky were involved in a garden-variety affair, where Monica was the mistress hoping for something more in the future while Bill was sneaking around trying to hide it from his wife. Happens every day somewhere in America. Brought up, as I am, on R-rated films and the newsphoto wonders of Jeri Ryan in a backless dress at the Emmys, I failed to blanch at the report. Instead, I found the story rather touching, if you'll pardon the pun. There he was, the most powerful person on the planet, cadging a few guilty moments with her, a bedazzled young intern. You could almost see the little hearts floating around them.
--Clinton's a nice guy. He liked Monica, enjoyed talking with her (loved sex with her), went to bat for her on her job problems even when she whined, and in general behaved like a million other guys in the same situation. What's more, he was considerate of her - ahem - "emotional" needs during their passionate encounters (we're talking about climaxes here). Bigwigs in hallways with their mistresses don't have to do that. Plus the president had guilt pangs: Monica was the ice cream, Bill was the dieter; sometimes he was virtuous, sometimes he had his face in, um, the carton. Oddly, I feel sympathy for him, though I don't condone his infidelity.
--He never ran roughshod over his staff; instead, he snuck around them. He didn't make threatening demands for help covering up his tracks; instead he'd request assistance. (Then again, who would deny the president?) He's not a harsh, arrogant boss. Something about his manner makes me feel safer about him as a leader. Nixon was more skilled at world affairs, but Nixon went over to the dark side, with his Enemies List and his paranoia. Clinton - like so many presidents - was fooling around. Which would you rather have in the White House?
--Clinton probably lied under oath about the Lewinsky affair. He probably obstructed justice, too, but that'll be much harder to prove. Clinton's very good at double-talking, backing-and-filling, and two-stepping to avoid getting cornered. He's got defensible positions where he and his lawyers can hole up.
--Some of Starr's allegations look strong and some are pretty weak. The Rebuttal points out the weak stuff, but it goes overboard in its righteous indignation. (Maybe they have to: Clinton pretty much got caught with his hand in the, the... never mind.) The Rebuttal plays to the crowd when it angrily claims the Starr Report listed every salacious detail of the affair in an overkill scheme to trash the president. I dunno. I'd put it all in writing: how else could I PROVE Clinton lied - his testimony is rather slippery - unless I could show instance after instance of acts he denied under oath? A single example might not make it past a strong defense; ten examples could be a slam-dunk.
--Half the pols in Washington have mistresses, and ALL of them lie all the time. Reading the Report and Rebuttal - each sprinkled with exaggerations and misleading assertions - I was reminded that EVERYONE in Washington tilts the truth, even in court. It's part of the all-pervading legal culture whereby the best sophistry wins the day. (In other words, it's a lawyer thing.) Meanwhile, such charmers as Congressman Dan Burton - who famously called Clinton a "scumbag" - have been forced into the light with confessions of their own marital wrongdoings. But Clinton's case is different: he has his own personal inquisitor in the Special Prosecutor. Once empowered, the Prosecutor seems to have a free hand to search, at will, for any presidential misdeed. If Congress also had a Special Prosecutor slaving day-and-night to find boogers under congressional pillows, I would shrug. But as it stands, the presidency is under constant assault in a way Congress isn't. This distracts the chief exec from protecting American interests (terrorists are clapping their hands with glee), and it shifts the constitutional balance of power sharply toward the legislature. Should, then, the Special Prosecutor law lapse next year? The right wing will consider it: they could nail Clinton, then let the law expire so future Republican presidents would be safe. They'd get their revenge for the inquests of Nixon and Reagan, then escape. Whew!
--Is Ken Starr a monster? Probably not. In mid-1997 he tried to resign from the probe and take a deanship at Pepperdine University on the California coast. Where's the zealotry in that? But he was loudly upbraided for abandoning his troops, and soon he hurried back, tail between legs. Once again onboard, Starr had no choice but to fight to the finish. Granted, he's a conservative who dislikes deeply the president's behavior. Still, he could be basking down at Malibu Beach between classes.
--Should the president be impeached? I have no idea. On the one hand, impeachment would send a signal that any serious breach of federal law is unacceptable in a president. On the other hand, we'd be destroying an administration over a sexual peccadillo. Impeachment ought to be about, say, burglary during a political campaign and the use of government resources to impede the ensuing FBI inquiry. But lying about an affair? (Who wouldn't? "It's none of yer durn business what kinda trouble I get into at home.") And what government resources did Clinton use to obstruct justice? He hinted broadly to Bettie Currie that she agree that he and Lewinsky were never alone. It didn't work. Yawn.
--Should the president resign? I hope he
doesn't, at least not right away. Congress should have to fight
to remove a president. Clinton would do us a service by holding
them to that standard. Then, if it looks like the vote will go
against him, Clinton - like Nixon - could fall on his sword and
save us from the trauma of an actual impeachment proceeding. And
Clinton - like Nixon - could wave the peace sign as he enters
the plane for the ride home.
TALK TO THE AUTHOR!
But caveat auctor: Jim reserves the right to put your little screed on his Web site! (And he has no dignity about this, so be careful what you say...)
...AND READERS BITE BACK!...
"I must say that if all you could find to do this weekend was read this trash then you really need to GET A LIFE!!" Gordon S. White III, MBA, business-computer genius
" I'd call the lying an act of civil disobedience. Neither Starr nor anybody else (excepting Hillary and Chelsea [and, of course, Monica]) have any business in a personal 'affair.'" Louis F. Dow, artist, printer, contradance caller.
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