Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 1999 /12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
The dishonorable and the honorable man
DURING HIS FIVE DIFFICULT YEARS as Independent Counsel, Kenneth Starr regrets not speaking out
more when he was under attack by members of the Clinton administration and its hired guns.
Interviewed on CNN's "Larry King Live,'' Starr said, "I should have done much more to
educate the public, provide information about what it is that we were doing. And statements
like that (speaking of James Carville's frequent attacks on Starr as being a "cigarette
lawyer'') went unanswered.''
That was about the only mistake Starr made in the professional and completely legal way he
and his staff of career prosecutors conducted themselves while under constant attack by
Clinton defenders who sought to smear an honorable man. The Clinton bunch even made fun
of Starr's practice of singing hymns while walking alone.
In an interview with CNN's Bob Franken, Starr contrasted his experience with that of Leon
Jaworski, who succeeded Archibald Cox in the Watergate investigation. Starr noted the
greater intensity of his own investigation, aided by the 24-hour news cycle. But it wasn't just
the news cycle that frustrated the Starr investigation. It was the way television hosts, anchors
and reporters served as surrogate defense counsels for the president to their everlasting
shame and the diminishment of their profession. Geraldo Rivera was the worst with gushing
comments like, "Mr. President, we love you. I want to hug you .... This is nothing. Thomas
Jefferson did not have this in mind .... I would give Ken Starr the Nobel Peace Prize were he
to be man enough not to refer a sex lie to the House for impeachment.''
But as Starr noted on CNN, "There was substantial evidence to believe that (Clinton) was
lying to a grand jury.'' By implication Starr accused the White House and Clinton defenders
of politicizing the law and turning it "into politics by another means.'' Answering White House
spokesman Joe Lockhart's criticism of his replacement, Robert Ray, Starr said, "The
president's lawyers said just last month in testimony, you know what we need is a career
prosecutor. Here's a career prosecutor (Ray) with a lot of distinction.''But what would the
Clinton bunch know about people who serve and act with distinction?
Starr noted that tapes of Linda Tripp's conversations with Monica Lewinsky were "dumped
on him'' (Tripp's words) and that "they came under a grant of immunity, which is entirely
appropriate. That's the way prosecutors operate. We went by the book in this ....''
Noting "it would be better if the public had a complete grounding in law and facts,'' Starr
said that many people were left with the "impressions'' they received from the media. It was
easy for many viewers ungrounded in the law to believe that Starr headed a modern-day
Inquisition when network correspondents regularly impugned the investigators. NBC's (now
PBS') Gwen Iffel compared the delivery of documents to Congress by the Independent
Counsel's office to a "truck bomb ... a very violent action by Ken Starr...'' Or how about this
expiation offered by then "Good Morning America'' co-host, Lisa McRee: "Women who've
been polled seem to put it behind them as well, and are willing to move on and forget about
(the Lewinsky affair). Is that because Bill Clinton's been such a great president, whom they
elected in great part, or is there something, I want to say, almost sexy about a man who can
get away with things over and over again?''
Wouldn't Richard Nixon have loved press like this? If only he had been sexy. And a
Ken Starr eloquently summed up his philosophy when he offered these thoughts to Larry
King about the duty of law officers and prosecutors: " ... their duty is to see that justice is
done. And that may mean no indictment should be brought. It may mean that the evidence at
the end of the day wasn't there to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. It's not
winning and losing, it's doing it right, playing by the rules, which is exactly what the men and
women of this investigation did.''
The definition of honor pretty well sums up Ken Starr: "A person of superior standing.'' And
honor's opposite, disgrace, accurately describes President Clinton: "To be a source of
shame; to cause to lose favor or standing.''
History can sort this out, but those who respect the law know that Ken Starr's performance
stands head and shoulders above all the
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