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Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 1999 /12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Cal Thomas

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Econophone

The dishonorable and the honorable man

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
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 Democrat.

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 rest.

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