JWR Eric BreindelMona CharenLinda Chavez
Jacob SullumJonathan S. TobinThomas Sowell
Robert ScheerDon FederRoger Simon
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / March 3, 1998 / 5 Adar, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Cheap Shot Time

AFTER HEARING how we should not "rush to judgment" as to whether Bill Clinton is guilty of any crime, we now see the whole media stampeding to judgment that special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is violating the First Amendment rights of witnesses and of the media itself.

Says who? Says the people who are under investigation.

Kenneth Starr himself is forbidden by law to say anything about what went on in the grand Opposites jury room. That law does not apply to the witnesses, who are free to make any statement they want to, after they come outside and talk to the waiting reporters and cameramen.

These witnesses are not under oath in the media, so the sky is the limit as to what they can say -- whether it is true or false -- and they know that Judge Starr cannot contradict them, no matter how big a lie they tell about him.

These same witnesses can then go on Geraldo, Larry King or Charles Grodin and say anything they can dream up, shout it as loud as they want to -- and suffer no consequences whatever if it later turns out that what they said in the media was pure hogwash.

There is nothing to stop them from saying that Kenneth Starr beat them over the head with an iron pipe, except that some of the brighter talk show hosts might ask them why there are no bruises. Those hosts who are gung-ho for Clinton probably wouldn't even ask that.

It is cheap shot time all across the media because they are attacking a man who is forbidden by law to answer back.

Even the supposedly respectable press can now write pious editorials deploring what the special prosecutor has done -- without a speck of evidence that he has in fact done it. So much for concern about a "rush to judgment."

Congressional Democrats are joining the chorus of condemnation of the special prosecutor, while Republicans are maintaining their usual silence. At one time, such a silence might have made sense, to avoid giving credence to the charges from the Clinton White House spokesmen and spin-masters that Kenneth Starr was conducting a "partisan" investigation.

What is needed now is not a ringing endorsement of the special prosecutor, since no one who has not been in the grand jury room can know what really went on. What is needed is someone to point out what unreliable and biased sources the media are relying on.

Would anyone take it seriously if a mafia don denounced the district attorney who was prosecuting him?

Clinton spin-master James Carville announced long ago that there was going to be a "war" against Kenneth Starr. Surely people in the media know that, in a war, truth is the first casualty.

You might think that talk-show hosts who want to maintain some semblance of respect for truth would do something more than provide free air time for unchallenged character assassination. Yet even convicted felon Susan McDougal and her lawyer have been allowed to claim that Starr wants her to lie about Clinton.

It never seems to occur to many of these talk show hosts to ask the most obvious question: If Clinton knew nothing about the illegal loan that he is accused of being involved in, why cannot Mrs. McDougal simply say that he wasn't in on the deal? Why would she even need immunity to say that -- if it is true?

Regardless of what the special prosecutor wants her to say, the judge put her in jail for refusing to say anything in answer to that question. Susan McDougal can answer the question and walk out of jail at any time, regardless of whether her answer is what Kenneth Starr wanted to hear or not. The judge put her in jail and the judge can let her out of jail. Starr has no control over that.

Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, is also on the talk-show circuit, making it look as if the special prosecutor wants his client to lie about Clinton. Again, all she has to do is tell the truth and there is not a thing that Starr could do to her, even if he wanted to.

What was all the negotiating for immunity about, if she has not committed perjury and is not going to commit perjury? Why all these legal defense funds, for Lewinsky and others associated with the president, when their lawyers are not even allowed in the grand jury room? Could it be the high cost of lying -- and being coached on how to tiptoe around the truth?

Let those who have cautioned against a "rush to judgment" start taking their own advice.


2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.