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Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 1998 / 11 Tishrei, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Kenneth Starr's
real crime

MOST CRITICISMS OF SPECIAL PROSECUTOR KENNETH STARR are heavy on adjectives and light on verbs. In other words, they characterize him or his motives, but say little or nothing about what he has actually done.

Adjectives like "obsessed," "partisan" and "unfair" are thrown around with great abandon, but usually without concrete specifics, much less a coherent argument as to what he should have done differently. How would someone who was not obsessed, partisan or unfair have acted differently?

When Clinton lied, was Starr supposed to let it go at that or was he supposed to start collecting evidence to the contrary? And when Clinton tried to stop him from getting evidence and testimony that contradicted the lies, was Starr supposed to roll over and play dead or go into court and start issuing subpoenas?

What was the special prosecutor supposed to do when the president committed perjury and then tried to weasel out of it by redefining the word "sex"? Let Clinton make a mockery of the law or start talking specifics?

After getting more than 20 felony convictions from a massive bank fraud in Arkansas, what was Kenneth Starr supposed to do when one of the convicted crooks refused to say whether her business partner Bill Clinton was also involved in the fraud?

Was Starr supposed to say: "Aw shucks, I sure wish you would answer 'yes' or 'no'"? Or was he supposed to ask the judge to cite her for contempt of court?

It was not a complicated question. We already know that some of the money from the bank fraud went into an account jointly owned by the Clintons and the McDougals. The question is whether Bill and Hillary were just innocent by-standers or were in on the deal.

Would it make any sense at all for Susan McDougal to refuse to answer that question and go to jail, if the Clintons were not accessories to the crime? As it is, Mrs. McDougal may yet receive a presidential pardon and/or a job at Revlon.

Yet the outrage over this episode was not against Susan McDougal for being involved in a fraud and stonewalling the court, but against Starr because she was brought to court in chains. But the special prosecutor had no more control over how the Bureau of Prisons chooses to transport its prisoners than he had over whether Congress would or would not release the videotape of the president's testimony.

Whether you think Congress should or should not have released that videotape or any of the other material that the special prosecutor turned over to them, it was completely out of Kenneth Starr's hands.

You may be sick and tired of all the talk about sex and Monica Lewinsky on talk shows from morning till night. But Kenneth Starr has never been on any of those talk shows.

Desperate efforts to blame Starr for something, somehow, somewhere, suggest that the hostility to him has been looking for a way to vent itself, without spending a lot of time looking at facts. What then is Kenneth Starr's real crime?

He has told us the truth when we were satisfied with lies.

Nobody wanted to believe anything as ugly as what we now know about the president. Kings used to kill messengers that brought them bad news and polls suggest that the public is not very different.

If we didn't want to know, then a special prosecutor should never have been appointed in the first place. But to appoint a special prosecutor and then blame him for carrying out the duties required by law is childish. Yet Clinton is blamed less for what he did than Starr is for telling us about it.

What was the special prosecutor supposed to do when hard evidence of Monica Lewinsky's perjury was brought to him on tape? And when the story was floated that what Monica said on tape was just something she had read in a book, what was he supposed to do, except go through books she had read, to see if there was any such story there?

If your attitude toward a president's violations of the law is "Don't ask, don't tell," then don't appoint a special prosecutor. And don't expect to have a rule of law any more, when attempts to enforce the law can be pictured as personal obsessions.

When lies under oath become acceptable and revealing the truth provokes outrage, then you know we are in big trouble. Or you will find out the hard way, as those in power begin to ignore the restrictions on their power that were written into the constitution. start.

9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
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.