Monday, November 20, 2017

Inaccurate, mindless, biased, disorganized, unprofessional, and corrupt

Kenneth Starr, via Daily Beast (check out the story!).


asks Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street,

if Ken Starr Was Right?

Wait, right about what? On why Congress ought to impeach Clinton?
F. Summary
In this case, the President made and caused to be made false statements to the American people about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. He also made false statements about whether he had lied under oath or otherwise obstructed justice in his civil case. By publicly and emphatically stating in January 1998 that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and these "allegations are false," the President also effectively delayed a possible congressional inquiry, and then he further delayed it by asserting Executive Privilege and refusing to testify for six months during the Independent Counsel investigation. This represents substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for an impeachment.
No, Ross thinks he should have been impeached for not resigning:

liberals might be willing to concede that the Lewinsky affair was a pretty big deal morally, a clear abuse of sexual power, for which Clinton probably should have been pressured to resign....  It may be that the conservatives of the 1990s were simply right about Clinton, that once he failed to resign he really deserved to be impeached.
(Later, he makes it more explicit: "If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment?" meaning if the exploitation isn't serious enough the obstruction case isn't serious enough either.)

About how all that water has now successfully left the bridge region, as Starr told Greta van Susteren in 2010?
And I have thoughts about how it could have been completed a bit more rapidly. But that's a closed chapter in our history.... It's part of the greatness of the country. You are not sent out into exile or what have you. And President Clinton of course is serving the country magnificently, the work of the Clinton Foundation, his leadership in Haiti obviously. The then first lady is an extremely and able energetic secretary of state.
(Yes, I know of some Haitians who would take issue with some of that too.)

Ross, in contrast, thinks the water has all backed up:
I have never been a Clinton hater; indeed, I’ve always been a little mystified by the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders.... But the Clinton operation was also extraordinarily sordid, in ways that should be thrown into particular relief by the absence of similar scandals in the Obama administration, which had perfervid enemies and circling investigators as well. The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton’s priapism was bad: the use of the perks of office to procure women, willing and unwilling; the frequent use of that same power to buy silence and bully victims; and yes, the brazen public lies and perjury.
Time wounds all heels, as they say. "I've never been a Clinton hater, so I've got a lot of catching up to do!" Comparing the Clinton administration to the Obama administration is kind of unfair, though, since the Obama presidency was so very exceptional in recent American history; Clinton doesn't look anywhere near as bad if you use Reagan or a Bush as the standard.

Or about the case of Juanita Broaddrick? She was only a footnote, Jane Doe no. 5, in Starr's case.
Broaddrick later recanted that affidavit [denying that Clinton had assaulted her] when questioned by FBI agents working for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who found her account inconclusive. Two of the House impeachment "managers" spoke to Broaddrick but did not pursue her allegation.
Ross thinks Broaddrick's allegation was "compelling" and accuses Democrats of
blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they’re prudes and it’s all just Sexual McCarthyism...
I guess Starr, and the House impeachment managers, ignored it in a more appropriately non-blithe manner.

But on the whole, as you see, Ross concludes that Starr was wrong, about more or less everything. So why is he bothering us? Why does he think we need to re-litigate the Clinton scandals before we start talking about President Donald Trump, and a set of allegations that bear some extraordinary similarities to the allegations against Harvey Weinstein? Bingo, that's why. You're welcome.

Incidentally, Ross says he's been reading about the scandals of the '90s:
I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.
He notably missed anything by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason. I just read a long and thrillingly written report Renata Adler did for Vanity Fair in December 1998, more or less reviewing the Starr Report:
in many ways, an utterly preposterous document: inaccurate, mindless, biased, disorganized, unprofessional, and corrupt. What it is textually is a voluminous work of demented pornography, with many fascinating characters and several largely hidden story lines. What it is politically is an attempt, through its own limitless preoccupation with sexual material, to set aside, even obliterate, the relatively dull requirements of real evidence and constitutional procedure.... 
There are signs that the document was never intended to be understood, or even read, by anyone. The absence of dates, tables of contents, index, chronology, context, accurate headings, and logic of any sort from the five supplementary volumes is almost the least of it. So are the distortions and misrepresentations in the report itself of what the record actually shows. 
And also emphasizing some points that frequently get lost in the debate: the crazed behavior of Monica Lewinsky and the White House's difficulty in dealing with her appropriately ("a young woman who is regarded, almost universally and, as it turns out, with astonishing understatement, as a 'stalker,' a 'hall surfer,' a 'cling on,' and a 'clutch'") on the one hand, and on the other hand the extraordinary violation of her rights as a witness and potential defendant by Kenneth Starr, which would I think have gotten all her testimony thrown out in any normal legal proceeding (not to mention Starr's brazen concealment of the fact that Linda Tripp had been working with his office for three years before she made her first appearance in the report of the investigation, from Vincent Foster days, when she testified that she watched Foster remove the onions from his last hamburger, suggesting to her that he couldn't have been contemplating suicide).

I think you could make a good argument exactly opposite to the one Douthat seems to be sneakily making, that we need to relitigate what Clinton may or may not have done 20 years ago before we can really consider the misdeeds of the current president: whatever he did or didn't do—and it could have been awful, though as I've said I'm skeptical on that—was not as dangerous to the Republic as that vast rightwing conspiracy, which really did exist, in spite of the poohpoohs of the Washington Press, and of which Kenneth Starr was a part, though he seems to be a little embarrassed about that in recent years.

I'd say our only hope of ever understanding the events of the 1990s is to start with a better job of understanding what's happening right now, because that old well is utterly poisoned and we need some tools for detoxifying it.

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