And the Horse He Rode In On
By James Carville
The People v. Kenneth Starr
Simon & Schuster
(C) 1998 James Carville
All rights reserved.
Read BW's Review of This Book
He Crawled from the Deep: Ken Starr and Whitewater
As with mosquitoes, horseflies, and most bloodsucking parasites, Kenneth Starr
was spawned in stagnant water.
The independent counsel first emerged on the national scene in 1994 to
investigate Whitewater, a failed Arkansas land deal that dated from 1978 in
which the President and the First Lady had the misfortune to lose an investment
of $42,000. With the craven aid of a tightly knit gang of right-wing operatives,
Ken Starr came forth like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, hell-bent on
terrorizing the inhabitants of Little Rock in a single-minded quest to defame
the President of the United States.
And so before we look at Starr's more recent deceptions, intimidations, and
screwups, it's important to revisit this old Arkansas haunt for a spell. Like
me, most of you have heard so much mind-numbing blather about Whitewater, the
last thing in the world you want to do is take a trip back there. But bear with
me here, because the origins of the Whitewater scam shed light not only on the
early stages of the anti-Clinton media madness, but also on the independent
counsel's countless conflicts of interest since the first days of his
appointment. Over four years and $40 million after he first started peeking
under stones in Little Rock, the only thing Ken Starr ever exposed was himself:
the fact that his investigation was an absolutely baseless, politically
contrived, right-wing-backed, taxpayer-subsidized smear campaign from the
According to the original article that let the monkey out of the cage (written
by Jeff Gerth for the New York Times in 1992 and widely promulgated
since by the Times, the Washington Post, and other purported
bastions of national journalism), the Whitewater story goes a little something
like this: In 1978, the Clintons, along with old friends Jim and Susan McDougal,
invested some money in a real estate deal in the Ozark Mountains. When it turned
out that the McDougals had no capital, then Governor Clinton may or may not have
helped to secure a $300,000 loan for his business associates so they could
attract more investors to the land deal, which, along with that original loan,
Some have speculated -- wrongly -- that $50,000 of this bad loan went toward
covering the Clintons' interests in Whitewater. Further baseless speculation
claimed that Hillary Clinton, then an attorney for the Rose Law Firm, may have
cooked the books on the Whitewater deal in order to cover up any evidence of
Clintonian wrongdoing regarding that loan. Of course, there never was, nor has
there ever been, any evidence of malfeasance by either the President or the
First Lady. But that didn't stop the scandal-hungry media and Clinton-hating
Republicans from crazy-legging for the end zone with the fable.
Sometime after Gerth's confused and confusing 1992 newspaper piece, the national
press went into full-froth mode. While the Sunday morning pundits professed
their shock and indignation for the television cameras, every major newspaper,
magazine, and news program in the country sent its crack journalists to Little
Rock to uncover the "truth" about a busted twenty-year-old land deal. It wasn't
too long before publications across the country were jam-packed with badly
reasoned, badly written stories by Bob Woodward wannabes, each one trying
desperately to inject some life into an absurd heap of baseless, nonsensical
Woodward on Whitewater
While most of the media community has tried every which way to make a Watergate
out of Whitewater, journalistic legend Bob Woodward sees the Whitewater
investigation in a completely different light. When Woodward was asked to
compare the two investigations on Larry King Live, the man who brought
down Nixon had this to say about the allegations against President Clinton:
"No, [Whitewater is not like Watergate], because there are no tapes. There are
no witnesses that are really credible, who are contemporaneous, to say 'I was
there, and Clinton said, let's do this that's illegal, or let's do this that's
corrupt.' And we have years of inquiries, and you have to think as a reporter on
all of these things, you know, maybe he didn't do any of them.
"There are kinds of allegations that shoot all over the place all of the time,
and no one is a greater repository of allegations than Bill Clinton. And no
doubt some of them, or maybe lots of them, are false -- or maybe even all of
them are false.
"But the things linger. There's no closure. All of the Clinton scandals, if you
look at them, they've piled up. They're like airplanes circling National
Airport, and none have landed."
For example, check out this howler penned by columnist Michael Kramer for
Time magazine (and later dissected by Gene Lyons in his book Fools
for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater):
"[Whitewater is] different -- or could be -- because the wrongdoing
(if there was any) may have involved abuses of power while Clinton was
serving as Governor of Arkansas. On the other hand, Whitewater too is from the
past. So even if the worst were proved -- and no one yet knows what
that is -- the offense might not warrant impeachment [italics
Hmmm...With all that crazy logic, all those ifs, mights, maybes, and could bes,
it sounds like something that might've been written by Seinfeld's Kramer
instead of Time's Kramer. Back when I was a student at LSU Law School,
we had a saying: If "ifs" and "buts" were beer and nuts, we'd have ourselves a
heck of a party. Nevertheless, wrongheaded reporters like Michael Kramer weren't
the only ones to lose their minds over Arkansas real estate. Still nursing their
wounds from the 1992 presidential election, the fringe right was champing at the
bit to find anything, real or imaginary, that could take down America's new
When conservatives caught wind of Whitewater, they flocked to the rumors like
Newt Gingrich to a plate of hot pork chops. Faster than you can say "media
hype," the GOP was hollering louder than a stuck pig. Rush Limbaugh, Jerry
Falwell, and Pat Robertson spun the yarn endlessly to their sycophantic
audiences, while Senator Alfonse D'Amato, never one to miss a chance for free
publicity at someone else's expense, initiated congressional hearings in order
to have his face plastered all over C-SPAN.
With the knee-jerk help of the editorial departments of the scandal-hungry
national press, the GOP soon raised such a racket that the able, conscientious,
and long-suffering U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno, was politically compelled
to appoint an independent counsel.
When Reno settled on Republican attorney Robert Fiske to look into Whitewater,
there was a lot of rejoicing among conservatives. Senator Bob Dole remarked that
"People who know him think he is extremely well-qualified [and] independent."
Self-styled Whitewater conspiracy theorist Al D'Amato gushed that Fiske was "one
of the most honorable and skilled lawyers." (It should be noted that D'Amato
received $3,000 in campaign donations from Mr. Fiske.) "He is a man of enormous
integrity," remarked the Republican senator from New York. "He's fine, he's
talented, he is a man of great loyalty."
Unfortunately for the country at large, the fringe right was not so pleased with
the credentials of Mr. Fiske. These folks, having gone to the considerable
trouble of contriving and publicizing bogus criminal acts related to the
Whitewater deal, hated seeing any independent counsel appointed (no matter that
he was a good GOP member) who might discover how insignificant the whole episode
truly was. Although Mr. Fiske had contributed several thousand dollars to
Republican candidates and committees over the years, he still wasn't partisan
enough to satisfy the wacko right. What the anti-Clinton crazies wanted was a
real old-school hatchet man. And there was no one more qualified to dig one up
than Jesse Helms.
Take Your Toys and Go Home
Although the cries for Robert Fiske's removal came most loudly and hysterically
from the far right, a few national newspapers also joined in this caterwauling
chorus. The Wall Street Journal, in particular, painted Fiske as Public
Enemy No. 1. The Journal's editorial page attacked Fiske's decision to
quit his private practice and called his investigation a "cover-up" and an
attempt at "political damage control."
Why such a bloodthirsty attack from such a respected broadsheet? Well, in his
report to Congress on the suicide of White House counsel Vincent Foster, Fiske
had numbered among the reasons for Foster's tragic death the many "mean-spirited
and factually baseless" editorials of The Wall Street Journal.
Apparently for the obstinate, conspiracy-minded editorial department of the
Journal two wrongs, no matter how downright shabby or horrific their
consequences, still make a right.
Helms and Lauch Faircloth, the unofficial spokesmen for the raving ultraright,
paid a visit to a fellow Tarheel, Judge David Sentelle. But they weren't just
paying a call on a neighbor for some iced tea. Helms and Faircloth don't go
anywhere without a program, and they had one to share with Judge Sentelle. Judge
Sentelle, by fortuitous coincidence, was head of a three-judge panel that
oversees the independent counsel. And by an equally happy coincidence, Sentelle
happened to have a cozy history with Senator Helms.
Not only is the good judge a member of Helms's conservative National
Congressional Club and a longtime Helms supporter, but his very appointment to
the federal bench was sponsored by none other than that esteemed senior senator
from North Carolina. Heck, he even served on the appeals panel that overturned
the conviction of that old renegade colonel and Iran-contra operative Oliver
How Helms Is He?
Make no mistake about it: When I say David Sentelle is an ultraconservative
Helmsman, I ain't just whistling Dixie. For one thing, he served as the chair of
the Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, North Carolina) Republican Party. Moreover,
according to Rolling Stone magazine, not only did Sentelle refuse to
resign his membership at some white-only private clubs during his confirmation
hearing, he also penned the following words about country music for a 1981 book
entitled Why the South Will Survive: "The main appeal of the music of
the South is found among...the long-historied, little-loved descendants of the
people who built half the civilized world -- the Anglo-Saxons."
And as if Kenneth Starr weren't enough of an attack on the President, David
Sentelle and his cronies have appointed at least three other independent
counsels in their apparent attempt to stymie the progress of the Clinton
Now to this day nobody really knows what those three men discussed at their
table. Sentelle declared that they spoke about cowboy gear and their prostates
(a great lunchtime topic if you don't feel like eating much). But you've got to
ask yourself, as I did, if it's possible that maybe, just maybe, North
Carolina's dynamic Clinton-bashing duo put in a request for a more aggressive
partisan prosecutor, one who would work harder to make a Niagara Falls out of
Well, all I know is what happened after that lunch: Less than a month later --
just eight months after Robert Fiske had been appointed as independent counsel
-- Judge Sentelle suddenly fired Mr. Fiske for "perceptions of conflict" mainly
arising from his having been appointed by Janet Reno. And then his wife got a
nice job working for Senator Faircloth not too long after.
And by now, you know who Judge Sentelle's panel appointed in Fiske's place.
That Old Airport Clinton-Basher, Kenneth Starr.
Good people, I'll give it to you short and sweet. In the history of the
independent counsel statute, there has never been a prosecutor appointed who's
as fiercely partisan as Kenneth Starr.
That bears some repeating: Never In History.
It'd be one thing if the guy had gone to a few Republican rallies in his time,
or had once argued a case adverse to the Clinton administration. But this was
ridiculous. Between his private practice, his prior casework, and his ties to
the GOP right wing, Ken Starr had more conflicts than a John Grisham novel.
In a recent, well-publicized interview, the now infamous independent counsel
compared himself to Jack Webb of Dragnet, claiming he was interested in
"Just the facts, ma'am." Well, Ken Starr ain't the only Dragnet fan in
these parts. So, with a tip of the hat to Joe Friday, I reassembled the old
Carville Rapid Response Team to see what they could find in the public record
about Ken Starr.
Let me tell you, it didn't take very long before they uncovered quite a few
unappealing facts about the appointment and tenure of our inglorious independent
Ken Starr was appointed by a panel headed by right-wing judge David Sentelle
just after Sentelle's lunch meeting with ultraconservative North Carolina
senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth.
I've already talked about this outrage myself, so let's hear what some other
folks had to say about the results of that mystery meal.
At the time of Inspector Starr's appointment, five former presidents of
the American Bar Association, in a letter that questioned the three-judge
panel's impartiality, criticized Judge Sentelle's conduct. Stephen Bundy, a
prominent University of California, Berkeley, law professor, had this to say
about Sentelle's ruse: "The whole point of giving [the case] to judges is that
they will be immune from political influence....Why else would they feel
compelled to review Reno's judgment except that she is presumed to be
politically influenced and he is not? Then we find this guy consorting with the
leader of the opposing political faction....At best it appears to be improper."
Ken Starr was extremely active in Republican politics.
Unlike his predecessor, Robert Fiske (who had donated only money to campaigns),
Starr also devoted a lot of his time and energy to the Grand Old Party before he
was called on to become a so-called independent counsel. Starr cochaired the
unsuccessful 1994 congressional campaign of Republican Kyle McSlarrow, now the
campaign manager for former vice president Dan Quayle, against Democrat Jim
Moran. (It says a lot about Starr's professional skills that he was one of the
few folks around who couldn't get a Republican congressional candidate elected
in 1994.) Moreover, Mr. Starr even contemplated running for the Virginia Senate
as a Republican in 1993, but I guess he figured he could do more damage to the
Democrats (and the country) in other ways.
Finally, Ken Starr also did put his money where his mouth was. He contributed
$5,475 to the campaigns of six Republican political candidates in the 1993-94
election cycle. Then, while serving as independent counsel, he gave an
additional $1,750 to a political action committee (PAC) that supported several
1996 GOP presidential campaigns, including those of Phil Gramm, Richard Lugar,
Lamar Alexander, and Bob Dole.
Isn't it funny how the press jumped all over journalist Steven Brill for
donating money to the Democrats, but you hardly ever hear mention of the
Republican donations of a man with subpoena power?
Ken Starr: Right-Wing Party Animal
To no one's surprise, Ken Starr also found time in his busy schedule as
Whitewater counsel to become a fixture on the right-wing party scene, and a GOP
attack dog. Check out this story by reformed Clinton antagonist David Brock:
"I had been a guest at the wedding of Barbara and Ted Olson, the Washington
super-lawyer who counts President Reagan and The American Spectator, the
magazine where I work, among his clients. On hand was the entire
anti-Clinton establishment, everyone from Wall Street Journal
editorial-page editor Robert Bartley to Whitewater independent counsel
Kenneth Starr...Former Bush White House counsel C. Boyden Gray joked that
since it looked as if Kenneth Starr was not going to come up with the goods
before the election, it was up to me to derail the Clinton juggernaut [my
Ken Starr wrote friend-of-the-court briefs for both pro-GOP and anti-Clinton
On top of sending in his checks, Ken Starr certainly knew how to feed the GOP
bulldog: The good judge also made the great effort to show his anti-Clinton bias
through his professional favors. Starr once penned a friend-of-the-court brief
on behalf of the Republican National Committee, in a case involving Bush
attorney general Richard Thornburgh. And before the American taxpayer began
footing the bill for his Whitewater work, Starr decided to take on some pro bono
work on behalf of Paula Jones, composing a pro-Paula friend-of-the-court brief
for the Supreme Court. Miraculously, the habitually clueless Inspector did sense
a conflict of interest here, and at the last minute chose not to submit his
amicus brief. He's also done work for an organization funded by his
billionaire hard-right friend Richard Scaife -- the so-called Independent
In fact, the Ken Starr and Paula Jones camps have intermingled an awful lot. But
we'll get to those travesties in good time.
Ken Starr represented tobacco companies in his private practice while
serving as independent counsel.
Now let me see if I have this straight: Kenneth Starr oversees a huge staff of
lawyers and FBI agents who jet around the country subpoenaing people. He has
slavered over his sex-obsessed investigation for over four years and spent more
than 40 million taxpayer dollars to finance his fixation. It would seem like
he's a pretty busy guy.
Isn't it funny that he still hasn't quit his day job?
Unlike many of his predecessors, including Robert Fiske, Ken Starr chose to
continue his million-dollar-a-year private practice at the law firm of Kirkland
& Ellis after his appointment as independent counsel. As if he weren't
compromised enough already, this decision by Judge Starr created several more
appalling, insurmountable conflicts of interest for his investigation.
First among those are Starr's ties to the tobacco industry. As it turns out, Mr.
Starr has been working simultaneously as independent counsel and as a cigarette
lawyer, representing Brown & Williamson and Philip Morris in a 1996 class-action
So while our President led a valiant campaign to reduce teenage smoking and
prevent cigarette companies from selling their dangerous products to our kids
(and, I might add, while Bob Dole was telling people tobacco isn't addictive),
Bill Clinton was being investigated at every turn by a man cashing checks from
Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man!
(To be fair, Ken Starr has more than just sex and cigarettes on the brain. When
asked to provide a roster of Starr's clients in 1994 and 1995, his lawyer Terry
Adamson cited a list that includes the American Automobile Manufacturing
Association; Apple Computer; Bell Atlantic; Brown & Williamson Tobacco;
Citisteel; General Motors; Ray Hays; G. Stokely; Hughes Aircraft; Victor Posner;
Suzuki Motors; the Newspaper Association of America; Philip Morris; Quaker Oats;
the Select Committee on Ethics; Southwestern Bell; United Airlines; United
Technologies; Allied Signal; Amoco; and the Bradley Foundation.)
Finally, after four years as the independent persecutor, Ken Starr parted
company with Kirkland & Ellis. Whether Kirkland & Ellis had the good sense to
let him go or whether he needed more time to focus on sex, we don't know.
Ken Starr's law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, was being sued by the Resolution
Trust Corporation, a group that Starr investigated.
Nineteen months after Ken Starr took the job as independent counsel, yet another
conflict came to light. One of the many groups Starr investigated in his role as
Whitewater prosecutor was the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC), a government
agency in charge of liquidating failed savings and loans.
What does the RTC have to do with Whitewater? Well, it was an RTC senior
investigator named L. Jean Lewis who began an inquiry into the Whitewater deal
in the first place.
L. Jean Lewis
In his darker moments Ken Starr probably looks to the patron saint of
Whitewater, L. Jean Lewis, for inspiration. She was a true pioneer and visionary
for his never-ending Clinton-hating campaign.
As a Resolution Trust Corporation investigator in Kansas City, L. Jean Lewis
obsessively pursued a criminal case against officials of Madison Guaranty
Savings & Loan. As my friends in the War Room (the Little Rock headquarters for
the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992) and I were getting the good word out
about then Governor Clinton, L. Jean Lewis was busy scratching up scandal. As
she reportedly told New York senator Alfonse D'Amato, she had set a deadline of
August 31, 1992, for the results of her grubby work. (This would give her just
enough time to have an impact on the November election with her revelations.)
She also told Little Rock FBI agent Steve Irons that her goal was to change the
course of history. She was two days late.
On September 2, 1992, she sent a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney in
Little Rock that named the President and the First Lady as possible witnesses to
and beneficiaries of criminal wrongdoing. She hounded the attorney general and
FBI agents about the referral. But the Justice Department felt there was no real
case against the Clintons and, to their eternal credit, history has proven them
But the story of L. Jean Lewis would get even more pitiful: Two years later the
would-be whistle-blower and RTC investigator was being investigated herself by
the RTC for a variety of alleged abuses, including improper disclosure of
confidential documents; secretly taping RTC employees; keeping confidential
documents at home; and use of government equipment for personal gain. Lewis
admitted that she used her office to market T-shirts and coffee mugs lettered
"B.I.T.C.H." ("Bubba, I'm Taking Charge, Hillary.")
Sounds like a pretty impartial and reliable investigator, doesn't she?
After L. Jean Lewis was suspended from the investigation, Starr, true to form,
quickly began scrutinizing the RTC to uncover why L. Jean Lewis had been taken
off the case.
You might ask, so what? It doesn't seem that big a deal, and Ken Starr might
just be a curious guy. But nothing's ever that simple when you're dealing with
It just so happens that while Starr was scrutinizing the RTC for allegedly
covering up Whitewater, the RTC was itself suing Starr's private practice for
aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary responsibility. In other words, Starr
was investigating the RTC for its connections to a bad loan (the $300,000
Whitewater loan) at the same time that the RTC was suing Starr's firm for
its connections to a failed savings and loan. In fact, Ken Starr
subpoenaed the very same people for his case who were involved in the
lawsuit against Kirkland & Ellis! So you tell me: Was Ken Starr dispassionately
serving the public interest with his inquiry into the RTC, or was he, by
twisting the arms of those who threatened to expose its wrongdoing, serving the
interests of the law firm that has made him wealthy?
And how does our esteemed independent counsel respond? Well, despite the fact
that Starr was a senior partner at Kirkland & Ellis and served on his firm's
management committee, he claims he knew nothing of the RTC lawsuit against
Kirkland & Ellis until October of 1995, more than two and a half years
after the RTC filed it. Wake up, Ken: You're not paying attention in those
Whatever the case, the RTC and Kirkland & Ellis reached a confidential
settlement in 1996. Yet, the question remains: Why was this particular conflict
of interest not disclosed by either Starr or the two Republican-led
congressional committees overseeing his work? Inquiring minds want to know.
Ken Starr represented International Paper, the company that sold land (and lost
money on it) to the Whitewater Development Company.
Yes, folks, the hits just keep on coming. When Ken Starr took the position of
independent counsel, he was also representing International Paper. This
particular conflict is made even more damning by the fact that critics of Robert
Fiske (Ken Starr's predecessor) had claimed that his independence was
compromised because his firm -- Davis, Polk & Wardwell -- had also represented
International Paper. Ironic, isn't it, that Fiske severed all ties with his firm
upon his appointment as independent counsel, while Ken Starr happily continued
raking in the dough from his private practice?
Ken Starr is a member of and has worked for several prominent conservative
Besides his ties to the Republican Party, Ken Starr is a member of more
right-wing organizations than you can shake a stick at. The Inspector is a
member of the Washington Legal Foundation, a conservative lawyers group funded
in part by the tobacco industry, and the Federalist Club, a prominent Washington
organization of conservative lawyers. Moreover, Starr has done paid legal work
for the Bradley Organization, a Richard Scaife-funded outfit that also supports
the Landmark Legal Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, and The
American Spectator magazine, all renowned anti-Clinton groups. Starr's
predecessor had been vilified by the right for his ties to some liberal
organizations, but, as with the International Paper episode, Starr's own ties to
conservative groups are seen, amazingly, to have no bearing on this man's
Ken Starr made speeches to anti-Clinton organizations while serving as
As if he didn't have enough conflicts of interest from the get-go, Starr somehow
managed to stumble into a few more during the course of his investigation. When
the Whitewater counsel wasn't probing into people's private sexual histories or
harassing the citizens of Little Rock, he was speaking at various conservative
get-togethers, including a speech for another Scaife-funded organization, a
property rights group, and a talk, in October 1996,at televangelist Pat
Robertson's Regent University. Of the latter, Starr's friend and colleague
Joseph diGenova remarked, "I probably would not have gone and talked to Pat
Robertson's people at a time when you give people like James Carville a
perfectly nice target to take a shot at."
Mr. diGenova, you have a point.
Ken Starr flirted with a deanship at Pepperdine University, a post funded by
right-wing godfather Richard Mellon Scaife.
Maybe he was sick and tired of his phony investigation. Maybe he unaccountably
felt a glimmer of conscience. Maybe he listened to too many Beach Boys songs.
But whatever the reason, in February of 1997 "Hang Ten" Ken announced -- or,
more to the point, his aides announced -- that the independent counsel was
giving it up and heading for the beach.
Specifically, Ken Starr accepted a job as the dean of Pepperdine University's
Schools of Law and Public Policy, which has received substantial contributions
from Richard Scaife, the man Time magazine called "the premier sugar
daddy of the American right." Only after tremendous public pressure from the
scandal-loving editorial departments of the New York Times and
Washington Post, and from such conservative luminaries as columnist
William Safire and ad man Floyd Brown, did Starr decide to postpone his Malibu
move until he "completed" his role as independent persecutor.
Ken Starr was forced by Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell to stop
representing Bell Atlantic.
Why has Webb Hubbell been so badly victimized by Ken Starr during the past four
years? That's one of the easy questions to answer. As it turns out, a 1993 case
involving Bell Atlantic made a strong connection to the origins of the
independent counsel's rancor.
During Starr's final days as solicitor general of the Bush administration, Bell
Atlantic sued the federal government in an attempt to overturn a ban on phone
companies becoming involved in providing video services (a ban that was later
overturned during the Clinton administration). Though it has long been thought a
conflict of interest for a lawyer to take a case against the government that
arose while that lawyer was working for the government, private citizen Starr,
never one to pass up a deal that might increase his bank account or get him some
attention, signed on with the Bell Atlantic legal team in 1993. Much to Starr's
annoyance, then Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell informed him that the
Justice Department was concerned that a conflict of interest existed and that,
legally, he might not be able to take the case.
And as poor Webb Hubbell learned the hard way, you don't want to get between Ken
Starr and someone else's money.
During the Whitewater mess, Starr raked Hubbell over the coals but good. Hubbell
probably could have gotten off a lot easier if he'd been willing to lie about
the President, but he's an honorable man. He held firm. "The office of
independent counsel can indict my dog," he said. "They can indict my cat, but
I'm not going to lie about the President. I'm not going to lie about the First
Heck, if Ken Starr could have figured out a way to get a dog to hold his paw
over a Bible, I guarantee he would have subpoenaed that hound and the litter he
Fortunately, a federal judge has come forward to liberate Hubbell from the wrath
of Starr and put a stop to the Inspector's sordid abuse of American law. Calling
the independent counsel's case against Hubbell "a quintessential fishing
expedition" and his tactics "scary," a federal judge threw Starr's attempts to
destroy Webb Hubbell out of court and into the gutter where they belonged.
Starr's Predecessors Speak Out
Look, folks, I'm not the only guy out here who thinks Ken Starr's conflicts of
interest are reprehensible, irreconcilable, and just plain irresponsible. Here's
what some former independent counsels had to say about this new breed of
Gerald Gallinghouse (a Republican who investigated a drug allegation in the
Jimmy Carter administration):
Starr is "devoting a hell of a lot of time to private practice. He should get in
or get out. I don't give a damn about the Republicans, Democrats, Bull Moose, or
mugwumps. He should get on with the investigation and bring it to a conclusion
as soon as practicable. And you're not going to do it with the top man running
all over the country making speeches and taking care of private clients."
Lawrence Walsh (Iran-contra independent counsel):
"The one excuse [for employing] an independent counsel is his independence. If
not necessarily full-time detachment from everything else, he [at least] can't
be involved with anything that impairs his freedom of action."
Whitney North Seymour Jr. (got the conviction of Reagan aide Michael Deaver
"When we were engaged in the intensive parts of the investigation or trial
preparation, I did not have time for anything else."
James C. McKay (investigated Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger):
"I shed everything [else] I was doing after a month. I was devoting 99.9 percent
of my time to the job I was given to do. I felt like I could concentrate on the
very difficult problems much better if I did that, and the job could be done
40+ Million Dollars Goes a Long Way
On November 19, 1997, the Washington Post tallied the cost of the FBI
investigation into the tragedy of TWA Flight 800. According to the Post,
"Investigators spent 16 months on the crash investigation, during which the FBI
conducted more than 7,000 interviews, pursued over 3,000 public leads, and took
2,000 chemical swabs from parts of the wreckage to look for traces of
explosives. Every piece of cargo aboard the flight was traced from its point of
origin to the jet's cargo holds, and every worker who touched the plane and
anything that went into it -- including the on-board movies -- was examined."
The cost of this exhaustive study was between $14 and $20 million.
In contrast, at last accounting Starr has spent four years and $40
million on his Whitewater investigation, with absolutely nothing to show for
it. To put things in perspective, Ken Starr has spent twice as much looking into
a lousy land deal that lost $40,000 than the FBI spent conclusively proving the
cause of a crash that killed 230 people.
Where the heck did all this money go? Am I the only man in Washington sane
enough (or crazy enough) to think we've horrendously misplaced priorities?
Ken Starr's Critical Conditions
So, if you're like me, you're probably wondering how Ken Starr managed to drag
out the Whitewater investigation for so long without anyone getting wise to him.
His secret: Whet the appetites of lazy reporters with talk of "critical stages."
Check out how many times Mr. Starr has come close to the big breakthrough:
August 18, 1995: The indictment of the McDougals signifies that "Starr's
18-month-long investigation...has reached a critical phase." (Washington
August 23, 1995: The First Lady's Whitewater testimony "is a strong
indication that his widening inquiry has reached a critical new phase." (New
September 12, 1995: Former segregationist and lead Clinton-hater Jim
Johnson announces that "the Whitewater investigation moves into its most
critical stage." (Washington Times)
October 12, 1995: Ken Starr writes a letter to the Senate Whitewater
Committee claiming his investigation has reached a critical stage. (Arkansas
May 29, 1996: Guilty verdicts for the McDougals "may mark the opening of
a new phase in Whitewater." (Washington Post)
October 4, 1996: Ken Starr announces in his Pat Robertson speech that
his investigation is in "an important phase." (Memphis Commercial
November 7, 1996: As Bill Clinton wins a second term, "the independent
counsel investigation of his Whitewater real estate investment approaches a
critical stage." (Washington Post)
November 13, 1996: Ken Starr tells an audience at the Detroit Economic
Club that his "investigation is at a critical juncture now, and we are
proceeding as expeditiously as possible." (Wall Street Journal)
December 2, 1996: Newsweek reports that the Whitewater probe "is at a
critical stage. 'We are very far along,' Starr says." (Newsweek)
February 23, 1997: Ken Starr decides to forgo Pepperdine University and
return to his investigation, claiming his investigation has reached a critical
phase. (Chicago Sun-Times)
April 27, 1997: Ken Starr'S Little Rock grand jury is extended six
months, marking a "new and potentially damaging phase." (Richmond
January 5, 1998: The Washington Post runs a Sue Schmidt article
with the headline "Pressure for Testimony Rises as Whitewater Probe Nears
Crucial Phase." According to the lead paragraph, the investigation is now
reaching a "critical juncture." (Washington Post)
Sheesh...I've never seen anything in critical condition that long without being
declared dead halfway through. At this point in this ugly game, the only things
to be critical of are Ken Start's odious and protracted investigation and all
the reporters out there who don't know how to use a thesaurus!
Getting It Wrong on Whitewater
Of all the nuances of the convoluted Whitewater story, the one that seemed most
damning to the President and First Lady was the allegation that $50,000 of the
bad $300,000 loan went to help Whitewater. If that were fact, as various
irrational Clintonhaters in the press have opined, it would mean the Clintons
had taken money from the government and used it to line their own pockets.
Sadly for all these outraged reporters, it doesn't come close to the truth. As
Professor Gilbert Cranberg of the University of Iowa School of Journalism noted
in an article for the Nieman Reports, the tale of the $50,000 is a "key
element" of Whitewater "that's been written about carelessly, or incompletely,
or just plain falsely."
In sum, Cranberg remarks, any decent journalist could tell you that this story
is nothing more than a $50,000 lie.
Cranberg notes that the $50,000 that's referred to was comprised of two "chunks,
one for $24,455 and one for $25,000." Chunk 1 ($24,455), part of a 1985 loan to
James McDougal from the Stephens Security Bank, was placed in the Whitewater
account a full year before David Hale's bum loan, and was in fact repaid by
McDougal before the Hale loan even took place! Chunk 2 ($25,000), used by James
McDougal to buy land near the Whitewater project in 1986, was never actually in
the Whitewater account, and in fact "messed up Whitewater's balance
sheet...adding a huge liability."
In short, half of this money that the Clintons were accused of stealing from the
government had absolutely nothing to do with them or the infamous bad loan, and
the other half was used by James McDougal for a separate deal and ended up
losing money for the Clintons!
So much for that outrage. I guess it's probably too much to demand an
apology from all the shoddy journalists who were quick to publicly lambaste the
President and First Lady before they checked their reporting.
Fools for Scandal: The Real Story of Whitewater
Aspiring journalists take note: While the rest of the national media were
falling over themselves to publish nonsensical stories about imaginary misdeeds,
one reporter from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Gene Lyons, chose to
break ranks and investigate the real scandal about Whitewater -- the failure of
almost everyone in the national press to even attempt a coherent understanding
of what really happened. Lyons's book, Fools for Scandal, is hands down
the best read you're going to find about the Whitewater scandal. Since the book
exposes the complete idiocy of the journalistic establishment over this issue,
naturally it was panned in the New York Times as a "nasty" book.
Nevertheless, to those of you who want to pierce the veil of deceit and find out
how seriously screwed up today's reporting can be, I highly recommend it.