Thursday, December 17, 2009

Clinton v Starr in "The Death of Virtue"

Politico has a preview of a book by author Ken Gormley, "The Death of Virtue," which is due out in February.  Politico highlights many of the books surprising revelations about the scandal that led to Clinton's impeachment.  Politico notes the book focuses on  both Clinton and Kenneth Star and claims neither man is likely to be pleased with their portrayal in a book purported to be the definitive history of the Clinton scandal.

While I haven't read the book Politico doesn't make that case in the 5 page preview.  The revelations about Clinton seem far more damaging.  Starr is portrayed as unwilling or unable to trust his own instincts on occasion and having made a few decisions that went against his better judgement.  Clinton comes across as a self-indulgent liar who will continue lying about the entire scandal until he dies.  This sentiment was expressed in a quote from Kenneth Star:
Everybody’s been saying, ‘Stop it. Stop it. Admit it. Get it behind you.’ And he will not do it,” Starr said in the book. “It is shocking that the president of the United States would conduct himself as a witness in such a way to essentially ‘lie till he dies.’ We all know the truth. And yet here he is [still] mocking the system.”
Still Gormley hopes that his account of the scandal is even handed and wants readers to decide for themselves whose actions, Clinton's or Starr's led to the "Death of Virtue:"
The author, Gormley, said the title and cover art are deliberately ambiguous, allowing readers to decide whether Clinton or Starr did more to besmirch American values.
By and large, Gormley avoids sweeping judgments about the central figures but he occasionally tips his hand as he tackles specific issues. The author calls the prosecutors’ approach to Lewinsky “botched” and says Starr should have begged off of the Lewinsky inquiry. The professor also scores Clinton for “blatant violations” of Wright’s orders in Jones case and scoffs at claims that the president never lied to the grand jury.
The problem, in my estimation, comes from an assumption that the mistakes of a special prosecutor can be equated with the actions of the President of the United States widely believed to have lied under oath after having a sexual relationship that would have been classified sexual harassment had he been the CEO of any corporation.  While I am sure Starr has regrets about some of his decisions as prosecutor he seems to be capable of honest introspection.  Clinton is clearly not capable of such honesty or introspection.

Politico's article piqued my interest in the book, however.  Here are a few more of the revelations found in the  preview:
  •  Confirmation of a long-rumored romantic affair between Clinton and McDougal, an Arkansas woman who spent 18 months in jail for refusing to answer questions from Starr’s prosecutors before a grand jury, and later received a presidential pardon from Clinton. Gormley writes he is now certain “some intimate involvement did occur,” though he will not say precisely how he knows it to be true.
  •  Lewinsky now believes Bill Clinton lied about their relationship during his grand jury testimony. “There was no leeway [there] on the veracity of his statements because they asked him detailed and specific questions to which he answered untruthfully,” she wrote to Gormley earlier this year. Longtime Clinton attorney David Kendall declined to comment.
  • Starr’s successor Robert Ray was prepared to indict Clinton soon after he left office if he did not agree to admit that he made false statements about Lewinsky under oath and accept disbarment. Ray “was ready to ‘pull the trigger’ if the conditions he imposed were not satisfied,” Gormley writes, and had to be “cajoled” by a colleague into signing off on the final deal.
  •  Prosecutors on the case clashed with a special counsel who sharply criticized them for questioning Lewinsky without her attorney present during a pivotal January 16, 1998, interview at a Pentagon City hotel.
  • While Bill Clinton was steaming mad about Judge Susan Webber Wright’s decision to cite him for civil contempt in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and accused her of political bias, Clinton and his defenders failed to acknowledge that Wright “could have ended his presidency with the stroke of a pen” by initiating criminal contempt proceedings against him while the impeachment case was still pending. Gormley cites a source that said she weighed a criminal citation against Clinton but decided against it.
There is more in the article at Politico.  H/T: Memeorandum


  1. Very interesting.  I don't think I'll read it, but still interesting.  

  2. That's not your usual book review fare, is it?  I hope Monica has had a chance to get her life back in order.  That was an awful situation to have to live down for the rest of her life.


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