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12 Sep
The Starr Story -- The Revolution is Over the Internet

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 98 16:25:49 -0700
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Subject: The Starr Story -- The Revolution is Over the Internet

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[Where's Edward R. Murrow when we need him?  -psl]

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C O M M E N T A R Y - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Salon Report on Kenneth Starr

We now know more than we ever wanted to about the president's private life.
Here's what the public should know about the prosecutor who may drive him
from office.

BY DAVID TALBOT | There is much we now know about our 42nd president,
William Jefferson Clinton. We know about his sexual proclivities and
fantasies, his taste in women, his favorite erotic poetry, the size and
topography of his reproductive organ and yes, his instinct to dissemble when
his secret passions are revealed. Some of the endless stream of fact and
rumor about the president's private life is of public relevance. Most,
however, is not. And, as New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis observed on
Tuesday, the urge to empty this president's -- or any president's -- inner
life of all its contents is morbid and Orwellian. As Lewis noted, "Privacy
is an essential ingredient of civilized human existence," a precious
ingredient that has been steadily chipped away in modern American society.

Now Congress has been presented with an impeachment report on President
Clinton that is apparently filled with a plethora of details about his
once-private erotic life, and little else. (So much for the endless
Whitewater probe, which started this entire national ordeal.) On the basis
of this unprecedented inspection of the president's personal life, federal
lawmakers will decide whether he may remain in office.

Ironically, while we are abundantly informed about the president's private
life, we know very little about the man who may finally realize his
long-sought goal of undoing the president's election -- independent counsel
Kenneth Starr. His power to dominate the nation's attention and control its
agenda seems untrammeled. And yet the media -- the voracious eyes and ears
of the new era's Insatiable Curiosity -- shows scant interest in Starr.
Perhaps this is because there is nothing sensational about the prosecutor's
private life. But it is Starr's public life that should demand our
attention. The front-page news about Starr is not his sexual fantasies --
we pray these remain forever locked away within the pious lawman -- but his
political desires and intimacies. It's not his private lusts that should
concern us, but the passionate fixations and excesses of his investigation.

The only criticism of Starr's performance that the elite media has been able
to muster during the frenzy of the last several months is that the
independent counsel is not PR-savvy, that he lacks the conniving political
instincts of, say, President Clinton. (Even in this criticism there is
buried the glow of approbation, a sense that there is something noble about
Starr's naivete.) And yet nothing could be further from the truth. Kenneth
Starr is a consummately political being, and has been throughout his public
life. And his goal from the moment he sought the independent counsel
appointment was to hobble, if not destroy, a duly elected presidency that
gave him and his conservative allies great offense.

The fact that Starr pursued this political goal during the first three years
of his investigation with the key assistance of David Hale, a tainted
witness who now stands accused of taking money and legal help from
anti-Clinton activists with ties to Starr himself, is now the subject of
another federal inquiry. But the media remains stubbornly indifferent to
this startling story. Indeed, the New York Times appears to have issued
Starr blanket immunity for any and all misdeeds committed in the course of
his investigation. In a bland and unrevealing cover profile of Starr in
Sunday's New York Times Magazine, staff writer Michael Winerip
matter-of-factly asserted: "In the end Starr's motives no longer matter ...
It no longer matters if malicious right-wingers consorted with [Starr's]
office to lay a trap for the president ... Through Starr's doggedness, his
relentless effort to amass every last fact, he has succeeded in making his
investigation about Bill Clinton, not about Ken Starr." It may no longer
matter (if it ever did) to the country's newspaper of record that a federal
prosecutor with unlimited powers consorted "with malicious right-wingers"
to overturn the results of the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections. But
Salon takes a different view.

Ever since Clinton's Aug. 17 confession, the media have been thrashing
around the White House like sharks smelling blood in the water. Now that
Starr has "got" Clinton on Lewinsky, it's become an article of faith among
the opinion elite that the prosecutor's unlimited probe has been completely
vindicated and that any attempt to impugn him is folly. The only question
allowed for debate in the national Clinton deathwatch is when the president
will walk the plank. At the risk of putting a damper on this orgy of
prurience and moral pomposity, we would like to remind the country of two
salient points: First, Starr's endless investigation apparently found
nothing improper about Clinton's role in Whitewater -- the sole reason a
special prosecutor was appointed in the first place. This is why, after
years of interrogations and hearings, there is apparently nothing about
Whitewater in Starr's report to Congress. (But don't count on the New York
Times editors' writing a front-page mea culpa about its irresponsible
Whitewater coverage, as the less magisterial San Jose Mercury did when it
retracted its "Dark Alliance" report on alleged CIA/contra drug
trafficking.) Second, Clinton's personal misdeeds, while reprehensible, are
simply nowhere near the stature of Richard Nixon's high crimes or the Reagan
administration's efforts to fund a rogue war. Covering up a sexual affair
is not an offense against the state. As Carl Bernstein commented recently,
Zippergate is no Watergate -- the country will look back on this strange
and feverish episode years from now and shake its head in wonder at how it
convulsed Washington.

As Congress prepares to review Starr's report on President Clinton, Salon
herein presents its own findings on the independent prosecutor.  In
considering Clinton's possible impeachment, lawmakers and those who elected
them must also examine the motives, tactics and alliances of Starr himself.
For despite Michael Winerip's puzzling assertion, the investigation that
has entangled Washington throughout the year is very much about Ken Starr,
not just Bill Clinton.

Over the past seven months, Salon has published a massive amount of
information about Starr, his investigation and the conflicts of interest
between his probe and the Arkansas Project, a secret $2.4 million project
to undermine Clinton financed by Starr's former patron, Richard Mellon
Scaife. Below is a summary of our special reports on Starr, which are
primarily the work of Salon's own dogged investigator, Murray Waas. Other
key reporting for Salon has been provided by our Washington bureau chief,
Jonathan Broder, and contributors Joe Conason, Gene Lyons and Mollie

What these carefully documented investigative stories underline is
essentially this: In his zealous pursuit of the president, Kenneth Starr
defiled "the temple of justice," to use his own righteous rhetoric. Lacking
a fundamental sense of fairness and judicial proportion, Starr sought first
to build his Whitewater real estate case against Clinton using irredeemably
corrupt testimony, and then, when this failed, he latched onto Paula Jones'
ill-fated civil suit, and then when that failed, he wired Linda Tripp and
finally snared Clinton on adultery -- a crime that if aggressively pursued
in Washington would depopulate our capital as thoroughly as the Khmer Rouge
emptied Phnom Penh.

Below is a fact sheet of what every American citizen should know about
Kenneth Starr and his probe.

1. After successful lobbying by staunch conservatives such as North Carolina
Sen. Lauch Faircloth, a three-judge panel dominated by Republicans replaced
moderate Whitewater prosecutor Robert Fiske with Kenneth Starr in August
1994. Starr, former chief of staff to Reagan Attorney General William French
Smith and a member of an ambitious circle of activist conservative
attorneys, accepted the job despite the fact that he had opposed the
independent counsel law when he was a Reagan official and helped prepare a
brief arguing it was unconstitutional, vesting too much power in one
unaccountable person.

2. At the time of his appointment as Whitewater independent counsel, Starr,
a $1 million-a-year Washington attorney with the high-powered firm of
Kirkland & Ellis, was advising the Paula Jones camp on her sexual harassment
suit against Clinton and offered to write a friend-of-the-court brief on
her behalf. He was also representing the tobacco industry, an ardent foe of
the Clinton administration. Later, Iran-contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh
would comment that, considering Starr's conflicts of interest, he should
have felt obligated to turn down the job of investigating Clinton.

3. Starr proceeded to build his Whitewater case against Clinton largely
around the testimony of confessed felon David Hale, a corrupt municipal
judge and businessman who claimed then-Gov. Clinton had pressured him into
making an illegal $300,000 loan to Jim and Susan McDougal, Clinton's
partners in the failed Whitewater real estate deal. Starr's Whitewater
investigators unearthed a formidable amount of evidence casting doubt on
Hale's testimony against Clinton, including the fact that Hale had falsely
invoked Clinton's name on a separate occasion to win a $50,000 kickback from
an Alabama health company seeking an Arkansas state contract. But Starr
chose to overlook this inconvenient episode in Hale's past, as well as the
fact that his star witness had turned his courthouse into a personal ATM
when he served as a municipal judge, taking kickbacks from a private
collection agency he had installed to gather fines.

4. William Watt, another former municipal judge implicated in the Whitewater
scheme, was used by Starr to corroborate Hale's testimony during the trial
of the McDougals and Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. But Watt would later tell Salon
that Starr's investigators ignored exculpatory information he provided them
about Clinton and tried to pressure him into telling a more incriminating
story about Clinton: "I was told they didn't like the truth the way that I
told it. I had my truth and they had their truth and I was told that they
liked their truth better." Watt also told Salon that he regarded Hale as
someone who would "lie and manipulate people. He was a pathological liar."

5. David Hale, while cooperating with Starr as his chief Whitewater witness
from 1994 to 1996, would sometimes stay rent-free at a fishing resort in
Hot Springs, Ark., owned by anti-Clinton activist Parker Dozhier, who passed
on secret cash payments to Hale. This charge was made to Salon by Dozhier's
former live-in girlfriend, Caryn Mann, and her teenage son, both of whom
have repeated their testimony before a federal grand jury. According to
Mann, the money came from conservative attorney Stephen Boynton and David
Henderson, vice president of the foundation that owns the conservative
American Spectator magazine. Boynton and Henderson oversaw the Arkansas
Project, an anti-Clinton muckraking campaign lavishly funded by right-wing
billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who funneled his contributions through
the Spectator.

6. "We're convinced that none of our people had any knowledge of any such
[Arkansas Project] payments [to Hale]," asserted Starr's chief Arkansas
deputy, W. Hickman Ewing Jr. But the first meeting of the Arkansas Project
took place in the Washington law offices of Theodore Olson, a friend,
political ally and former colleague of Starr's, whose relationship dated
back to their days as young activist conservatives in the Reagan Justice
Department. Olson and Starr were also both beneficiaries of Richard Mellon
Scaife's politically inspired generosity. Starr was scheduled to take a
Scaife-funded deanship at Pepperdine University until controversy about his
connections to Scaife forced him to resign the post. Olson has served on
the board and as the attorney of the Scaife-funded American Spectator as
well as on the advisory boards of four other right-wing institutions funded
by Scaife. Referring to Olson's oversight role on the Arkansas Project, one
source told Salon, "Olson is somebody who Scaife would trust to see that
nothing went wrong and that his money would not be wasted."

Like Starr, Olson worked on the Paula Jones case. Last year, when Jones
challenged Clinton's claim of immunity from civil suits while in office,
Olson, together with Robert Bork, held a moot court to prepare Jones'
lawyers for their successful argument before the Supreme Court.

7. Olson -- who, along with his wife, Barbara, is often called upon by the
press to defend their friend Starr -- also represented David Hale when he
was called to testify before the Senate Whitewater Committee.  Later, Hale
lied under oath about how he came to retain Olson while testifying at the
trial of Tucker and the McDougals. Two sources told Salon that by lying Hale
was trying to conceal his connection to the Arkansas Project. It was the
project's Stephen Boynton and David Henderson who put Hale in touch with
Olson. (Olson's Arkansas Project connection is never mentioned when the New
York Times and other media outlets call on him for comment about Starr's
investigation of the president.)

8. While Hale was cooperating with Starr's Whitewater case, the independent
counsel aggressively protected the man he called "a model witness," despite
all evidence that Hale was anything but. Starr and his deputies tried to
stop an insurance fraud case brought against Hale by Arkansas state
prosecutors, who charged that Starr's office tried to intimidate them into
dropping the case. The trial, which Starr succeeded in delaying but not
stopping, will now begin in October. It will certainly cast a further cloud
on Starr's "model witness," for Hale is charged with bilking poor black
clients in rural Arkansas out of their funeral payments.

9. Some of Starr's deputies were alarmed by the independent counsel's
unquestioning embrace of Hale. They shook their heads in dismay when Starr
argued in court for a reduced sentence for "Judge Hale," as he called him,
telling the court, "I have witnessed his contrition. I believe, your honor,
that he is genuinely remorseful of his criminal past. I have been impressed
with his humble spirit." Taking issue with Starr, one Whitewater
investigator told Salon, "With someone like Hale, you can never let down
your guard. You should never get to a point where you begin to trust him."

10. Starr deputy Hickman Ewing met quietly several times during the course
of his Whitewater investigation with Rex Armistead, a private eye hired by
the Arkansas Project to dig up dirt on Clinton.  Armistead's investigation
focused on allegations that then-Gov.  Clinton had protected a
cocaine-smuggling ring operating out of the Mena airport in rural Arkansas.
The drug charges were examined and rejected by three separate federal

One Whitewater investigator expressed concern about Ewing's meetings with
the private eye, because of the controversial connection between Starr and
Scaife and because not all the meetings were recorded in official files:
"This was either the worst case of judgment or something worse."

11. At a critical juncture in Paula Jones' long-running legal battle with
the president, the Arkansas Project's Stephen Boynton, David Henderson and
Parker Dozhier intervened to find her experienced litigators, just before
the statute of limitations on her lawsuit ran out. The suit was successfully
revived -- and it in turn would later revive Kenneth Starr's flagging
pursuit of the president.

Another connection between the Jones case and the Arkansas Project surfaced
when Salon reported that William Lehrfeld, a conservative attorney who has
worked for Scaife and who served as legal counsel for the project,
contributed $50,000 to Jones' legal fund from a little-known foundation he

12. In early 1997, Starr's Whitewater case against Clinton had reached such
a dead end that he made an effort to flee his job for Malibu's sunny
Pepperdine campus. When his attempted escape provoked howls from his
political and media supporters, Starr returned grimly to his Whitewater
post. But his fortunes would dramatically reverse later in the year when
the Jones lawsuit was green-lighted by the Supreme Court -- with help from
Starr's friend Olson -- and Jones' lawyers subpoenaed Clinton and a
then-obscure former White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

And so the Clinton/Starr drama came full circle. By returning to the Paula
Jones civil case that he had counseled before his appointment as Whitewater
prosecutor, Kenneth Starr was finally able to get his man.  Like Roger
Chillingworth, the vengeful moralist who relentlessly pursued the adulterous
Hester Prynne and her lover, the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, in Nathaniel
Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," Starr branded Clinton with the scarlet
"I" -- for impeachment.

Most Americans, even longtime supporters of Clinton, are feeling estranged
from the president these days because of his reckless Oval Office antics
and his seven months of legalistic stonewalling. The national media -- from
the foaming Christopher Matthews to the Monica-fixated Maureen Dowd -- are
reinforcing this estrangement with a 24-7 barrage of anti-Clinton
commentary. This blaring uniformity of opinion (the American media in the
'90s is less politically diverse than China's) might well further erode
Clinton's support, as Wall Street Journal apparatchik John Fund eagerly
predicted this week.

But there is still a strong bedrock of American common sense that resists
all the hysterical sermonizing, that understands that Starr's enterprise
was a political inquisition from its very birth, and that his marriage of
limitless prosecutorial force and political vengeance is a much more
dangerous specter than President Clinton's libido. It's this sense of
decency and balance that will, we hope, save the country from being torn
apart over a matter that should never have been dragged into the public

SALON | Sept. 10, 1998

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