"Pious, Sex-Crazed" Starr; Pinch Favored U.S. Deaths
1) Today's two-part interview
with Ken Starr began with the statement: "Your critics have portrayed
you as a pious, sex-crazed out-of-control prosecutor who will do anything
to get the president." Energy Secretary Richardson did two Tuesday
morning TV interviews, but drew no espionage questions.
2) CNN'S Bob Franken and CNBC
Geraldo sub David Gregory analyzed Starr's decision to wrap up before the
2000 election. Will the "vicious political vendetta" go away or
will Hillary be "smeared"?
3) The hippie '70s geopolitics
of New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. are revealed in The New
Yorker. His father asked: 'If a young American soldier comes upon a young
North Vietnamese soldier, which one do you want to see get shot?' Arthur
answered, 'I would want to see the American get shot. It's the other guy's
country; we shouldn't be there.'
4) CNN's Bruce Morton plays
historian on the Reagan presidency, with a familar stress on style over
substance: "Reagan's great triumph was of personality."
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr agreed to an interview with NBC's Lisa
Myers which aired on the Monday and Tuesday Today shows. Myers was no
Diane Sawyer, who spent minutes last fall trying to pin down whether
uptight parents allowed Starr to dance as a teenager, but she did strike
some familiar notes.
On Monday, Katie
Couric plugged: "Ken Starr, remember him? Five years ago today he was
sworn in as independent counsel. Well, he's still on the case and he
remains unapologetic. Lisa Myers sat down with him recently. We'll have
that interview for you in our first half hour this morning."
"He's one of the most controversial people of the decade. The man at
the center of a firestorm that engulfed the nation and almost toppled the
42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton. On his
fifth anniversary, Ken Starr is scarred but unapologetic." She began
by asking: "Your critics have portrayed you as a pious, sex-crazed
out-of-control prosecutor who will do anything to get the president."
How could Starr be
both pious and sex-crazed? Perhaps Myers thought that the President thinks
he can be both, so...
Myers did ask
about Clinton's recent fine: "Judge Susan Webber Wright recently
fined the president $90,000, held him for contempt of court for what she
called, 'false, misleading, and evasive answers' in the Paula Jones case.
What was your reaction when you first heard about that ruling?"
Starr replied:"Well, I thought it was very
strong language. This is a very distinguished judge who looked at the
facts and came to these conclusions and I would just add the system did in
Myers: "Now, when you heard about that
ruling, did you let out just a little bit of a cheer?"
Starr: "No, I did not."
Myers: "A smile?"
Starr: "Well, I try to smile in my daily
life. I did think that it was the judge's evaluation of facts in a way
that showed that these are very serious matters."
Myers: "Do you feel vindicated by Judge
Wright's ruling, I mean, she did essentially find the president guilty of
lying under oath?"
Starr: "I try not to personalize it but I
think what she did find is that the facts as we found during the course of
the investigation were the facts."
Myers then went
back to sex and the Starr report: "There it is, the Ken Starr report,
certainly the most sexually explicit government document ever published.
Some of your own staff urged you not to make public some of the more
salacious details in that report. In retrospect do you wish you had taken
that advice?" Starr clarified that he sent it to Congress and that
Congress put it out.
Myers then asked:
"I want to read you one excerpt. It says: 'Lewinsky was with the
president near the bathroom in the back office and he gave Lewinsky an
open mouth kiss.' Why did that need to be in the report?" Starr
replied: "It certainly had relationship to Monica Lewinsky's
credibility. There were lots of issues with respect to, who's telling the
truth in all this?"
She asked Starr
for his comment on the more famous statements of 1998, including Clinton's
podium-thumping denial of sex with "that woman" ("That is
strong, it's emphatic, it's coming from the President of the United
States. I came to the view that that was simply a [sic] extraordinarily
sad day"); and Hillary's charge of a vast right-wing conspiracy
("I simply took it as her sense of loyalty in light of the president
denying the facts.") Starr wouldn't comment when Myers ran video of
Linda Tripp and asked, "Linda Tripp, hero or villain?" Today
then ran the tape clip where Tripp claims the clicking noises Monica's
hearing are her gum.
Myers wrapped up:
"Do you agree with Monica Lewinsky?" Starr answered: "Very
well said. Agree it has, it has been horrible."
On Tuesday, Myers
began: "To many, Ken Starr is the overzealous prosecutor hell-bent on
getting the president. An image he says is grossly unfair. His five year
investigation kept expanding from Whitewater to the firing of White House
Travel Office workers and finally to Monica Lewinsky. She asked: "Why
is so important to you that the public know that Bill Clinton's Attorney
General asked you to pursue the Monica Lewinsky investigation?"
"Do you think that the Attorney General has conducted herself
properly during all of this?...Some had said that she has protected the
Starr: "I don't want to comment, let me say
this: I believe that the career people at the Justice Department are
honorable, decent people. We have a very good and have enjoyed a very good
relationship with them over the past five years."
Myers: "So you won't say the same thing
about the Attorney General?"
Starr: "I'm not going to comment."
Myers: "You leave the impression that you do
not believe that she's been honorable and decent about this." [Ken
Starr: "I'm simply not going to comment."
MRC Webmaster Sean
Henry will post this part of the interview on the Web site later today at
In case anyone
thought it unfair to discern Starr's contempt for Reno, note his answer a
few minutes later when Myers asked: "Can you rule out any future
indictments?" Starr emphasized: "I think what I need to do is
assiduously say I can't comment and there should be no inference one way
or the other from my inability to comment."
Myers then turned
to Hillary: "Now there's a faction in your office who would like to
use the final report to lay out some of the allegations about the conduct
of the First Lady. Will you be doing that?"
Starr: "It's the independent counsel's
responsibility, so it's my responsibility, to follow the law."
Myers: "So if you don't have the goods to
indict someone, they don't have to worry about being trashed in your final
report?" Starr: "Absolutely. There will be no trashing of
anyone. There will be..."
Myers: "Including the First Lady?"
Starr: "No one, including anyone who's been
named in any one of our grants of jurisdiction."
Myers didn't allow
(or they edited out) the notion that Starr is required to report to the
three-judge panel that appointed him on Hillary's role in the Travel
Office firings and other findings. Even if the First Lady is not indicted,
surely some would argue the people who paid for all this investigation
would deserve the results of this long probe. The White House seems to
equate "trashing" with anything short of an abject apology for
Myers then dragged out the budget estimates
and the polls: "It's been five years, 50 million dollars, the public
has said 'enough already.' Do you think your investigation will be over in
time for the new millennium?"
Myers concluded:"Do you see any winners in
all this at all?"
Starr said no, but
he could have at least suggested the cable news networks. And students of
the public record.
By the way, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
appeared on both "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning
America" to discuss the Washington Post story on nuclear radiation
leaking from a weapons plant in Paducah, Kentucky. But he was not asked
anything about espionage, even as he moves to oppose Republican plans to
create an independent security agency for the nuclear labs.
Starr's declaration to NBC that he would wrap up his probe before the 2000
election drew some network analysis. On Monday afternoon's "Inside
Politics," CNN reporter Bob Franken explored Starr's five years as a
prosecutor and concluded: "Five years later, Starr's investigation
has expanded from Whitewater through to Monica Lewinsky. And while the
investigation itself may be winding down, Judy, the charges of a vicious
political vendetta certainly have not." Score one for Captain Cueball
On Monday night,
NBC and MSNBC reporter David Gregory did his best Geraldo Rivera
impression when he hosted CNBC's Rivera Live. He offered this toughie to
DNC talk-show recruit and former independent counsel Michael Zeldin:
"I want to
get on to the issue of this final report and what it means for Hillary
Clinton. Michael Zeldin, if there is nothing, if this trail is cold and
nothing adds up to indictment, does this become anything but a smear job
against Hillary Clinton at the worst possible moment for her
A cynic might
wonder whether Hillary's run for the Senate was a tactical move to make
anything Starr tried to do in his post-Lewinsky phase look partisan. Of
course, a cynic would also note that reporters like Gregory have flushed
all the relevant data about Hillary's shady lawyering (covered up in part
by shredding at the Rose Law Firm) down the memory hole. So perhaps the
smear job is Gregory's.
An alert MRC fan tipped us to the profile of New York Times publisher
Arthur Sulzberger Jr. in the July 26 issue of The New Yorker magazine by
authors Susan Tifft and Alex E. Jones, who are writing a book on the
nicknamed "Pinch" (in comparison to his Times predecessor and
father, Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger), traveled a familiar path for
the children of the Eastern elite in the 1960s and 1970s:
"He had been
something of a political activist in high school -- he had been suspended
briefly from Browning for trying to organize a shutdown of the school
following the National Guard's shooting of students at Kent State -- and
at Tufts he eagerly embraced the antiwar movement. His first arrest for
civil disobedience took place outside the Raytheon Comapny, a defense and
space contractor; there, dressed in an old Marine jacket of Punch's, he
joined other demonstrators who were blocking the entrance to the company's
gates. He was soon arrested again, in an antiwar sit-in at the J.F.K.
Federal Building in Boston.
shown little reaction after the first arrest, but when he got word of the
second one he flew to Boston. Over dinner, he asked his son why he was
involved with the protests and what kind of behavior the family might
expect of him in the future. Arthur assured his father he was not planning
on a career of getting himself arrested. After dinner, as the two men
walked in the Boston Common, Punch asked what his son later characterized
as 'the dumbest question I've ever heard in my life': 'If a young American
soldier comes upon a young North Vietnamese soldier, which one do you want
to see get shot?' Arthur answered, 'I would want to see the American get
shot. It's the other guy's country; we shouldn't be there.' To the elder
Sulzberger, this bordered on traitor's talk. 'How can you say that?' he
yelled. Years later, Arthur said of the incident, 'It's the closest he's
ever come to hitting me.'"
Tifft and Jones
also discuss the younger Sulzberger's liberal activism with gay reporters,
noting that as assistant metropolitan editor in 1982, he took each gay
reporter on the metro staff to lunch one at a time. After asking them what
it's like to be gay at the Times, he "went on to say that he
considered it 'crazy' for people to work together so closely and 'not have
this behind us.' Denying one's sexual orientation, he added, is 'a silly
way to live our lives.'" They also noted that twelve years later, the
younger Sulzberger included "domestic partners" benefits
(without his father's knowledge) in the new labor contract, which
"fulfilled a promise that Arthur had made two years earlier to the
National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association." Again, his father
was angry, but Tifft and Jones noted, 'he added, with a tone of moral
certainty, 'My father's position on [gay benefits] is wrong."
In his closing commentary on CNN's "Late Edition" on Sunday,
longtime CBS correspondent Bruce Morton noticed all the Republican
presidential contenders are claiming the mantle of Ronald Reagan, which
inspired him to reevaluate the Reagan presidency like an amateur
[promises] he ran on in 1980 were cutting taxes, increasing defense
spending, and balancing the budget. Anyone should have known you couldn't
do all three, but the voters loved him anyway. And hey, two out of three
ain't bad. He deserves some credit for ending the Cold War, but so do all
the presidents since World War II who followed George Kennan's containment
policy. He did increase defense spending, but other spending went up too
and the deficit soared. Reagan's great triumph was of personality. He said
what conservatives wanted to hear on issues like abortion and school
prayer, and he said it so well they didn't mind that he never actually
tackled these most divisive issues. Today, with GOP candidates sniping at
each other over what tests a supreme court nominee should have to pass,
they could use some of Reagan's inclusive sunniness. Can any of them unify
the party, mute its quarrels they way Reagan did? Too early to tell,
probably, but if anyone can, it's likely to be somebody preaching
inclusion, as Reagan did, not dividing the party, as he did not."
excluded the historical role of any other players in the Reagan years,
including reporters and the Democratic House of Representatives. Surely
they had something to do with a lack of spending cuts, and surely they had
something to do with opposing the anti-communist resolve that won the Cold
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