CyberAlert -- 08/11/1999 -- "Pious, Sex-Crazed" Starr; Pinch Favored U.S. Deaths

"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."


starr0811.jpg (16487 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) 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."

Myers began: "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 fact work."
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?"

Myers continued: "Do you think that the Attorney General has conducted herself properly during all of this?...Some had said that she has protected the president."
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 investigating.

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.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) 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 Carville.

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 politically?"

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.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) 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 Sulzberger family.

Sulzberger, 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.

"Punch had 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."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) 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 historian:

"The three [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."

Morton's take 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 War. -- Brent Baker


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