Politico Tries To Blame Ken Starr For Trump

Politico Tries To Blame Ken Starr For Trump

Politico Tries To Blame Ken Starr For Trump

When someone that the left has drawn a target on in the past dies, the left then takes that as an open invitation to crap on the deceased. After all, they were a target in life, why should they be spared in death? So we are treated to a ranty little screed by Politico editor John F. Harris, about how he blames former independent counsel Kenneth Starr for “giving” us Donald Trump.

Once you get past the inevitable “wait, what?” meme that instantly goes through your head, you have to start laughing. After all, even in death, Ken Starr, who passed away at age 76 after surgery complications, is still living rent-free in the head of a Politico editor. And not just an editor, according to his bio – the FOUNDING editor of Politico. Kind of tells you a lot about Politico, doesn’t it? Reading the argument that John F. Harris lays out in his pathetic pretzel-twisting attempt to link Starr’s supposed “morality” to Trump inspires only a single reaction for me – laughter. Sheer, hysterical laughter, at just how much the same people who demanded that we “Move On” from Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades now demand that we fault the special counsel who caught Clinton lying with his pants down, for the Trump presidency.

But let us look at Harris’s snotty and self-assured argument in Politico, and compare it to Ken Starr’s own words. You see, when Starr published his memoir, “Contempt,” back in 2018, I reviewed it in two parts (here and here) for the blog. It is an absolutely engrossing read, especially if, like me, you have strong memories of that period of time. Starr was quite thorough in his recollections, and now that he is gone (and may he rest in peace), those recollections prove to be an absolutely solid refutation of Harris’s little temper tantrum of an editorial. Perhaps Harris should have read it first, in order to not look like a Grade A jackass.

Let’s start with Harris’s introduction, asserting that the investigation was all Starr’s doing.

Starr’s investigation was not, as it seemed to many observers, a prurient exercise in exposing the president’s sexual indiscretions for partisan gain. Instead, the prosecutor’s supporters insisted, it was about a higher principle: The rule of law and the notion that even presidents are not above it. *Why can’t you guys get that through your thick heads?!* (emphasis in the original)”

The obituaries of Starr, who died this week at age 76, make points that were often made a quarter-century ago, when he was a key player in the effort to evict Clinton from the Oval Office: He was a soft-spoken man, polite and punctilious in manner, with a formidable legal mind on display over the decades as federal judge, solicitor general and law professor. He professed ambivalence about a role that started with an investigation into a failed 1970s land deal and ended as history’s most detailed inquiry into Oval Office fellatio.”

Ambivalent or no, Starr made an irrevocable choice back in the 1990s when he accepted the assignment as independent counsel: His historical reputation would pivot primarily on his mortal conflict with Bill Clinton.”

So, it was Starr’s fault for accepting the job? As we learn in the memoir, Starr was actually the SECOND person who held the role of independent counsel. The first person was Robert B. Fiske, whose appointment had expired. When the independent counsel statute was renewed, Ken Starr was asked to take the job. Harris believes that he SEALED HIS DOOOOOM or some such nonsense because he took this position. In fact, taking the position cost Starr in myriad ways – right down to the personal safety of his children. Let’s all remember that the job that Starr was asked to do was simply deal with Whitewater. Everything that came after that he investigated came at the approval of the Department of Justice, run by Janet Reno and Eric Holder. The Clinton scandals of the 90’s ended up on Starr’s plate because Janet Reno put them there.

While Harris more or less admits that Bill Clinton’s personal stock was decimated during the #MeToo era, where he was seen as he was, a boss getting sexual favors from a subordinate, he then blames Ken Starr for the scandalous “Starr Report.”

A fight for power, rather than a fight over principles, now looks like precisely the right way to describe Starr’s pursuit of Clinton and the impeachment that followed. The prosecutor delivered to a GOP-controlled Congress a long report that to people of a certain generation read like a letter to Penthouse Forum. Starr’s team insisted that the report include pornographic detail, on the theory that this was the best way to capture Clinton’s true character and shock the public out of complacency.”

Leaving aside the fact that the salacious details were true, Starr himself did not release the report in full. THAT was the doing of House Republicans, as Starr noted in his memoir.

Our research made clear that what constituted impeachable offenses – high crimes and misdemeanors – was ultimately a political judgement entrusted to the unfettered discretion of the House of Representatives.”

We wrestled with the number and order of counts of impeachment to include in the referral. Clinton had committed perjury, tampered with witnesses, and obstructed justice in many ways. We began with the clearest charge – the president’s perjury, in both the civil deposition and before the federal grand jury.”

With Brett Kavanaugh as chief wordsmith, the set of charges proceeded in a logical manner… On Wednesday, September 9, at 1:30 pm, I signed the referral letter, saying, “Many of the materials in the referral contain information of a personal nature that I respectfully urge the House to treat as confidential.” (Chapter 27, “The Referral,” pages 247-248)

Two days later, on Friday, September 11, the House voted 363-63 to release the report, sight unseen, on the internet…. When we learned that the entire report would be posted *without redactions* (emphasis in the original), or indeed without even a single person reading it, we were perplexed by the House’s rushed decision. This possibility had never occurred to us. Congress deals with classified and sensitive material, such as the Bob Packwood diaries and national security materials, all the time. We had expected the House to review and redact. Indeed, the grand jury report in the Richard Nixon impeachment had never been made public.” (Ibid, pages 248-249)

Just because the truth about Bill Clinton read like a porn novel doesn’t make it Ken Starr’s fault for pointing it out, or for the fact that the House released it on the internet without reviewing or redacting anything. This is a full swing and a miss by Harris in his arrogant attempt to just blame Starr for everything.

But how does Harris connect Donald Trump to all of this? Here’s how:

At first blush, there seems to be no through-line between a conservative movement — and plenty of individuals in that movement, like Newt Gingrich — who applauded Starr’s campaign and denounced Clinton’s alleged besmirching of “the dignity of the Oval Office,” but who are ready to defend and celebrate Donald Trump’s debauchery, his deceit and his assertions that the presidency, or at least his presidency, is a law onto itself.”

But one doesn’t need to squint hard to find that through-line. The link between Starr and Trump, between the priggish moralist and the cynical rogue, is the way that one of the most common human emotions — contempt for adversaries — became the animating force of our political culture.”

What was lacking in Starr’s investigation was proportion or detachment. Rather than enforcing the principle that presidents are not above the law, his effort was spending tens of millions of dollars roaming around countless legal caverns precisely because Clinton was president and his team loathed him. As Brett Kavanaugh, who 20 years later was tapped by Trump for the Supreme Court but then a young deputy to Starr, put it in an internal memo: “It may not be our job to impose sanctions on him, but it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear — piece by painful piece.”

This is sheer projection. You see, Harris loathes Trump, so he ascribes to Starr the same emotion when investigating Bill Clinton. Let us also point out that any claims about Donald Trump’s “debauchery” took place BEFORE the 2016 election, and not within the walls of the Oval Office. Trump was also impeached, not once, but twice, because Democrats insisted that they could find some wrongdoing, somewhere, that would convince enough Republicans to vote to convict. The Clinton impeachment broke down along party lines, and somehow Democrats forgot that part of the story. The Trump impeachments broke down the exact same way. Starr was not the impeachment prosecutor. He wrote the report that gave the Republicans their case. The real link between Starr and Trump lies there, where Democrats looked the other way on perjury to protect their own, and then collectively created impeachment charges in order to go after the president who WASN’T their own. And notice also Harris using Brett Kavanaugh as another subtle link. Kavanaugh’s entire life was nearly destroyed by the allegations and machinations of the left, and Harris pointing him out is not an accident.

Harris grudgingly admits that Starr was not a hypocrite – in that he had no sexual scandals in his own closet – but Starr pointing out that Bill Clinton did, and then attempted to suborn perjury about it, made him “self-righteous.” Or MAYBE, just maybe, Starr was compelled to tell the truth and the whole truth. Weirdly, Harris gets one point right:

Accountability becomes impossible in a political culture in which everything is reduced to weapon or shield, and a politician can escape consequences so long as he or she can rally aggrieved partisans.”

Now, if Harris could only look in a mirror and realize that he is talking about both sides, maybe we could get somewhere.

Harris will never admit this, but he isn’t actually faulting Ken Starr for Donald Trump directly. What he WANTS to blame Ken Starr for is something that Starr would have gladly claimed credit for – being the foundation of the wall that kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House in 2016. You see, Hillary’s arrogance and her ability to get away with breaking rules – something which the Clinton White House did routinely in the 1990’s – directly led to the hubris of the media. They had all but crowned Hillary in 2016 – to the point that they encouraged the candidacy of Donald Trump because they thought he would be the easiest person for Hillary to beat. They chose… poorly. And now John F. Harris wants to blame Ken Starr’s “moralism” and whine that his PRECIOUSSSSSSS never got to be president. But invoke the Bad Orange Man, because people LOVE that! Or at least Harris thinks the Politico readers will love that.

Meanwhile, we send the family of Ken Starr our condolences. Harris certainly seems to have forgotten that part in his editorial rant – perhaps because Starr’s memory is alive and well in his own head.

Featured image: Ken Starr by Gage Skidmore on Flickr, cropped, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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  • GWB says:

    Donald Trump’s debauchery, his deceit and his assertions that the presidency, or at least his presidency, is a law onto itself
    Why is it always projection? Why?

    it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear
    Isn’t that what an investigation does? (And what investigations of Trump have always FAILED to do?)

    to the point that they encouraged the candidacy of Donald Trump because they thought he would be the easiest person for Hillary to beat
    Yep. I never liked Trump. I had other preferences in the primary. I didn’t like everything he did in office.
    BUT, above all else, he was an easy pick to actually support once the election was underway and once he was in office, because he freaked out all the correct people. And that was something we learned from the Clinton years.

    • I can’t fault the Dem strategists for thinking the same thing would work in 2016 as had worked so well in 2008 and 2012. Their hand picked “opposition” worked so well to get Obama into office that they had good reason to think it would again. Especially Romney, when the “Light Bringer” had stopped hiding his true colors.

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