When former Clinton special prosecutor Kenneth Starr resurfaced in a sanctimonious interview on PBS’s new Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered last Friday, it seemed like a nightmarish time warp. This right-wing legal zealot, who twisted the law into a political vendetta, quoted from the scriptures at least three times during the eight-minute interview. When asked what Clinton had done wrong, Starr fumbled lamely, and directed Carlson to “the referral.” The prosecutor who abused his legal discretion (according to many legal experts, including former Iran/contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh ) couldn’t admit that his exhaustive investigation came up with nothing, yet cost taxpayers over $70 million and consumed the time of twenty-eight attorneys and seventy-eight FBI agents over four years. (For more on Starr’s abuse of power, see the just-released documentary The Hunting of the President, based on Joe Conason and Gene Lyon’s bestselling book of the same name.)
(When asked why the once bitterly hostile inquisitor seemed so mellow these days, one of the show’s senior producers grinned and speculated that it was a side effect from Viagra.)
The political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli once observed that the proper place for saints was in the convent, not the councils of state. He also advised citizens and their representatives to take ruthless action against leaders who steal from the public purse or subvert constitutions. Wise advice as we reflect on how historically disproportionate was the punishment demanded of Clinton to the crime. The Nation still has its problems with the former President–but they have to do with his policies when it came to welfare “reform,” Rwanda and dealing with post-Communist Russia. Those were Clinton’s wrongdoing–not illicit sex and attempts to conceal it.
Yet, for a personal indiscretion, the former President was persecuted by an ethically challenged special prosecutor, at great cost to the nation’s business. Yet where is the special prosecutor to investigate President Bush who, according to many legal experts, has committed war crimes, manipulated intelligence to mislead us into a war that was unnecessary and illegal (and that has already cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and wounded and maimed tens of thousands), shredded fundamental constitutional safeguards, subverted international law and sanctioned torture?