Ken Starr, Perjury and Sex - Some Thoughts on the Current Clinton Investigation

by Carolyn Gargaro
August 30, 1998

Lying, covering up and stonewalling. This has been the White House strategy this year, and yet, people are still demonizing Ken Starr and screaming that we shouldn't be in the President's bedroom (or Oval Office). While the case is long and complicated enough to warrant a book rather than an article, I decided to comment on a just a few areas of this whole Clinton investigation.

The Demonizing of Ken Starr
First, I feel a need to discuss the ever-prevalent Starr bashing. People are screaming that he is out of line, he shouldn't be investigating the Presidentís sex life; and someone in a letter to the editor of my local paper today called him a demon.

Let's see if we can stop this tired rhetoric and look at the facts for a moment, shall we?

First, Ken Starr did not suddenly start this investigation on his own. He didn't just get bored with Whitewater (which yielded over a dozen indictments, incidentally) and decide "Hey! Let me see if I can investigate who the President had sex with. That would be cool." Ken Starr is a duly constituted investigator, appointed by Janet Reno to investigate this particular case of possible perjury and obstruction of justice by President Clinton. He was chosen to investigate White Water, and then, Janet Reno also appointed him to investigate this case. What is he supposed to say, "No, Ms. Reno. I can't investigate this. I investigated Whitewater, so I can't do this too"?

It seems highly ironic that people are quick to jump on the Starr-bashing bandwagon and totally ignore the fact that he has not overstepped his boundaries as a special Prosecutor for the Independent Counsel! In fact, the Supreme Court has upheld almost every single one of his decisions. It has been the attorneys representing President Clinton whose legal claims have been struck down by the Supreme Court - not Ken Starr's. Starr bashing is a clever way to take the focus off the investigation and to demonize the person who had been appointed to do a job - a job that was supported by Democrats and President Clinton. That's right - the Independent Counsel has been something traditionally favored by Democrats, not Republicans.

Now, some may say that the Independent Counsel shouldn't even exist, and that the counsel has way too much power. Well guess what - I agree. And guess what - most conservatives agree. And guess what - Clinton was could have prevented the Independent Counsel from existing! In fact, the existence of the Independent Counsel has to be re-approved every 5 years. In 1992, the Independent Counsel was not re-approved because of Republican opposition, but in 1994, Clinton signed the Independent Counsel Reauthorization Act of 1994, which restored the Independent Counsel!!

The Republicans considered the Independent Counsel to be unconstitutional, but our President felt differently. In fact, Clinton stated, "The Independent Counsel statute has been in the past and is today a force for government integrity and public confidence" and, "is good for American people and good for their confidence in Democracy" (Bennett, The Death of Outrage pg. 79).

Now, suddenly, when the President is the target of the Independent Counsel, which he approved and hailed as a wonderful thing, he wants to change the rules.

The point is, under the law, Ken Starr must investigate the President. Ken Starr did not choose his position - he was appointed by President Clintonís Attorney General and a three judge panel. In fact, in 1993, the Senate Ethics committee during the Bob Packwood case, chose Judge Starr to determine which parts of the Packwood diaries were relevant to the case and which should be kept private. Starr was seen as fair and not driven by ideology, and they were so confident in his fairness that the committee waived the right to appeal his decisions in the Packwood matter! Even Arthur Spitzer, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said if he had to be investigated, he'd prefer Starr over almost anyone else he could think of. And suddenly, people are claiming in 1998 that Starr is some right-wing fanatic?! Again, people are spouting rhetoric rather than looking at facts.

We can't just selectively change the law when the law applies to certain people, like President Clinton. Ken Starr is upholding the law, and until the White House spin doctors started the whole Starr-bashing bandwagon, no one ever considered Ken Starr partisan in any way, shape or form.

In addition, people are wailing that Ken Starr is taking too long, wasting too much money, etc etc. Now tell me, were these same people wailing during Watergate or Iran -Contra? Or are Independent Counsel investigations only invalid when they are used to investigate a liberal president? The people who are wailing about the cost of the investigation - did they wail about the 47.4 million dollars spent on Iran-Contra? Are the people who are wailing about how long this is taking - did they wail about the HUD Investigation, which started in 1990? The eight year HUD case, which was to investigate possible favoritism in the Reagan administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development, holds the record for the longest running investigation. Has any one considered that it is the President who has held up the investigation and caused it to run this long and cost as much as it has? Are the people who are crying that Ken Starr is a monster because he called Monica Lewinsky'ís mother to the stand - did these people cry when Lawrence Walsh, during the Iran-Contra investigation, called before the grand jury Oliver Northís wife, minister and lawyer? His babysitter was even subpoenaed, but because she was only 16 and lived in California, she was just interviewed and not brought before the grand jury. People really need to look beyond the spin and look at the facts before demonizing Ken Starr.

It's the Perjury Stupid!
People keep clamoring about how we shouldn't be looking into the President's sex life, it's his business, who cares, etc etc etc. Some say sex should not be used to measure morality or immorality; nor should lying about sex, which they take to be commonplace.

First, the case is not about sex - it is about breaking the law. There is a world of difference between just lying and LYING UNDER OATH. Are we now saying that it's ok to lie under oath if it is about sex? If that is so, then we may as well throw out all adultery and sexual harassment cases - after all, the men can just lie in these cases. In addition, people have claimed that the circumstance under which the President lied was "only" a civil case, so it doesn't matter if he lied. This is ridiculous - since when has there been a rule that lying in a civil case is ok? According to the law, perjury in a civil case is not considered in any way less significant than lying in a criminal case. If we are to accept perjury in a civil case as acceptable, we are severely compromising the judicial system. If itís ok to lie under oath "if it is about sex" Ė where do we draw the line? If perjury ok if it is regarding sex, is obstruction of justice regarding a sexual matter ok? Is it then ok to threaten people if it involves sex? How far do we take this? Lying under oath is NOT ok, even if the lie is about sex.

Aside from the Starr Investigation....
While the main issue in this case is perjury and obstruction of justice, I do have to wonder why suddenly, people are making light of something that, in any other case, would be seen as an abuse. I am referring the sexual aspect of this case. Now, before people start berating me for caring about other people's sex lives, let me reiterate that the Starr investigation is not about sex. My following comments on the sexual aspect of the case have to do with the hypocrisy I see in how people are reacting to the fact that a married president had sexual contact with a subordinate not much older than his daughter.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if we were referring to almost any other man in the country, people would be indignant that a person in the President's position would have sexual contact with an lower level employee, which is essentially what Monica Lewinsky was. I am not saying that Monica Lewinsky bears no responsibility - she does. However, in any other circumstance, in any other type of superior-subordinate relationship, people would be up in arms, screaming about "abuse of power" and how such actions are taking advantage of a young, impressionable worker. The Clinton-Lewinsky situation was further complicated by the fact that Monica was in a situation in which there was extreme imbalance of power between the people involved. There is an unfathomable gap between a 21-year-old intern and a man more than twice her age who is not only the President, but a man who many consider extremely charismatic.

However, for the sake of argument, let's just say that Monica Lewinsky is the one totally to blame - let's just say that she is the "brazen hussy" people have described her as, and the poor president is just a victim of this young woman's lustful ways. After all, how could he resist such a temptation?

If the President of the United States can not resist the temptation of a 21 year old intern, does he have the strength to run a country?!?! Think about it. If he so easily submits to sexual temptation, wouldn't this be a prime opening for a breach of security? Just send in a young attractive intern to distract the president, and she can gain access to classified information. We already have people from other countries claiming that Lewinsky is a ""pawn of Israel"!

I have to question the strength of a President who plays the victim in such a situation. I also have to question a President who lies under oath, who tries to cover up his lies, and who lies to the face of the American people.

Am I sick of this whole investigation? Yes, I am, but we canít just halt an investigation or change laws because we are tired of the investigation. Ken Starr must be allowed to do his job, and perhaps if the President had not lied, and continued to lie and stonewall, the investigation would be over by now. How will this investigation end? Only time will tell.

"I am pleased to sign into law S. 24, the Independent Counsel Act . . . a foundation stone for the trust between the Government and our citizens. It ensures that no matter what party controls the Congress or the executive branch, an independent, nonpartisan process will be in place to guarantee the integrity of public officials and ensure that no one is above the law . . . In fact, the independent counsel statute has been in the past and is today a force for Government integrity and public confidence . . . This is a good bill that I sign into law today; good for the American people and good for their confidence in our democracy."
President William Jefferson Clinton statement at White House signing ceremony, June 30, 1994, two months before Ken Starr's Appointment.

This article copyright © 1998 by Carolyn Gargaro, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.