James Carville makes no effort to hide his true opinion of the Independent Counsel in his latest book, announcing just halfway through page one: "You know something? I don't like Ken Starr."
This would actually make a far better title for Mr. Carville's book because it sums up the content very well, but that does not mean it is not worth taking a look at. Mr. Carville predictably spends little time discussing the President's behavior, and lays out a well-detailed argument about why anyone but Ken Starr should have handled this case. Although he is generally dismissed as the most rabid of the Clinton pack, Mr. Carville manages to take time from his busy denunciation of the prosecutor to also deliver some well-deserved criticism of the media's handling of the case.
The book in its entirety hosts a wealth of Carville insights. Don't neglect the appendices -- they contain a considerable range of material for readers to explore, ranging from the text of a recent Carville speech to sixty reasons he does not trust the Starr investigation. At least one useful nugget of information is buried in the dozens of pages of appendix material -- a beef brisket recipe the author bills as "guaranteed to satisfy even the insatiable hunger of the most partisan independent counsel."
The author suggests some sort of plot was hatched by conservatives like Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth to put a "real old-school hatchet man" into the investigation because former prosecutor Robert Fiske was not partisan enough for them.
Adding to Mr. Carville's suspicions is how Judge Sentelle's wife got a job in Senator Faircloth's office after he removed Robert Fiske from the case and replaced him with Mr. Starr. Judge Sentelle heads the three-judge panel that gave Mr. Starr his position.
We would have apparently seen Corporal Cueball's anti-Starr campaign as early as 1994, if he had had his way back then and gone public with a letter to the White House warning against Mr. Starr's appointment. "Recent events have now validated my position as the first lone voice of dissent against Ken Starr," writes Mr. Carville.
The book also contains other frequently cited criticisms of Mr. Starr, ranging from his legal work for tobacco and other industries, to his conservative ties, to his near-decision to quit the investigation to teach at Pepperdine University.
Mr. Carville says he first met Mr. Starr several years ago before the investigation really got underway. The future prosecutor allegedly walked up to Mr. Carville in the USAir lounge and informed him "Your boy's getting rolled."
Weeks later, Mr. Carville's anti-Starr campaign would come to life when he recognized the man from the airport as the newly named independent counsel.
Once Whitewater started fizzling out, according to Mr. Carville, the prosecutor became obsessed with the President's sex life as his best chance to "get" Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Starr's defenders would obviously argue mitigating circumstances to justify such behavior, but after all, this is Mr. Carville's book. Elsewhere in the book, the author suggests Mr. Starr was harassing convicted Justice Department official Web Hubbell because he had cut into some of his outside legal work, and claims Mr. Hubbell would have gotten off easier for lying about the President. This is an especially serious allegation that is repeated several times throughout the book, where people are threatened with legal consequences if they do not provide false information about the President.
Other abuses cited include the many leaks that have come out in this case, which the author cites as perhaps Mr. Starr's favorite abuse of power. Mr. Carville also points out that Mr. Starr wired Linda Tripp on January 13 for his investigation but did not have permission to investigate the Lewinsky matter until three days later.
"Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate the guy. I don't wish him personal ill. I just flat out do not like him. I think he's an abusive, privacy-invading, sex-obsessed, right-wing, constitutionally insensitive, boring, obsequious and miserable little man who has risen further in his life by his willingness to suck up to power than his meager talents and pitiful judgment ever would have gotten him.
I wouldn't want to have a beer with him -- If I did, he'd probably subpoena the waitress. If I were forced to, I'd be cool and civil to him, like you might act toward a crazy brother in law at a family picnic. But you'll still never catch me shaking hands with him and saying 'Aw, shucks, it's just business Ken.'" People who have followed the Clinton scandals will recognize many of the other names that come up in the book, ranging from Whitewater figure David Hale to Richard Mellon Scaife.
Mr. Carville outlines the Democratic charge that Mr. Hale was receiving right-wing payoffs, possibly with Mr. Starr's knowledge, and ridicules the prosecutor for often arguing he is at a "critical" juncture in his case whenever challenged to wrap it up.
The author also tosses out his own conspiracy theory about Mr. Scaife dating back many years to a former associate whose mysterious death was ruled a suicide, much like the Vincent Foster death Mr. Scaife and his supporters have taken so much interest in. Other Republicans getting some ridicule include "Lawsuit Larry" Klayman, the Judicial Watch founder who once sued his own mother, and William Bennett for his "asinine, historically inaccurate and downright goofy pronouncements in his attempt to rehabilitate the GOP's top hatchet man."
Mr. Bennett's book "The Death of Outrage" is almost something of a GOP version of the Carville book, detailing the various scandalous actions of the Administration but without that zingy style Mr. Carville possesses.
Aside from the political personalities, the "Bob Woodward wannabes" in the media also receive a tongue lashing for their own complacency in the Lewinsky scandal.
"Driven stark raving mad at the thought of landing any kind of scoop, the most crazed watchdogs of the press were now more crazed than ever to lap up the leaks," says Mr. Carville of the time right after the Lewinsky scandal broke. Some of the more "salacious" details reported in the press during that time still have yet to come true, much to Mr. Carville's delight.
He tries to wrap up on something of a positive note, predicting that Mr. Starr has at least ensured that nobody will ever be given his kind of power again. He also expresses hope that the "mainstream press" will ask itself some "very tough questions" in the wake of the scandal, but he may be giving the media too much credit.
"I didn't want to write this book, but then there're the books you want to write and the books you gotta write," says Mr. Carville.
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And The Horse He Rode In On: The People Vs. Kenneth Starr James Carville (new release)