A high editor of the New York Times today reviews Ken Gormley’s encyclopedic rehash of the Whitewater investigation, “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr.”
Richard Berke writes about the marathon witch hunt:
Yet the entire episode stemmed not from matters of war and peace, but from the question of whether Clinton, when he was governor of Arkansas, had bared himself to a young woman, Paula Corbin Jones, in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991.
In today’s world of suicide bombers and a ravaged economy, it all seems not merely frivolous, but ludicrous. And it’s especially disconcerting to think that while so many were preoccupied by Clinton’s “distinguishing characteristic,” Osama bin Laden was most likely preoccupied with attacking the United States.
As with other NY Times chroniclers who now look back in wonder at the excesses of the Starr persecution, Berke finds no room to mention the misbegotten, politically motivated and empty reporting that started it all in the pages of the New York Times and how this empty line of attack was flogged repeatedly by the paper’s news and opinion staff for years. Some virtue died in media in those days, too. I wrote about the book this week.
A historian does a better job getting at Starr in his review for the Washington Post. (Speaking of another paper guilty of multiple excesses in Whitewater.) The review compares Starr to Alec Guinness’ mad British engineer in “The Bridge on the River Kwai”:
Exhausted, forced to miss his mother’s 91st birthday in Texas, overcome with a “sense of gloom,” Starr shambled into his McLean home, collapsing into bed as he asked himself, “How could a sensible and sane government come to this?” What seems to have escaped the chief government officer driving this campaign — even as this rare glimmer of insight troubled his fitful sleep — is that it was still, at that late moment, entirely possible to close up shop before the whole ugly business got a hell of a lot worse.
At least Col. Nicholson blew up the bridge.