The Republicans Didn’t Fret About Impeaching Clinton

If Chairman Jerry Nadler and the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are finally serious about impeaching the Orange Menace they might want to take a look at what the Republicans did in 1998 when they impeached President William Jefferson Clinton.

Long before iPhones Facebook memes and Twitter, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee aggressively (and sanctimoniously) investigated President Clinton, not for violating the Emoluments clause or bribing a porn star with campaign funds or caging children or ducking subpoenas, but for trying to conceal about a dozen private and consensual sexual encounters he had had with a White House intern.  

The 1998 report of the “Independent Counsel” (not to be confused with a “Special Counsel”) fashioned an elaborate “Constitutional” matrix for exerting maximum political damage on Clinton. 

The Starr Report is named after the right-wing Republican judge, Kenneth W. Starr, who led the effort. Starr, along with his gaggle of eager-beaver Republican operatives on his staff like the young Brett Kavanaugh, was the product of long hours of crack investigative work by FBI agents, Office of the Independent Counsel investigators, Justice Department lawyers, grand juries, legal teams from the Congressional staffs, and dozens of independent researchers, (as well as the labors of Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, Lucianne Goldberg and other “elves” who provided their pro bono assistance both overtly and in secret).

The Starr inquest, along with the earlier investigations into the non-scandals “Whitewater” and “Travelgate,” cost American taxpayers over $60 million. 

These inquiries, like all Republican-led congressional investigations dating back to Joseph McCarthy’s anti-commie crusade in the early 1950s, were nothing more than partisan fishing expeditions, at taxpayer expense, aimed to inflict political damage on Democrats and were manufactured “scandals” in line with Benghazi or Pizzagate.    

During the Reagan years, Ken Starr had been a federal judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and a former Solicitor General under Bush the First. After he became famous for leading the anti-Clinton forces he moved on to become “Dean Starr” for a time at the ultra-conservative Pepperdine University School of Law and later landed a sweet sinecure as chancellor of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a post he was forced to resign in disgrace for not giving two shits about rampant sexual assaults going on in the college’s athletics department.

It’s funny how Starr was such a gallant defender of victims of sexual harassment when it served Republican partisan interests in Washington yet became so indifferent to it as the chief executive of Baylor in Waco.

Starr continues to this day to pen the occasional far-right opinion piece for the notoriously right-wing op-ed page at the Wall Street Journal. Naturally, Starr is also an active member of the Federalist Society, the pipeline organization for nearly all of Trump’s wacked-out and mediocre judicial appointments, including Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Also, while Starr was Solicitor General, he mentored a young right-wing corporate lawyer from Indiana who he appointed as his top deputy. That young lawyer is now the Chief Justice of the fucking U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts.  [Insert sad face emoji here.]

The Starr Report

At the time Starr produced his infamous narrative that became the basis for impeaching President Clinton he knew that he was writing a significant document that future historians and legal scholars would examine closely to parse and interpret its meaning. Today, The Starr Report has become part of the historical record, a primary source of immense importance to anyone who wishes to better understand recent American history. I would assume Starr’s text is the subject of multiple doctoral dissertations and scholarly legal review articles.

The strongest evidence indicating that President Clinton had been untruthful in his testimony about the nature of his relationship with a young female intern and therefore guilty of an impeachable offense came from DNA evidence.

Here’s how The Starr Report explains its science of the episode (verbatim):  

“Physical evidence exclusively establishes that the President and Ms. Lewinsky had a sexual relationship.  After reaching an immunity and cooperation agreement with the Office of the Independent Counsel on July 28, 1998, Ms. Lewinsky turned over a navy-blue dress that she said she had worn during a sexual encounter with the President on February 28, 1997.  According to Ms. Lewinsky, she noticed stains on the garment the next time she took it from her closet.  From the location, she surmised that the stains were the President’s semen.

“Initial tests revealed that the stains are in fact semen.  Based on that result, the OIC asked the President for a blood sample.  After requesting and being given assurances that the OIC had an evidentiary basis for making the request, the President agreed.  In the White House Map Room on August 3, 1998, the White House Physician drew a vial of blood from the President in the presence of an FBI agent and an OIC attorney.  By conducting two standard DNA comparison tests, the FBI Laboratory concluded that the President was the source of the DNA obtained from the dress.  According to the more sensitive RFLP test, the genetic markers on the semen, which match the President’s DNA, are characteristic of one out of 7.87 trillion Caucasians.” (The Starr Report: The Official Report of the Independent Counsel’s Investigation of the President, Prima Publishing, Rocklin, Ca., 1998, pp. 42-43.)

This scientifically derived revelation gave the Republicans such a rise they had to check their own knickers for bodily fluids.

Starr liked to tell reporters that he saw himself in a similar role as the character “Joe Friday” in the old television cop show Dragnet, whose tag line was: “Just the facts, ma’am.”  With his soft-spoken demeanor, “Judge Starr” made every effort to appear affable and courtly in public.

Yet he chose to include summaries in the report about several sexual encounters involving the President that the DNA evidence should have rendered superfluous.

For example, quoting again from The Starr Report:

“Monica Lewinsky began her White House employment as an intern in the Chief of Staff’s office in July 1995.  At White House functions in the following months, she made eye contact with the President.  During the November 1995 government shutdown, the President invited her to his private study, where they kissed.  Later that evening, they had a more intimate sexual encounter.  They had another sexual encounter two days later, and a third one on New Year’s Eve.” (p. 58).

“. . . At one point, Ms. Lewinsky and the President talked alone in the Chief of Staff’s office.  In the course of flirting with him, she raised her jacket in the back and showed him the straps of her thong underwear, which extended above her pants.” (p. 60).

“. . . There, according to Ms. Lewinsky, they kissed.  She was wearing a long dress that buttoned from the neck to the ankles.  ‘And he unbuttoned my dress and he unhooked my bra, and sort of took the dress off my shoulders and . . . moved the bra . . . . [H]e was looking at me and touching me and telling me how beautiful I was.’  He touched her breasts with his hands and his mouth, and touched her genitals, first through underwear and then directly.  She performed oral sex on him.” (p. 69, original ellipses inside Lewinsky quote).

The Starr Report contains a mountain of salacious and titillating details that have nothing to do with the two articles of impeachment the House of Representatives brought against the President. Much of the report dwells on the minutiae of the physical relationship between the President and the intern. There are long passages that were clearly inserted into the report for no other reason than to humiliate, malign, and embarrass President Clinton. Maybe someday Judge Starr will explain the complex theories of jurisprudence that inform these editorial decisions.

In 1998, Kenneth Starr pretended to be a dedicated prosecutor of Executive branch abuses of power, and he believed the President had committed impeachable offenses. His office leaked like a sieve where an unlikely phenomenon occurred: Every single leak was in some way embarrassing to the Democratic president eliciting tsk-tsks from people like Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham.  Starr’s office shamed and denigrated Bill Clinton on a daily basis.  The Republicans in 1998 were still playing their now totally defunct “moral superiority” card against the Democrats. 

In the years since, Mr. Starr and the Republicans’ passion for “checks and balances” and claims that only those with the highest “moral character” should inhabit the White House has cooled. And during the George W. Bush years, the Republicans were mute when a Republican president unleashed a secret warrantless N.S.A. surveillance program and violated U.S. and international law by sanctioning the use of torture.

Kenneth Starr’s $60 million investigation, as well as the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to remove a Democratic president from office, raise the obvious question:  If Clinton could be impeached for trying to hide a private sexual relationship, shouldn’t Trump’s actions warrant an equally aggressive prosecution, only less pornographic? 

Trump has lied about everything and has clearly converted the presidency into a money-making machine for the Trump Organization to line his own pockets. The level of corruption and abuses of power of the Trump regime are so pervasive and so persistent if this president doesn’t deserve to be impeached then what the fuck was the impeachment of Clinton all about?

The Republicans Failed to Remove Clinton From Office

On February 12, 1999, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the Senate voted on the Clinton impeachment.  On Article I, perjury, the President was acquitted, 55 to 45.  On Article II, obstruction of justice, the President was acquitted, 50 to 50.  He was acquitted on all charges.  The Republicans needed 67 votes to remove him from office but they had no qualms about taking it all the way to a Senate trial knowing all along he wouldn’t be removed.

But the damage was done. In 2000, Vice-President Al Gore distanced himself from Clinton, in part, because Gore’s political consultants believed that Starr and his media allies had succeeded in making Clinton damaged goods, especially in the conservative parts of the country like the South. 

Gore then chose the insufferably sanctimonious Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman to be his running mate, in part, because no other national Democrat had denounced Clinton’s moral lapses more vociferously (and superciliously) than Lieberman.  Choosing the highly “moral” Lieberman, Gore thought, would play well with voters who might be outraged by what they had heard in Starr’s report.  Meanwhile, throughout the whole ordeal Clinton’s popularity hovered at about 67 percent.

But the Starr Report probably did more to get George W. Bush elected (or selected) in 2000 than most other factors.  Given Clinton’s record of peace and prosperity, Gore would have been wiser if he had been joined at the hip with Clinton on the campaign trail.  Instead, he refused to appear with the former two-term President thinking he was politically toxic.  The Starr Report had succeeded in weakening the Democratic ticket in 2000.  Mission Accomplished.

But it’s all history now.  The Republicans today adore their thrice-married philandering adulterous Jeffrey Epstein-loving president. For the hell of it, here are two more excerpts from The Starr Report to remind American taxpayers what they bought for $60 million: The most expensive piece of god-awful Republican literotica in history:

“. . . Ms. Lewinsky testified that she and the President had a sexual encounter during this visit.  They kissed, and the President touched Ms. Lewinsky’s bare breasts with his hands and mouth.  At some point, Ms. Currie approached the door leading to the hallway, which was ajar, and said that the President had a telephone call.  Ms. Lewinsky recalled that the caller was a Member of Congress with a nickname.  While the President was on the telephone, according to Ms. Lewinsky, ‘he unzipped his pants and exposed himself,’ and she performed oral sex.  Again, he stopped her before he ejaculated.” (p. 63).

“. . . In the hallway by the study, the President and Ms. Lewinsky kissed.  On this occasion, according to Ms. Lewinsky, ‘he focused on me pretty exclusively,’ kissing her bare breasts and fondling her genitals.  At one point, the President inserted a cigar into Ms. Lewinsky’s vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: ‘It tastes good.’  After they finished, Ms. Lewinsky left the Oval Office and walked through the Rose Garden.” (p. 72).

None of these prurient sexual details have anything to do with the articles of impeachment against Clinton.

Deconstructing the Starr Report is like shooting fish in a barrel.  A bunch of envious stuck-up sexually repressed Republican white men, many, like Lindsey Graham, from the Christian conservative South and whose own sexual proclivities are quite closeted, were ejaculating over studying a sexual conquest most of them could only fantasize about. 

What really got them off even more was the damage they believed they were doing to their political nemesis.  The Starr Report stands the test of time as not only a Republican ode to cisgender heteronormativity posing as an official government investigation, but a semi-literate attempt to pump out accusations against a Democratic president they believed would “shock” Middle America with its inherent “immorality.”  Instead, the only thing those fin de siècle Republicans accomplished was laying bare their own unalloyed hypocrisy.

Now I ask you to consider: If a President can be impeached based on this kind of flimsy pornographic testimony, written poorly and without legal or jurisprudential purpose, shouldn’t we be considering impeaching a President for documented abuses of power, public corruption, violations of the Emoluments clause, profiteering, caging children, obstructing justice, ducking subpoenas, and self-dealing and aggrandizement?