Ken Starr

Ross Douthat asks “What if he was right?” But he still gets it wrong, as does everyone:

But with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.

The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape? Would any feminist today hesitate to take a similar opportunity to remove a predatory studio head or C.E.O.?

Everyone continues to minimize Bill Clinton’s malfeasance and obstruction of justice. His defenders take it to the extreme, saying he “lied about a blowjob,” which of course ignores the fact that he did it under oath. But he didn’t just perjure himself.

I’ve repeated this many times, but I’ll do so once again: He obstructed justice by suborning perjury with bribes and physical threats to a witness’s family, in order to prevent a young woman whom he had sexually harassed from getting a fair trial. And he did so as someone who had taken a solemn oath to see that the laws of the land were faithfully executed. He was a corrupt man, unfit for the office of the presidency, and his party was corrupt in not removing him. And not only corrupt, but politically stupid, because contra the insane talk about it being a “coup” by the Republicans, the result would have been President Al Gore, who would likely have won reelection two years later.

Now, I personally wouldn’t have been happy with that particular political outcome, but Clinton should have been removed on principle, and we’d be a much healthier polity, as we were after Nixon, had that happened.

I would also note, though, that Ken Starr was an incompetent boob, who severely botched both the Vince Foster and Whitewater investigations. That job required an experienced prosecutor with experience in dealing with the mob, not a mild-mannered judge, and if it had been done properly, the Clintons would have been out of power much sooner.

[Late-morning update]

Related: I thought this was a stupid argument at the time, and I still do:

Central to Clinton and his defenders’ argument was the implication that anyone who judged him was guilty of puritanism and outrage, a quintessentially American obsession with sex that belied an inability to greet sexual misconduct with a Gallic shrug. In a New York Times op-ed, feminist writer Gloria Steinem reserved most of her ire for “the media’s obsession with sex qua sex,” which she considered “offensive to some, titillating to many and beside the point to almost everybody.” Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes dismissed the accusations against Clinton as “sex, puritanism and trivialization,” implying in a Spanish-language op-ed that the media fascination with Clinton could be traced back to the sexual morality of Puritan settlers.

Which is ironic, considering that the American left are the political descendants of those people.

[Update early afternoon]

Also related: Hillary’s people threatened the family of an intel watchdog over the email probe. What was old is new again. Thugs then, thugs now.

[Wednesday-morning update]

As a reminder about the last item, note this CNN story from nineteen years ago, which almost no millennial is aware even happened:

Linda Tripp believes her onetime friend Monica Lewinsky threatened her days before Tripp filed an affidavit in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case about Lewinsky’s affair with President Bill Clinton.

The threat, in the form of a list of people close to the Clintons who have died in recent years, was placed on Tripp’s Pentagon chair by Lewinsky, according to a sworn deposition that Tripp provided a Washington watchdog group Monday.

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