The Great Monica Lewinsky Misdirection

The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr

A review by David Martin

Kenneth G. Gormley, interim dean of the Duquesne University Law School, with this faux-weighty tome, continues the great misdirection done by Kenneth Starr and the American news media with respect to the Clinton scandals.  With all the later fuss that was made over the relatively inconsequential Monica Lewinsky episode, it is easy to forget that Starr was first appointed to look into the Whitewater scandal and, even more importantly, into the violent death of deputy White House Counsel, Vincent Foster.  (We have noted earlier that the original connection between Whitewater and the Foster death was wholly artificial.  It was clearly ginned up for the purpose of getting an authority figure in the form of an Independent Counsel to put his imprimatur upon the very weak case that the U.S. Park Police had made for Foster’s suicide. See the section entitled “The Search for a Mercier” in “America’s Dreyfus Affair, the Case of the Death of Vincent Foster.”)

From the beginning, because he was purported to be the choice of Jesse Helms protégé David Sentelle, one of the three judges in the federal panel that appointed him, Starr was painted as a right-wing fanatic out to get Bill Clinton (Actually, Sentelle was chosen to head the panel by ultimate government insider, Chief Justice William Rehnquist).  With that portrait fixed in our minds, we are not supposed to think about the fact that Starr had been the solicitor general under the “moderate” Republican, George H.W. Bush, and that Clinton and the elder Bush were and are quite close both politically and personally.

Gormley plays the Starr-as-partisan, rather than Starr-the-inside-fixer, angle to the hilt.  The book has been touted as offering new details on the death of Foster, but, in fact, it has virtually none of any consequence.  It hardly even revisits the old details.  Gormley’s method of evaluating Starr’s Foster investigation is pure deduction.  He takes Starr’s press-created reputation as an ideologue out for blood as a given.   He then tips his hat to Starr for his surprising fair-mindedness in finally agreeing with his predecessor, Robert Fiske—after a full three years of foot-dragging which he mischaracterizes as exhaustive investigation—that Foster did, indeed, commit suicide.  In the book, as in the actual chronology, the Starr sally into the titillating and target-rich environment of Bill’s tom-catting serves as both a distraction from the Foster matter and a further reinforcement of the Starr image as an out-of-control right-wing crusader.

Many of the book’s reviewers praise Gormley for having “interviewed everyone” connected to the Clinton-Starr dust-up.  In fact, the book’s essential dishonesty is revealed by Gormley’s studied avoidance of at least one person who is absolutely essential for understanding what went on with Starr’s investigation of the Foster death.  That is Starr’s original lead investigator, Miguel Rodriguez, who, as anyone at all familiar with the case knows, resigned in disgust rather than go along with what he perceived was shaping up to be a cover-up.  Gormley makes no mention of Rodriguez.  How can we possibly take seriously an author who seems to have no curiosity at all about Rodriguez’s actions and apparently has no interest in what more he might have to say?  (Those sucked into buying the Gormley book because of the false promise of new details in the Foster case may seek consolation by reading Rodriguez’s resignation and my analysis of it here.  Details don’t get much newer than that, because the letter did not come to light until December 2009.)

Another key person Gormley didn’t interview is the inconvenient witness in the Foster case, Patrick Knowlton.  Gormley is touted on the book’s dust jacket as an expert on independent counsels, yet he airbrushes out of the picture the historic role played by Knowlton and his lawyer, John Clarke, in challenging an independent counsel’s findings.  Over Starr’s vigorous and tightly reasoned written objections, which you will find nowhere in this supposedly “definitive” volume on Starr’s work, the three-judge panel ordered Starr to include Clarke’s 20-page letter as an appendix to his Foster report.  Two other people mentioned in the report also have letters appended, making the complete report 137 pages in length.  Apparently not wanting his readers even to know of the existence of this appendix, Gormley writes that Starr’s report is 114 pages long.

One small new fact we learn from Gormley related to the investigation of the Foster death is that the late John Butzner, the lone member of the three-judge panel appointed by a Democrat, had misgivings about the appointment of Starr on the dual grounds that he was too much of a Washington insider and that he was perceived as too politically partisan.  Gormley has interviewed Judge Butzner, and he has also examined the papers that Butzner left to the library of the University of Virginia. 

Matching in dishonesty his failure even to mention the existence of Miguel Rodriguez is what Gormley doesn’t tell us about that can be found among Butzner’s papers.  That is not only the complete text of the lawyer Clarke’s devastating 20-page letter and Starr’s very strong brief for keeping it out of his report, but also Butzner’s winning argument for accepting the motion that it be included. 

“I suspect that if we deny the motion,” he wrote to Sentelle (the “Republican partisan” who favored denying the motion) and Judge Peter T. Fay on September 25, 1997, “we will be charged as conspirators in the cover-up.” (For a full treatment of this episode, see “Documents Reveal Judges’ Deliberations on Death.”)

David Martin

April 15, 2010




In February of 2012 recorded tapes of Miquel Rodriguez’s telephone conversations with Reed Irvine, the late director of Accuracy in Media, were posted on YouTube.  They reveal, most importantly, his frustration in his attempt to blow the whistle to the American press on the ongoing cover-up being performed by Kenneth Starr and his crew.  The transcript of those tapes can be found at


David Martin

May 7, 2013




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