Vince Foster Redux

Article excerpt

Christopher Ruddy and the Scoggins factor.

Consider now the Scoggins factor.

It takes its name from William Scoggins, the cab driver who saw Lee Harvey Oswald toss the spent shells from his revolver into the bushes after he shot officer J.D. Tippit in a parking lot in Dallas. Scoggins made a positive identification; the spent shells were where he said they were; and Tippit lay dead not far away. Scoggins's testimony was unimpeachable, and because it was, conspiracy theories about who really shot John F. Kennedy have always had to ignore it. It supports the finding that Oswald was the lone assassin, and undermines the scenarios about, say, Mafia, CIA, or Corsican gunmen involvement. Even the resourceful Oliver Stone did not dare mention Scoggins in his movie. The Scoggins factor is the ability of partisans of one cause or another to dismiss evidence that stands in their way.

Thus the demagogue Maxine Waters can claim, as she did at the Million Women's March, that the CIA "had a role" in importing "tons" of cocaine into Los Angeles. Pierre Salinger can insist that a Navy missile brought down TWA 8oo, and Dexter King can say the FBI had something to do with the assassination of Martin Luther King, his father. The fancifulness knows no bounds. Prominent Egyptian commentators now say flatly that MI6, the British secret service, killed Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. Remotecontrol bombs, apparently, had been placed in their Mercedes.

When independent counsel Kenneth Starr found that Vincent Foster had committed suicide in Fort Marcy Park, he raised the Scoggins factor once again. Usually it is found on the left, of course, but this time it turned up on the right. As the Washington Times said, Starr's report provided "exhaustive and incontrovertible evidence" that supported his finding, including "overwhelming physical evidence, examined by an impressive team of highly experienced law enforcement officers and scientists...that clearly puts to rest various controversial non-suicide theories of Mr. Foster's death."

Partisans, though, would have none of this. A gentleman who described himself as the director of communications for the Clinton Investigative Commission said in a letter to the Washington Times that the report had "compromised Mr. Starr's integrity.. .and tarnished his reputation."

Reed Irvine, the chairman of Accuracy in Media, told the New York Times that Starr's report was "a joke-and a bad joke." Meanwhile, Christopher Ruddy, the author of The Strange Death of Vincent Foster (Free Press, 316 pages, $25), took to his web site. Starr's report, he wrote, will not end the Foster matter, but "sealed forever, however, is history's judgment on Kenneth W. Starr." Starr, it seems, was to be damned through the ages; he had engineered a massive cover-up.

Obviously what the Washington Times thought exhaustive and incontrovertible, the partisans did not. The DNA tests did not matter; neither did the gunshot residue found on Foster's right hand, nor the gunshot residue found in his mouth. Moreover, Starr, by any reasonable standard, had established that Foster had owned the revolver that had been found in his hand, and as his report said, "Virtually all theories that the manner of death was not suicide rest on an assumption that the gun did not belong to Mr. Foster." After all, if the gun did belong to Foster it was hard to imagine how his killer or killers might have gotten it, except, perhaps, by breaking into his house and stealing it, or else accosting him when, inexplicably, he just happened to be carrying it around Washington.

Those scenarios, however, were unlikely. Mrs. Alice Mae Foster, Foster's mother, told Starr's investigators that her late husband had kept a revolver in a bedside table at their home in Hope, Arkansas. In 1991, when he was ill and bedridden, she also said, her daughter, Sharon Bowman, had taken the revolver and at least one other handgun and put them in a shoebox, and placed the shoebox in a closet. …