Media Watchdogs Sleep as Starr Ignores Perjury

Article excerpt

James Carville's public assault on Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has been viewed with disfavor by nearly everyone - except Bill Clinton. The president's refusal to comment supports the suspicion that he welcomes the attacks initiated by his 1992 campaign manager. Carville's claim that Starr is so partisan that he cannot be trusted to evaluate the evidence of possible wrongdoing on the part of the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is a close relative of Clinton's charge that Starr is out to get him. Both are way off base.

A better case can be made that Starr has protected Clinton for the last two years, helping him win a second term. As Starr heads into his third winter as independent counsel, with the chilling blasts from Clinton and Carville at his back, his rejoinder to these critics ought to be: "Blow, blow thou winter wind/Thou art not so unkind as man's ingratitude."

Starr is more vulnerable to the criticism that he has proceeded with the Washington phase of his investigation with all the speed of a Greenland glacier. It was obvious to those who followed the Senate Whitewater hearings on C-span that many of the witnesses had perjured themselves. The majority report of the committee charged several senior administration officials with having provided inaccurate and incomplete testimony to the Senate." It also charged that White House official had impeded its investigation by "the withholding and delay in the production of documents directly relevant to the committee's investigation." Among those named were White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Maggie Williams, who were accused of having lied in their testimony about the removal of documents from Vincent Foster's office. It said that these and other witnesses had obstructed its efforts to investigate the handling of documents in Fosters office following his death, and it had voted to refer the matter, including the testimony of specific witnesses, to the Office of the Independent Counsel for possible criminal violations. That report was dated June 17, 1996.

Nearly six months have passed and the independent counsel has yet to indict anyone in Washington for perjury or obstruction of justice. This leaves the impression that there is no risk in lying under oath to Congress and that officials can withhold subpoenaed material with little fear of being punished. …