Pundit Central

A Starr Is Reborn?

A Starr Is Reborn?

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Issue 1 is a new Kenneth Starr. The possibility that heir apparent Al Gore lacks the necessary political acumen is Issue 2. And, though some predicted that her 15 minutes of fame had expired, Paula Jones’ decision to file an appeal sneaks in as Issue 3.

Everyone agrees that Starr desperately wants to refurbish his public image–he gave up the Pepperdine deanship, hired a PR man, and exchanged angry notes with the Justice Department this week–though the commentariat is giving long odds on his success. Discarding the deanship was “thoughtful and reasonable,” admits Mark Shields (PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer), but it was more political compromise than homage to principle. Disassociating himself from right-wing conspirators is an admirable but “belated” move, says Al Hunt (CNN’s Capital Gang). It’s too late to win hearts, believes Mara Liasson (Fox News Sunday). Starr’s historical station will be fixed by the legal argument he ultimately marshals.

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And exactly what form will this argument assume? Starr will write a report that is “complicated at best,” believes Stuart Taylor (Fox News Sunday). Upon receiving this report, predicts Taylor, Congress will hold a hearing to “put a finger to the wind.” If Clinton’s favorable poll ratings persist, talk of impeachment will fade. Paul Gigot (CBS’s Face the Nation) predicts a report to Congress will be ready by the end of summer and believes Congress may ask Starr to present it orally. If so, he’d better hire Jimmy Smits to present it, because the camera is not his friend, retorts Taylor. Nina Totenberg (Inside Washington) offers a similar sentiment: On television Starr looks pasty; in real life he’s “a chipmunk of a guy.” Bill Kristol (ABC’s This Week) thinks Starr will indict Lewinsky and present his evidence in court. This will make him look like a bully, notes Cokie Roberts (This Week).

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Almost everyone is baffled by the fact that Gore gave only $353 to charity this year. Hunt sums up the consensus position that, at times, Gore seems “tone insensitive.” Cokie Roberts and Juan Williams (Fox News Sunday), in defense, note his expenses this year–a fancy wedding for one daughter and tuition for two others at Harvard.

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Gore also takes flak for his visit to Southern tornado disaster sites. Late Edition’s (CNN) producers juxtapose images of the president’s recent visit to disaster territory (casually embracing a black family) with the vice president’s (dyspeptic speechifying from behind a lectern), prompting Susan Page and Steve Roberts to seriously question Gore’s political viability. Gore has a “George Bush problem”–he suffers by comparison to his boss–quips Liasson.

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A vocal few find Gore’s missteps charming. It’s absurd that American voters seem to want a “moist-eyed … commiserater in chief,” complains George Will. Maybe we shouldn’t encourage Clinton’s desire to embrace strangers, chortles Tony Blankley (Late Edition). Gore’s political ineptitude may actually be an asset, because voters are so fed up with Slick Willy’s slickness, argues Fred Barnes (Fox News Sunday).

Many commentators seem surprised at the persistence of Issue 3, the continuing Paula Jones saga. This story will be around for the remainder of the Clinton presidency, claims Shields. Several commentators think that Jones may win her appeal, though all admit that any trial will occur after Clinton’s presidency (Will; Taylor; Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington). An upcoming Supreme Court case, which will clarify legal principles in the Jones case, piques the curiosity of a few court-watchers (Taylor; Blankley; Sam Donaldson, This Week). Gigot (NewsHour) thinks Jones’ advisers are inept, while Totenberg believes they are more interested in serving right-wing conspirators than her interests.

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A Show About Nothing:Inside Washingtonians spend the final minutes of the discussion on the moral character of Seinfeld. Occasional poor taste is partly redeemed by great wit, says Evan Thomas. Among other laudable qualities, the “anti-Semitism is well-done,” opines Krauthammer.

He Moves in Mysterious Ways: Proving himself as adept with a parable as with a football, Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., explains the link between abortion and Social Security to Meet the Press (NBC) viewers. If only Roe vs. Wade had ended differently, argues Largent, the United States would have 23 million more taxpayers to pay as we go.

My Way or the Highway: Exercised by Wolf Blitzer’s (Late Edition) suggestion that the Jones appeal is naked political machination, Jones attorney Donovan Campbell charges Clintonites with hypocrisy and offers, “Let me give you five real quick examples.” An unruffled Blitzer counteroffers, “We don’t have that much time. Why don’t you give me one?”

Bruce Gottlieb

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