Accentuate the Positive

Chatterbox is surprised to see how seriously the press is taking House Judiciary committee member Barney Frank’s complaint last Thursday that Starr didn’t exonerate Clinton of criminal activity in Filegate and Travelgate before the election. Even Chatterbox’s favorite political columnist, Mary McGrory, raised the question of whether Starr is “motivated by a consuming hatred of Bill Clinton,” as evidenced by his pre-election silence on these matters.

Chatterbox doesn’t doubt that Starr is motivated by a consuming hatred of Bill Clinton. But is there anybody who voted in the last election who didn’t know at the time that the Starr investigation had failed to nail Clinton on anything other than Monica Lewinsky-related probable perjury and possible obstruction of justice? Chatterbox dimly recalls seeing Starr’s report to Congress, and much of the accompanying evidence, scattered all over the World Wide Web during the months of September and October. In paperback, the Starr report became a best seller. Plus, one or two commentators on television may have mentioned that the report focused entirely on alleged crimes committed in connection to an extra-marital affair. Am I remembering this correctly?

Frank got Starr to admit that his office had given up on Travelgate and Filegate months before, yet hadn’t told Congress. But as Starr pointed out to Frank, “The silence [in the report] with respect to anything else means necessarily that we had not concluded …” and then Frank cut him off and said, “In other words, [you] don’t have anything to say unless you have something bad to say.” Well, yes, that is how prosecutors generally operate, in Chatterbox’s experience. Plus, as Starr pointed out, “we still have an investigation, as I indicated, under way … as of this time, we do not believe that there is any information in either of those matters, Congressman Frank, that would be relevant to you.” The italics are Chatterbox’s, of course, but the insinuation that the Democrats better not press their luck is Starr’s, reaffirming Chatterbox’s belief that if the Democrats truly want the impeachment process to end they should shut the hell up.

–Timothy Noah