Schizoid Is Beautiful

Chatterbox’s alter ego wrote yesterday that he hopes “the discordant halves of the Chatterbox persona will soon again find themselves opining in total harmony” with respect to whether Ken Starr should have announced before Election Day that Bill Clinton was innocent in the Travelgate and Filegate affairs. No dice.

So Rep. Steve Chabot says he really thought Starr was going to have some fresh evidence for his Judiciary committee appearance. Big deal. Chatterbox doesn’t think it particularly matters that Chabot, a very conservative Republican, didn’t find out he was wrong till after Election Day. (Had he known, would Chabot have voted a Democratic party line?) Normal people, i.e., people who aren’t sitting members of Congress, knew on Election Day that Starr had only nailed Clinton on probable perjury and possible obstruction of justice re Monica Lewinsky. (And Chatterbox uses that “only” advisedly; whatever crimes Clinton likely committed may or may not warrant impeachment, but they weren’t exactly jaywalking. Democrats should take care not to reopen this wound, so carefully bandaged up by the last election.)

As to the thoroughness of Starr’s exoneration of Clinton on Travelgate and Filegate, the Other Chatterbox is overstating it slightly. About Travelgate, Starr said, “we do not anticipate that any evidence gathered in that investigation will be relevant to the committee’s current task. The president was not involved in our Travel Office investigation.” The way I read that, Starr is saying, “We didn’t get anything on Clinton in our Travelgate investigation, and probably won’t.” He is not saying, “I guarantee you my office won’t investigate Clinton’s role in Travelgate further, even if we’re presented with overwhelming evidence tomorrow.” About Filegate, Starr said much the same thing: They found “no evidence” that higher ups were involved, or that “information contained in the files of former officials was actually used for an improper purpose.” In the case of Filegate, it’s true that Starr is a bit more emphatic in suggesting he’s had enough: He makes a point of saying the investigation “has been thorough.”

Does Chatterbox think Clinton is guilty in the Travelgate or Filegate affairs? No. Does Chatterbox think Starr was duty-bound to inform Congress before Election Day that it was hounding an innocent man? No. First of all, prosecutors don’t exonerate their targets publicly very often. Second, it’s clear that Starr doesn’t think Clinton’s an innocent man; he thinks he’s guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. Chatterbox thinks Starr has excellent evidence on the first charge, and not-bad evidence on the second. As a country we are choosing to note these uncomfortable realities and move on. So c’mon, let’s move on already …

–Timothy Noah