November 21, 1998
So much has been said and written about the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, that we've been wondering whether this page should undertake yet another opinion, especially when you realize that we have consistently refused to delve into the "S" word. But Mr. Starr has not been known for his loquacious demeanor and so we could not resist the opportunity to hear his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Here was his time, his shining moment, to set the record straight, lay down his case and rebuff his relentless detractors.
In view of the present political circumstances--impeachment is no more a practical option--whether Mr. Starr was a good or a poor advocate of his referral had little relevance to this observer. We were more interested in his own rhetorical presentation of why he believes the way he does than in the matter itself. The man himself was the subject of our attention.
As his testimony went on we kept throwing notes on a pad and through a bizarre twist various quotes kept popping up in our mind. Short notes, short quotes:
Notes: [He] looks quite poised, extremely gracious, like a Southern gentleman, not the attack dog depicted by [his] adversaries...
Quote: Oscar Wilde once said that brave men kill with a sword but a "coward does it with a kiss."
Notes: Highly confident in [his] logical demonstration of the case; intelligent; [he has] no doubt about the merits of the case; clear though slightly pedant...
Quote: "I feel great mistrust toward brilliant people for, filled with confidence in the efficacy of a sharp and logical intelligence, they have little aptitude to doubt." --Louis Leprince-Ringuet
Notes: Respectable (like Henry Hyde), decent, ever so proper...
Quote: "Respectability depends on whose side you are on. To the Turks Lawrence of Arabia was a terrorist." --Alistair Buchan
Notes: The "sanctity of the judicial system"; "I revere the Law. I reveeeere the Law." (tremolo in the voice) [his very last words of his 2-hour address]
Quote: "Had I not been born for the cloister I should become a judge or a statesman," says Goldmund in Hermann Hesse's novel, Goldmund and Narcissi.
Notes: The "Truth"; the "Facts"; only... all... the truth and the facts... repeated like a refrain; eagerness, determination to prove [his case] with prosecutorial verve and ardor; [his] duty; the temple of justice... the Law is [his] religion [actually, Mr. Starr is a member of an evangelical Bible church); right versus wrong... frightening...
Quote: "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." Louis D. Brandeis (in 1928)
Slowly emerged an image, that of a zealous crusade in the name of a secular religion by a man rooted into Christian fundamentalist beliefs; a pathetic little man who, having lost all common sense, recklessly embarrassed the entire nation with his missionary fervor and his conservative vision. Time to stop taking notes, we felt.
One can only presume that when he returns to the obscurity of his million-dollar-a-year private life, Mr. Starr, Father Starr, Judge Starr -- or whoever he wants to be -- will never understand.