A law professor revisits the scandals, investigations and trials that crippled and nearly killed a presidency.
Three locomotives barreling down separate tracks—independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation of shady Arkansas real-estate and banking transactions, a private lawsuit filed by Paula Jones alleging sexual harassment against President Bill Clinton and the president’s dalliance with a White House intern—smashed horribly together Clinton’s impeachment hearings in 1998. Gormley (Law/Duquesne Univ; Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation, 1997) appears in remarkable possession of every detail pertinent to this complex story, beginning with Jim McDougal’s ill-fated 1978 Whitewater land development and ending with a still-secret Department of Justice investigation of the Starr deputies’ initial interview of Monica Lewinsky. An acknowledged expert on special prosecutors, Gormley handles the many legal aspects of this story especially well—the inner workings of Starr’s office, the strategies of the many defense lawyers representing multiple defendants and the controversial Supreme Court decision that exposed a sitting president to civil suit. He explains the unholy political warfare and the special role played by the mainstream, partisan and emerging Internet press, and he offers sharp snapshots of the many players that marched across TV screens for too many years. For most Americans, an intervening decade is perhaps insufficiently long for reintroduction to the likes of the vapid Lewinsky, her turncoat confidante Linda Tripp, her “avuncular” attorney William Ginsburg, the smarmy Webb Hubbell and the egregious Susan Carpenter-McMillan; too soon to be reminded of the stained dress, the Vince Foster suicide, “the vast right-wing conspiracy” or the details of the Starr Report. But for those wishing to understand exactly what happened during this confusing, dismal time, Gormley’s informed reporting and evenhanded analysis is the place to start.
The entire nightmare vividly recalled.