If you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Clinton Investigation, you’re probably wrong. This book reveals a lot of inside information on the OIC team. The book reveals things I was unaware of. Other things are discussed that I knew but had forgotten about. As per usual, this will be a review of an audiobook. Our subject is “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation” by Ken Starr.
Ken Starr was the Independent Counsel who headed up the investigation. Therefore, he stands to be the foremost expert on the subject. He not only wrote the book, he also narrated it.
A good memoir of the Clinton Investigation needs to address the following things.
- Definitive conclusions on the death of Vince Foster.
- The details of Whitewater.
- An accounting of the Whitewater trials and convictions.
- Information on Monica Lewinsky and the investigation into her.
- Details on the other sexual improprieties investigated.
- Behind-the-scenes information.
Contempt by Ken Starr addresses most of these things. However, it leaves out one key issue that hurts the book. I was left with the conclusion that Starr was avoiding an issue to sell a narrative that was untrue. I’ll get to that later.
Contempt: Ken Starr personal history.
The first 4 chapters (audiobook version, 2 in print) are a throwaway if all you care about is the investigation. Ken opens the book with a personal biography. He follows that up with the events that lead to his heading up the Office of Independent Counsel.
This information is important in light of the way that the Clintons and their surrogates attacked Starr. Much like Mueller is portrayed by Trump and his apologists today, Starr was a pariah then. He lays out his upbringing, education, and faith. The narrative is much different than the picture one might have of the guy from living through the investigation. Ken is a devout Christian, a moderate Republican, and an opponent of the Independent Counsel statute. He says he served only because duty called. That is tough to believe, but he makes a reasonable case for it.
Whitewater Details and Trials:
In Contempt, Ken Starr does a decent job of explaining Whitewater. The details are complex, but he simplifies it quite well. Starr points out that this type of case wasn’t his specialty. I think that helps him to explain it in layman’s terms. However, it left me wondering why he was chosen. Ah, yes… politics. I digress.
Ken commits a fair amount of time to the investigation. The case was largely built around a convicted Judge who flipped on the defendants. There is a vast disparity between what the judge claims and what he has evidence to document. This lack of proof is why neither of the Clintons were ever indicted.
The trial in Little Rock is adequately covered. The Clintons had been on the warpath against Starr. Thus, the prosecution was handled by his team. Ken was literally in hiding in the basement safely out of view of the jurors.
After the trial, the OIC attempted to leverage the convictions to get the guilty to flip. They failed at these efforts. Jim Guy Tucker had outstanding legal issues. Susan McDougal was willing to go to jail as opposed to testifying. Starr obliged her. James McDougal cooperated. However, he also lacked useful documentation to back his claims. Ultimately, he would die in prison before he could testify. The book leaves doubt that he would’ve been much use anyway.
Death of Vince Foster:
In Contempt, Ken Starr addresses the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Vince Foster. Starr attacks them. Contempt leaves no room for doubt. Vince Foster took his own life. He did so in Fort Marcy Park.
Ken lays out good evidence to make this case. He tells the inside story of a prosecutor who disagreed with that notion. The prosecutor, however, was basing his view on media reports and not the evidence. Christopher Ruddy strikes again. Unfortunately, Starr leaves out a few key details that reading memos from the case explain. That aside, he does an adequate job convincing the reader.
The Lewinsky Scandal:
Ken Starr paints a surprising picture of Monica Lewinsky. The press and Clinton surrogates often portrayed her as a dumb bimbo. Starr, however, paints a picture of a bright girl that outfoxed his team of investigators. Moreover, this book changed my perspective on Monica Lewinsky.
Ken leaves out many of the sordid details of the relationship between Monica and Clinton. Thus, the book is safe for work. Unfortunately, that isn’t all he left out. There is a glaring omission that, to a small degree taints the book. Starr never mentions the name Juanita Broaddrick.
Ken Starr makes the argument that he wasn’t investigating sex. He was investigating perjury. Insomuch as the perjury related to sex, his investigation went there. Why then was immunity granted to Juanita Broaddrick? Follow me here.
The Missing Jane Doe:
Monica Lewinsky was Jane Doe #8 in the Paula Jones lawsuit. She submitted an affidavit denying sexual involvement with Clinton. Similarly, Juanita Broaddrick was Jane Doe #5 in the same case. Likewise, she submitted an affidavit denying intimacy with the President. Monica was on tape asserting that she had been instructed to lie. Therefore, it stands to reason that Ken Starr wanted to talk to Broaddrick. However, he should have only asked her if she was told to lie in her testimony. The nature of her testimony was irrelevant if the investigation was indeed only about perjury.
Ken Starr, however, granted Broaddrick immunity from perjury charges for what she now claimed was false testimony in the Paula Jones lawsuit. This freed her up to tell her story with impunity. Bill Clinton could only watch as she went on a media blitz. Many people hearing her story were unaware of the fact that she had submitted a sworn affidavit to the contrary.
In my opinion, this could constitute an abuse of power. I see no legal justification for granting immunity for irrelevant testimony. Ken Starr could combat my claim in one of two ways.
- If the investigation was about sex, then her testimony was relevant to the investigation. The immunity would then be justified.
- Broaddrick misled investigators. If she made them think Clinton had suborned false testimony from her, then they would need the true story.
Ken Starr may have left this part of the story out to mislead the reader. Alternatively, it could’ve been an oversight. The book suffers without it. This is my only criticism.
The Hillary Indictment:
Reports surfaced during the Starr investigation about an indictment of Hillary. Some people alleged that an indictment had been issued, then tossed. This claim is true, albeit misleading. Ken Starr clarifies this in the book.
Starr dislikes Hillary. He makes this very clear in the book. His dislike seems to be a product of the investigation, as opposed to the investigation being a product of his dislike. There were over 20 prosecutors on the case. None of them liked Hillary by the end of the investigation.
Contempt by Ken Starr is a very good read. I began the book with a favorable view of Ken Starr. My view changed little if any by the end. My view of the Clintons was unfavorable at the start. The book did very little to change my views on Bill. Hillary lost standing with me. However, she didn’t lose enough face to make me regret my 2016 vote for her. I viewed her as the lesser evil then. That view remains unchanged.
The book has timely implications. Starr doesn’t try to make his investigation analogous to the Mueller probe. The parallels however, are unavoidable. Trump and Clinton both called the investigations a witchhunt. Clinton attacked his Republican accuser as a partisan. President Trump references “Mueller’s angry Democrats”. Both Trump and Clinton attacked their female accusers, although Clinton largely did it indirectly. Both men had open contempt and disregard for the law and the legal process.
Against this backdrop, Contempt by Ken Starr is a must read. It has both historical and current relevance. It is very well written. Starr is a very capable narrator as well. He will guide you through the investigation in a compelling and entertaining way. Therefore, I highly recommend this audiobook.