Monday, May 9, 2016

Karma Teaches Former Anti-Clinton Crusader and Baylor President Ken Starr a Lesson

by Nomad

In the late 1990s, Ken Starr was a name on everybody's lips. This was the independent prosecutor whom the Republicans hoped would derail the Clinton presidency.
Today, as president of Baylor University, Starr has been struggling to deal with criticism over the university's handling of a series of rape allegations.

Runaway Investigations

As a walking footnote to history, Kenneth Starr was once a name of everybody's lips. He was portrayed by the Far Right as a heroic independent prosecutor determined to expose all of the scandals of the Clinton administration. Others claimed that he was a commissioned by the Republican party with attempting to destroy the credibility of the president, and to provide the basis for the impeachment of President Clinton. Suffice to say, for awhile, he was a controversial figure. 

Starr was head of what was in some ways a runaway investigation. Initially, Starr was appointed to investigate the suicide death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.

After three years, Starr made the disappointing discovery that the severely depressed Foster had killed himself, and was not the victim of foul play. This reaffirmed previous findings.
The Republicans were not ready to call it quits.

When that line of questioning proved to fruitless, the investigation was expanded to include the Whitewater real estate investments of Bill Clinton. That too reached a dead end.
In December 1997, Starr shut down the Whitewater investigation because of insufficient evidence.

That inquiry was revived one more time. in January 1998 to include an extramarital affair that Bill Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky

Harrassment and Bullying 

The justification for this expansion was the allegation that the president had engaged in a form of workplace sexual harrassment. The idea that this was a personal matter between two people made no difference whosoever to Starr's case. 

Privacy of the accused (or, in this case, the "victim") was no excuse, according the Starr Report.
To excuse a party who lied or concealed evidence on the ground that the evidence covered only "personal" or "private" behavior would frustrate the goals that Congress and the courts have sought to achieve in enacting and interpreting the Nation's sexual harassment laws. That is particularly true when the conduct that is being concealed -- sexual relations in the workplace between a high official and a young subordinate employee -- itself conflicts with those goals.
Similar charges were leveled during the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas. In that case, however, Anita Hill- unlike Ms.Lewinsky- stated that she had felt pressured to submit to her superior's advances or risk losing her employment
(Republican members of the confirmation committee, such as Senator Orrin Hatch, were openly skeptical of Anita Hill's claim, going so far as to accuse of her making the whole thing up for the sake of public attention.They also implied she must have some kind of emotional problems.)

That's much more in keeping with the idea of sexual harassment. which is generally defined as "bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors."

Attorneys argued that there was no evidence- even from the earliest stages of Starr's investigation- of this harrassment element.
The victim, Lewinsky, did not file any charges and did not consider herself a victim at all. In fact, the matter would not have come up at all if Lewinsky hadn't been secretly recorded by a co-worker whom she had trusted. 

Anita Hill, in an op-ed piece written during the Starr investigation, remarked that what Clinton did might have been "immoral and undignified behavior." It might had "a negative effect on others in the office and in the Clinton household." 
However, in spite of that, the sex act between the president and the staffer was not "coerced, unwanted or illegal." 

To compare the Oval Office events to sexual harrassment was "at best misguided, and at worst dangerous. Why?
To equate those allegations with an office affair is to trivialize issues of sexual predation that women face in the workplace and on the street.
This was something that Prosecutor Starr could not seem to understand at the time. As it turned out, Hill's accurate distinction would be something Starr would have to learn the hard way.

Expensive Farce that Backfired

Ultimately, Star's probe was "the most expensive independent counsel inquiry ever."
As reported in 1999, when Starr was finally wrapping up his investigation:
Besides Starr, five other independent counsels are currently conducting investigations. Four of those focus on the Clinton Administration. The combined costs of those four inquiries and the Starr probe now comes to $79.3 million.
Even before Starr stepped to the plate, Attorney General Janet Reno had already spent $6 million on a probe of Whitewater and had found nothing. 

The total cost to the taxpayer  rivaled the eight-year investigation of Reagan Administration officials involved in the Iran-contra affair, which at least had very serious implications for foreign policy, the constitutional limits of the executive powers and other serious issues. 
Rather than a "happy ending" for Bill and a semen-stained dress.

At the time, Starr justified the expenditures spent by his office. The money, for the most part, went to "salaries, travel, rent, supplies and private outside contractors, along with special services from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and other agencies of the government."
To put it another way, searching for a scandal where none existed became a sort of cottage industry, funded by the American taxpayer.

For the Republicans, while it was going on, it was considered money well spent.However, the results were not what they had expected.

As damaging as it might have been to the prestige of the president- and indeed to the executive office- the results were not at all what the leaders of the GOP were expecting. At the end of his term, Bill Clinton's approval ratings reached their highest point at an astounding 73%.

According to Gallup,
Bill Clinton received the highest job approval ratings of his administration during the Lewinsky/impeachment controversy. As the Lewinsky situation unfolded, Clinton's job approval went up, not down, and his ratings remained high for the duration of the impeachment proceedings:
In other words, the plan to remove Clinton from office had backfired and Kenneth Starr's overzealous handling of the issue was generally cited as the cause.

Regrets and Rationalizations

Ken Starr largely faded from the public spotlight. In 2008, he joined the legal team defending California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. That measure passed but was later ruled unconstitutional by a federal court
Another dubious success for Starr to paste in his career scrapbook.

Two years later, in 2010, an 800-page book by Duquesne law professor Ken Gormley, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, revisited the history of the scandal. In turn, Starr felt obliged to defend his role and what better place for that kind of thing than Fox News.  

Having moved on, he was able to put the matter into perspective. Starr told Fox News he had his regrets.
" the sense that I very much regret that the entire episode happened..... obviously I regret that as a citizen who loves his country. Obviously it brought great pain to a lot of people. It was unpleasant for everyone involved in the investigation."
When it comes to having your sex life thrust into the public spotlight, of course,  that unpleasantness tended to be unequally distributed.  If Starr found the experience unpleasant, he certainly managed to hide it well.

On the other hand, the humiliated First Lady Hillary Clinton, for some time, searched in vain for the right position and elected, for better or for worse, to stand shoulder to shoulder with her husband. 

It wasn't an easy position to take. At the time, feminists were appalled and speechless. Here was a woman who claimed to be liberated and yet, here she was "standing by her man." They considered it a betrayal of principles.
How dare her uphold her marital vows!

In hindsight, Starr told Greta, it was "horribly chaotic" time. He neglects to mention the obvious relish he took in raking the president of the United States over the coals.  
I think everyone should accept criticisms of their service, especially as a prosecutor, because, as you well know, Greta, prosecutors have power and they should be called to account for that power.
It is, today, hardly clear who and when Starr was held to account for the prosecutorial power he abused. 

The interview is really an exhibition of political deceit. Interviewer Greta VanSusteran adds her own bit of hypocrisy by claiming "how all consumed we all were." 
The "we" in this case was not the American public but the right wing media. The story was broadcast every hour of every day so, for the audiences of Fox News, there was little alternative but to consume until they could swallow no more.

The rest of the nation, as Starr learned the hard way, was less morally intolerant and even less interested in the sex life of the Clintons. 
The prevailing attitude was that, while it was refreshing and exciting to hear of the gritty and embarrassing details of people in power, it wasn't anybody's business when it came to consenting adults.

In the Starr interview, Van Susteren dishonestly defined this political misadventure with a "happy ending" narrative. Everybody was successful!
You've had enormous success. President Clinton has had enormous success. Everyone has come through it. It was ugly, but we came through it.
This, in actuality, can be translated as "We made it as vicious and sensational as possible but for some reason, the American public wasn't very interested and the Clinton presidency survived. Drat!"

Starr seems unable to perform his mea culpa with skill. Despite he professed regrets, he told Van Susteren that the determination to proceed with the investigation was correct. It was, he said, something that had to be done and he was  "very proud that the investigation was conducted with honor and integrity."

It was typical conservative double-talk. Proud but regretful, painful but honorable. That's what constitutes a modern political apology in conservative circles.

In the end, in the shady world of politics. there are no regrets, only an apparent attempts to smooth over shameful acts. And this is coupled with a sincerely-held hope that the public will forget everything completely.  

In that respect, it has indeed been a success story.  

A Party that Cannot Learn from its Mistakes

The Republican Party appears to have learned nothing whatsoever from the debacle. Hillary Clinton has been given the same runaway investigation treatment over the Benghazi attacks.

When the definitive report found no evidence (despite a lot of wild allegations by prosecutors) the ever-expanding investigation was allowed to include an equally pointless investigation of Ms. Clinton's email server arrangements. 

As of November 2015, total cost to the taxpayer has been somewhere around $4.5 million.
At the start of the year, it was noted that this investigation- in existence for 609 days- has taken longer than the investigation into the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. and longer than the inquiries into the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, Iran-Contra, and Watergate.

Clearly, the GOP is incapable of learning from their past mistakes. That, however, is not to say the investigation has been without value. For those who already distrusted the Clintons, the existence of the inquiry has validated all their suspicions, even though not one claim made by the committee chairman Trey Gowdy has been verified.

The so far unrepentant Gowdy, like Kenneth Starr, will eventually step off the stage and find a cushy appointment somewhere, a measure of gratitude from the Republicans. 
(Perhaps a decade from now, Gowdy will be the president of Liberty University and Van Susteren will be allowing him the same opportunity to issue a phony expression of regret.)

However, as far as Kenneth Starr, Mama karma has delivered a perfectly-crafted humiliation.

Time of Troubles at Baylor

At around the same time as the Van Susteren interview, things were looking good for Ken Starr. His career was on the rise once again.

On 1 June 2010, Kenneth Starr was adequately rewarded by the Christian Right when he officially became the 14th president of Texas' Baylor University, replacing John Lilley who was fired by the university board of regents in 2008.

Lilley upset a lot of the faculty over tenure decisions and trying to micro-manage things. (He was accused of meddling in decisions to redesign the school's logo. Egads!)

In February, Starr's name was submitted as a candidate to fill the Baylor residency. He was given this glowing recommendation:
"His depth of experience and exceptional record as a university dean and legal scholar, his dedication to the highest ideals of the Christian faith, and his profound commitment to public service and visionary leadership make him the ideal person to lead Baylor at this remarkable time in the university's history."
Nowadays, he might have wished he had politely declined the offer. He has, by any measure, had his hands full. For some time now, Baylor has been the center of a power-play storm involving the conflicting interests of students, alumni and the board of regents.

The Dallas Morning News recently investigated Baylor President Starr's handling of allegations against eight sexual assault allegations involving the university's football players.  

That's a big deal too. Baylor is the oldest university in Texas. It's also one of the largest in the state with more than 14,000 undergraduate students, 58 percent of them women.

Authors of the Dallas Morning News report, Sue Ambrose, and David Tarrant, note that part of the problem Starr faces is related to the university's sensitivity to scandal.

Baylor happens to be the world’s largest Baptist university and is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. According to the report, at least 75 percent of Baylor’s board of regents must be Baptists, and the university expects its students and faculty to support its Christian mission. 
That makes dealing with a scandal doubly difficult.

On the other side, the students are furious at the university's handling (or mishandling) string of sexual assaults. Parents have every reason to question whether their daughters are protected by administration policy and the officials of Baylor.

In Texas and many other states, university football has always been more or less sacrosanct. Football players, regardless of their individual personalities, are untouchable and shielded by every means at the institution's disposal. This, say some, includes the crime of rape. 

It's also a source of income for the institution, although, with the extraordinarily high salaries of coaches and staff, how much of the revenue actually benefits the school is questionable.  In any event, Baylor critics have cited this as being a possible factor in the investigations.

Silence and Inaction  

From the start, Starr has had a tough time. Priorities unrelated to the university's academic prestige have revolved around the lucrative athletics department. 
On Starr’s first day on the job, rumors swirled that the Big 12 athletic conference was on the verge of collapse. Its biggest teams — Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M — threatened to bolt to other conferences for more television revenue. If the Big 12 failed, Baylor could have lost millions of dollars.
The Baylor University Football program includes men's and women's Football teams.1 head coach(es), 9 assistant coach(es), and total revenues of $35,575,376, total expenses of $28,433,715 and profits of $7,141,660. The university's McLane Stadium, opened last year, cost $266 million.

During Starr's tenure, the coaching staff has not suffered. Baylor coach Art Briles made more than $3.1 million in 2012, receiving a more than $700,000 raise from 2011. (Today his annual salary is reportedly closer to $ 4 million.)

Starr managed to hold things together, but it wasn't easy. When a Baylor student accused a football player of raping her outside a party near campus, the road was about to get a lot rockier. 
The school suspended Tevin Elliott, a defensive end for Baylor, two weeks later. Although Elliott’s arrest made headlines, Starr made no public comment.
The woman would later file a lawsuit claiming that Briles, the football coach, and McCaw, the athletic director, knew Elliott had previously assaulted another woman.
In fact, it was only the beginning of problems.
Accusations that football players had assaulted Baylor women continued, though they wouldn’t surface publicly for several years... A few months later, according to Waco police reports recently obtained by ESPN, another woman said two other football players sexually assaulted her at an off-campus party. She also declined to press charges. Baylor later expelled one of the students, but he denied any wrongdoing.

Title IX

Only nine months into Starr's term, on 4 April 2011, the Unıted States Department Of Educatıon Offıce For Cıvıl Rıghts had sent a notice to colleges and universities about their duties under Title IX.

It reminded these institutions that
The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.
Failure to taken appropriate steps would be in violation of Title IX which "requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects." 

That includes- obviously- sexual assault. If that wasn't clear, the letter provides an unequivocal definition. 
Sexual violence... refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability.
Proactive efforts were encouraged to prevent sexual harassment and violence.  The letter stated in no uncertain terms that Title IX "requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effect."

Schools also are required to publish a notice of nondiscrimination and to adopt and publish grievance procedures.
In addition, institutions are advised to revise employee training in reporting sexual harassment to appropriate school officials, and so that employees with the authority to address harassment know how to respond properly. 
Even in the face of a string of sexual assaults allegations. it took three years for Baylor to hire its first full-time Title IX coordinator. 

Defensive Position

Things certainly went from bad to worse with further accusations against newly-recruited football player Sam Ukwuachu by a female freshman at Baylor.

On homecoming weekend in October, she would later testify, she went to his apartment where he raped her.

The testimony describing the rape was graphic and harrowing. And it clear that, according to the victim, there was absolutely no question of consent.
But it wasn't a "he-said, she-said" matter. There was plenty of evidence to support the victim's testimony.

The New York Times reported:
When she went to the hospital after the encounter, the examining nurse found “vaginal injuries, including redness, bleeding and friction injuries,” according to a powerful account in Texas Monthly. Jane Doe had been a virgin.
Prior to that allegation, Ukwuachu's history at his previous university had been a matter of concern. Texas Monthly reported:
He had been kicked off the Boise State team for a previous incident of violence involving a female student; that Ukwuachu claimed after the transfer was announced that Baylor’s coaches “knew everything” about what happened in Idaho.
That alone should have set off alarm bells.
In fact, court documents indicated that Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting the Ukwuachu ’s efforts to get back on the field. 
According to that narrative, officials ignored the warning because an up-and-coming football player was too tempting a prize to dismiss.
The New York Times put it this way:
To be blunt, Baylor seemed mainly interested in protecting its football player. According to Texas Monthly, after conducting a few cursory interviews, and not even asking to look at the hospital rape kit, the school “cleared” Ukwuachu, as his lawyer later put it.
If true, then it was a costly mistake for the prestige of the university. And it put the president of the university- who has since his appointment enthusiastically demonstrated his support for Baylor's football team- in an uncomfortable position. 

In the end, on Aug. 21, Ukwuachu was sentenced to six months in the county jail and 10 years’ probation.
Nobody would say that, in this case, justice triumphed.

The Unspeakable

On the day the trial ended, Starr penned an official statement in which he sought to explain the reasons Baylor “may not have known more.” about Ukwuacha and the accusation of rape.

Starr called the Ukwuacha rape scandal an “unspeakable tragedy” and, come to think of it, that's a fairly apt turn of phrase. It was indeed unspeakable and nobody in authority really wanted to speak about it.

Nevertheless, Starr insisted that Baylor had worked “tirelessly” in order to provide a safe environment and that perpetrators of sexual violence would find "no shelter on our campus.”

Experts were not impressed by Starr's his explanation, claiming that the president had left out relevant details. For example, in that letter, he states that, unlike prosecutors, universities can’t issue subpoenas or make people testify under oath.
True, say his critics, but that's misleading.
To take action, the university doesn’t need as much proof as prosecutors do. The school only has to conclude there’s a “preponderance of evidence” – meaning it’s more likely than not the victim is telling the truth.
It would later be revealed that in one year, there were 13 sexual-assault investigations, all of which were kept confidential under Title IX.
The privacy of rape victims prevents further victimization yet Title IX also demands that direct action needed to be taken and, for whatever reason, in this case, critics claim that remedial action was delayed or avoided for as long as possible. 

As the op-ed piece in the NYT observes:
Ken Starr was as complicit in the two-year-long silence as anybody in the Baylor athletic department, which makes his current “anguish” seem like little more than P.R.
(For a more in-depth report on the Baylor scandal, click on the original Dallas Morning News story and the Texas Monthly article.)

The once-aggressive prosecutor Kenneth Starr demonstrated a reticence when dealing with this sensitive issue. That comes in sharp contrast with his crusade against the Clinton administration when nothing was considered too private to splashed all over the tabloids and Tv screens.

Once upon a time, Starr was leading the charge to get to the bottom of a scandal that threatened to derail the Clinton presidency. Today, he would prefer not to comment on a scandal that threatens to derail his own presidency. 

Starr left no panty unsniffed in Whitewater investigations generally and particularly in compiling the pornographic Starr Report on President Clinton's activities with Monica Lewinsky.
Starr's defenders say that the Baylor president is the real victim in this story. He has been torn between getting the truth out- no matter how ugly it might be- and protecting the prestige of the university. (A cover-up about who knew what and when is also not totally out of question.) 

Still, it's hard to ignore the pathetic irony of Kenneth Starr's present crisis. Here's a man who dug and probed and prosecuted the president on moral grounds (with a side order of perjury.) In his rush to hold President Clinton accountable for marital infidelity, he was quite willing to do whatever it took to see the sitting president impeached and expelled from office. 

Yet, today this same man as been remarkably silent and ineffectual when it came to violent non-consensual sexual assaults on young women at the university he presides over. 

Rape, Infidelity and the Enabler Label

Except for the rapes victims and their families and those officials at the center of the controversy, Kenneth Starr's traumas aren't, in themselves, extraordinarily important to the country at large.
A bit of karmic justice, perhaps. 

However, there's another aspect worth mentioning here.

Today, the presumptive nominee for the GOP, Donald Trump, is bold enough to assign to candidate Hillary Clinton the label of a "mean and nasty enabler" of her husband's marital problems. 

How she might have enabled her husband is not specified. It's a strange and incomprehensible idea from the get-go.
We might assume Trump means by not properly satisfying her man in bed.
Who really knows what he means.

I am not professionally qualified to judge the psychology of people like Trump, but I can imagine he means that Hillary was just not being obedient and compliant enough. Horn-dawg Bill had his needs and if he couldn't find them at home, then who can blame him for looking elsewhere? 

Such is the usual mentality of misogynists like Trump. The woman must always take the blame when a man steps out. It's a part of his manly brutish nature.
In the same way, according to this rationale, women must be to blame when they are raped. Men are unable to control themselves like women can. They, so the excuse goes, are simply acting out their instinctual drives.  

In the past, Trump himself has openly boasted of his own infidelities. His affair with the actress  Marla Maples while married to Ivanna was headline news back in the early 1990s. 
He is - as far as we know- the first presidential candidate who has been accused of orally raping his wife. (Admittedly it was a very messy divorce.) 
Trump also has been accused of rape in another case.

The Washington Post pointed out:
Trump wrote that he once considered an open marriage with his first wife, and in his book "The Art of the Comeback" he said: "If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller."
For the man who cheats, it's something to boast about, according to Trump. The makings of a best-seller. So who - meaning which women-can he blame for enabling him?

In effect, in castigating Hillary Clinton for her husband's misdemeanors, Trump is blaming the woman for bringing the problem on herself. The female is the, in his mind, the source of the problem, not the male.

That's an attitude- even today- that too many women who have reported a sexual attack have had to deal with. It is expressed in a variety of ways.
It can be subtle or it can be direct but the meaning is clear: you were wearing the wrong clothes, you were in the wrong place, you were saying the wrong things to the wrong men. Or it can come in leading questions: How much did you have to drink? Why did you go to his apartment? Why didn't you fight back harder? Why didn't you report this earlier?

The message is basically: You enabled the crime against you. 

We have heard it from conservatives in the past. The only difference is that today it's the presumptive leader of the Republican party promoting that idea. 

And anybody who votes for such a person- including women voters- is giving their approval to this attitude, whether or not they realize it or acknowledge it.
By voting for the man, you are agreeing with this mentality.

Or to put it another way, you will become Trump's enabler.