Republicans Following Clinton Model?

Jim Geraghty rightly takes colleague Hugh Hewitt to task for suggesting that the Democrats’ lockstep support of Bill Clinton during his impeachment should be emulated by the GOP.

The topic at hand is the controversy over the Harriet Miers nomination but it seems to apply to the Novak-Plame-Rove-Libby flap as well. Andy McCarthy notes that some Republicans are now trying to muddy the reputation of special investigator Pat Fitzgerald.

Pat Fitzgerald is the best prosecutor I have ever seen. By a mile. He is also the straightest shooter I have ever seen — by at least that much. And most importantly, he is a good man.

This investigation has gone on for 22 months. Most of the evidence was collected before autumn 2004 — the last year of delay has mainly been caused by reporters challenging subpoenas in the federal courts.

If Pat were political — or, worse, if he somehow had it in for the Bush administration — it was fully within his power to return indictments in the weeks before the November elections, which would almost certainly have cinched things for Senator Kerry. It is something, I am quite certain, it would never even have occurred to him to do. The only thing the guy I know would do is bring charges or close the case without charges when the facts of the investigation warranted doing so.

The man’s reputation is unblemished. Republicans would do well to wait to see whether indictments are issued and then to assess them on their merits, rather than engaging in preemptive ad hominem attacks on the messenger. It was unseemly for Democrats to attack Kenneth Starr, also a fine man, for doing his job and we should not follow suit.

The job of special investigators/prosecutors is thankless, in that half the country will automatically vehemently object to any action they take. To the extent that there is a question about the person’s integrity, it should be addressed at the outset. Once the investigation is underway, absent compelling new evidence of wrongdoing, the focus should be on the facts of the case.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DaveD says:

    James, I enthusiastically second your opinion.

  2. Repack Rider says:

    It was unseemly for Democrats to attack Kenneth Starr, also a fine man, for doing his job and we should not follow suit.

    The contrasts between Starr and Fitzgerald make that assertion ludicrous. Starr may be a fine man, but his actions were despicable, and his actions are all that I can use to judge him.

    Kenneth Starr spent $65M and could not even identify a crime that had been committed in the Whitewater affair. The best he could do was to feed the Jones lawyers an irrelevant question about a legal act that elicited a duplicitous reply from the president while he was under oath. This is the “perjury trap” that the GOP is suddenly incensed about as though there were no difference between an irrelevant untruth about a legal act and lies about who used classified information to ruin the life of a career agent.

    The Starr investigation leaked like Niagara Falls, in contrast to Fitzgerald. Unless this “fine man” had no control over his investigation, then he is personally responsible for the leaks which were used against the president.

    Has George W. Bush been asked to testify under oath, so the same penalties would apply to him that applied to Clinton? Well, he has been asked, but he refuses, so right there the difference is stark. Why do you suppose Bush is so reluctant to take responsibility for telling the truth?

    Give me GWB under oath and I’ll get you a perjury rap in two minutes.

    The CIA says that a crime has been committed in the exposure of Plame, and they asked for an investigation. Three years and $65M of investigation couldn’t identify a crime in Whitewater.

    How big does the print have to be for you to see the difference?

  3. James Joyner says:

    RR: Clinton was under oath in a civil trial legitimated in advance by a Supreme Court ruling (that I opposed, BTW) about sexual harrassment. The question about Lewinski was certainly proper in establishing a pattern of behavior.

    Starr’s scope continued to expand because the scandals kept unfolding and they were added to his portfolio by Janet Reno and company because it would have made little sense to have numerous separate investigations.

    Clinton was impeached for a crime, an Arkansas judge that HE APPOINTED later found that he had committed a crime, etc.

  4. odograph says:

    Remember, a civil case is threatened to be in the pipeline on this one too.


    I’m only in it for what it will tell me about the origins of this war. If it was a criminal “cabal” that’s bad, but if it was organized (but legal) blunder that’s bad too – and perhaps harder to deal with.

  5. odograph says:

    disclaimer – I am a former Fat Tire Flyer reader. 😉

  6. Anderson says:

    I’ll be curious to see the public reaction if it’s “just” perjury/obstruction, as compared with the Clinton debacle.

    The general public support for Clinton, I think, came from a down-home sense that lyin’ about cheatin’, in an investigation supposedly dealing with something entirely different, was an excusable failing. Possibly even one that we might have committed ourselves (assuming the underlying sin). You could identify with Clinton, in other words.

    It will be difficult, tho not impossible, for the same reaction to arise from the Plame case. Hence the groundwork (“Joe Wilson’s a liar,” etc.) to prepare public opinion in case of indictments.

    In the event of indictments, underlying offense charged or not, I expect yet another partisan divide. There are no facts any more, only interpretations, as Nietzsche observed.

  7. DL says:

    I see absolutely nothing amiss with marching in lockstep to impeach Bill CLinton. Oops!

  8. odograph says:

    Seriously Anderson, do you think there has been a recent slide? I remember a day when partisans would name different truths. In a world full of things that are true that’s certainly possible. All it takes is care to avoid arguing from the great list of things that are not true.

    The difference today, with modern punditry, is that people simply name things (true or false) as fast as they can, and very rarely back up for a correction.

    Bottome line – yes there are many truths, but if you are going to cliam the higher ground, give me one of those truths, and not a lie.