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Let Us Return To The Gloriously Bipartisan Government of the Late 90s

[ 61 ] May 21, 2013 |

Shorter Verbtim Bill Keller: “The president should announce that he has told the Justice Department to appoint an independent investigator with bulldog instincts and bipartisan credibility. The list of candidates could start with Kenneth Starr, who chased down the scandals, real and imagined, of the Clinton presidency.”

Atrios skimmed the cream from this unwitting parody, but this is almost as good:

The third reason for a special counsel is that the government has serious business to conduct, and the scandal circus on Capitol Hill is a terrible distraction. Oversight, so-called, is what we do these days instead of passing a budget, reforming the immigration system, or processing the countless government and judicial appointments awaiting confirmation. Handing off the I.R.S. problem to a special counsel and putting congressional hearings on hold would allow everyone, including journalists, to turn their attention to all that unfinished business.

Yes, if history has taught us anything, it’s that hiring Ken Starr as a special prosecutor will ensure that years aren’t wasted on partisan psuedoscandals instead of governing. And it is almost equally clear that in the absence of scandal a productive, bipartisan legislative agenda will proceed quickly through our highly functional Congress.

The whole column is amazing. It’s like the Trailblazers reflecting on drafting Bowie over Jordan and wishing that they could do it again since it worked out so well the first time. I look forward to Keller’s next column, about how Clinton v. Jones was the most prescient Supreme Court opinion in history.


Comments (61)

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  1. wjts says:

    The special counsel (that is the formal term) should be assured an all-access pass to the people and records he needs to determine whether the treatment of conservative groups seeking special tax status was a) a ham-handed shortcut by overworked and badly guided bureaucrats, b) a systematic persecution of political opponents, or c) some combination of the two.

    A new variation on the evergreen Jamesonian question: “Spider-Man: Threat, Menace, or Both?”

  2. joe from Lowell says:

    Yes, if history has taught us anything, it’s that hiring Ken Starr as a special prosecutor will ensure that years aren’t wasted on partisan psuedoscandals instead of governing.

    Similarly, the Supreme Court has been totally vindicated in its ruling that compelling a sitting President to respond to a civil lawsuit will only take a few minutes and can’t conceivably result in any sort of distraction.

  3. N__B says:

    When I was little __B, I though I’d manage to get through my entire life without discussing blowjobs with my mother. Thanks to Ken Starr: sadly, no.

    • Hob says:

      I vividly remember this one moment when, sitting in front of a computer at my computer programming job, it hit me on some deep level— which I’d been anticipating ever since I got into science fiction as a kid— that I really was living in the future, a future that I, as a person born in the past, couldn’t possibly be ready for. And it wasn’t because I had this job doing Internet stuff that would’ve made no sense to anyone 20 years earlier; it was because what was on my computer screen was a 115,000-word volume of half-hearted pornography produced by the federal government… and distributed to me at my job free of charge… with the intention of making me angry.

      • N__B says:

        Speaking Writing as someone who read a lot of Golden Age sci-fi as a child, this future is one that John Campbell would be very disappointed in.

      • R. Johnston says:

        Hob wins an internet.

      • JP Stormcrow says:

        It really was about the sleaziest thing I’ve ever read. I actually felt deep shame at the time.

        And for anyone associated with Baylor, you do realize that your University president is an ethically-challenged bully.

        Here’s an oldie but goodie from the Times, their (generally fatuous) in depth Sept. 1998 piece on Starr which ran in the Magazine.

        All this said, in the end Starr’s motives no longer matter. That is his victory, his measure of vindication. It no longer matters if malicious right-wingers consorted with his office to lay a trap for the President, if prudishness or ambition or even radio waves from outer space drove Ken Starr. The President has admitted misleading the American public. He lied. Through Starr’s doggedness, his relentless effort to amass every last fact, he has succeeded in making his investigation about Bill Clinton, not about Ken Starr.

        And I always loved this little tidbit, Although he sings hymns on his morning jog and keeps a calendar with daily Scripture verses at his private residence, he did not bring his religion into the workplace, they say.

  4. Jonathan H. Adler says:

    A special counsel and an independent counsel (a la Ken Starr) are not the same thing. They don’t have the same legal and institutional status or constraints.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yes, that’s correct — the ability of a special counsel to engage in fishing expeditions after the initial scandal fizzled would be much more limited. Nonetheless, all of Keller’s premises (1)Ken Starr would produce judgments widely accepted across the partisan spectrum; 2)a special counsel would reduce the time Congress wasted on scandals and psuedoscandals; and 3)in the absence of scandal mongering Congress would be likely to pass an ambitious bipartisan agenda) are transparently wrong.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        I believe Keller wrote this piece after he realized that Kinsley had completely scooped him on the austerian/non-austerian debate.

        After reading these pieces I can’t tell if I don’t take enough drugs, they need to take more drugs, or if they have been taking too many drugs and need 30 days of rehab before they can submit another column.

        Or it could just be as simple as Atrios says, we are ruled/led by fools/idiots/the worst people in the world.

  5. rm says:

    Somehow this shocks more than even the most evil/stupid thing ever said by people like Sen. Inhofe. I have the politics-savvy person’s disdain for our even-the-liberal (conservative) press elite, but my God, how could he be this stupid? One expects a wingnut to say “you can’t explain how the tides work,” but this is a supposedly educated man.

  6. howard says:

    All i could think when i saw this earlier was this clown was the editor in chief….

  7. aimai says:

    I kind of think that the very phrase “The President Should…” should be stricken from the NYT editorial style lexicon.

  8. Djur says:

    Bill Keller, longtime member of the “I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-Still-Employed” club. (ref.)

  9. DocAmazing says:

    Look at it from Keller’s point of view. His job is to move newsprint. Ken Starr’s dipshit crusade sold a lot of papers; from a publisher’s point of view, he’s desirable.

  10. somethingblue says:

    I’m trying to think of some vastly long period that Keller could be Wanker of. Is there anything longer than a geologic eon?

  11. William Berry says:

    JHC! That was real!

    I was sure it was some kind of sick joke. There are no words in the language to describe the pathetical ridiculosity of this crap.

    • William Berry says:

      And I’m an NYT Digital subscriber. Embarrassing, I know, but anyway, full disclosure.

    • Manta says:

      Maybe Bill Keller has a killer sense of humor?

      • JP Stormcrow says:

        I have toyed with the thought that the whole NYTimes political coverage since 1992 has been an extended practical joke. Aside form the usual suspects, Frank Bruni? Elisabeth Bumiller*? Kit Seelye?

        *I think we were very deferential because … it’s live, it’s very intense, it’s frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you’re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country’s about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.

  12. JP Stormcrow says:

    @jamisonfoser’s twitter rant on it is worth a read.

  13. JP Stormcrow says:

    Next thing you know L. Jean Lewis will be popping up with “evidence”. … And actually for all I know she might still be chief of staff of the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office. If she is I’m going on the record as predicting it: L. Jean Lewis will feature in some attempt at an Obama administration scandal.

  14. JP Stormcrow says:

    But looking on the bright side, no Justice Starr.

  15. rea says:

    The obvious choice for special prosecutor would be someone like Rusty Sabich. Who better to track down an imaginary scandal than an imaginary prosecutor?

  16. Shakezula says:

    Oh Jesus Christ on a dirty beach cracker. Why not just call for the Witch Smeller Pursuivant?

    But this in particular makes me want to drop him into a pile of broken rusty sofa springs from a great height:

    Handing off the I.R.S. problem to a special counsel and putting congressional hearings on hold would allow everyone, including journalists, to turn their attention to all that unfinished business.

    [Deep breath]

    Where the fuck does one begin with this sort of shit? Since one has shit to do and one can barely resist the urge to seek out Mr. Can We Trade Him for the Keller Who Actually Accomplished Shit? and punch him in the balls, one will merely note that sentence contains every single mother-fucking thing that is wrong with pop. journalism in the U.S.

    I urge people to print out that sentence and keep it somewhere handy. Every time you read or listen to large outlet coverage of politics, re-read Mr. Keller’s words. This will remind you that the news is being presented through several filters of lazy, dishonest, idiocy and encourage you to seek information elsewhere. (Or you can just listen to Dirty Laundry.)


  17. cpinva says:

    after reading that column, i’m not yet convinced he was being serious. maybe he was being unintentionally facetious, or maybe intentionally. it’s kind of hard to tell. given his past, it’s easy to see why someone would assume he’s being serious, but i’m not certain in this particular case.

    • catclub says:

      The problem with asking someone if what they said was satire is, they will most likely give deadpan answer of no. And then where are you?

      And if you respond as most of us are, he asks if you can take a joke.

    • JP Stormcrow says:

      From a @nytkeller tweet earlier this morning: (And fwiw, the Ken Starr part was tongue-in-cheek.)

      • Jay B. says:

        Yeah, bullshit. The entire article is Village wisdom and deadly earnest. It’s possible, I suppose that Keller was joking about Ken Starr, but it’s certainly not evident in any way, shape or form. Everything else he wrote about was exactly what you’d think they’d think.

  18. R. Porrofatto says:

    Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that anyone sane (i.e., not a Teabagging Republican) would say “Let’s bring back Ken Starr as a special prosecutor” out loud or in print.
    And this bit is “Yes I’m totally off my meds” reasoning:

    The third reason for a special counsel is that the government has serious business to conduct, and the scandal circus on Capitol Hill is a terrible distraction.

    Keller actually thinks that an investigation by a special counsel — with all the attendant and/or fabricated leaks in the media — would put an end to the scandal circus so that the administration could govern without distraction. Fut the wuck?

    The second reason to bring in a special prosecutor is that it’s the surest way to get answers the public might trust.

    Does he even remember Robert Fiske, the first Whitewater special prosecutor whose investigation rightly cleared the Clintons of any wrongdoing, and who was replaced by Kenneth Starr for that very reason?

    Holy shit.

    • catclub says:

      I was thinking that bringing back Robert Fiske would be a great way to send the wingnuts totally off the reservation. Of course, for all I know Fiske has become a wingnut himself.
      Consider David Stockman. Not identical situation, but he recognized the lies of the Reagan admin and left it.

      also: ” Verbtim Bill Keller” is that like Nounfred Bob Jones?

  19. Tom Hilton says:

    “This whole Sudetenland crisis is a huge distraction, so we should just give it to Germany and let Europe get back to its peaceful business.”
    –Bill Keller, 1938

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