The Death Of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, by Ken Gormley
A friend of mine loaned this book to me quite a while ago, and I long delayed reading it for two main reasons. The first of the reasons is that this book is simply massive, at almost 700 pages before its copious endnotes. My industrial reading process can go through books of two-hundred to three-hundred pages without much difficulty at all, but a book more than 400 pages presents some serious questions about when I am going to be able to read this in the midst of my urgent and far easier reading. The second, and more substantial, concern was the fact that this friend had loaned me a variety of books  that, for the most part, were stridently leftist and that is not very enjoyable at all. Yet, I found this to be a surprisingly good book. Part of the reason why this book is good is that the author lets the various participants tell their own story and whatever side you happen to agree with you view as persuasive. So I read this book and likely found something far different than the person who loaned it to me. And yet if we both liked it, that’s not so bad.
The contents of this book are, it should be noted, expansive. After a prelude looking at the impeachment vote and a contrast of the backgrounds between Bill Clinton and Ken Starr, the author begins by looking at the White Water real estate investment that was at the origin of Clinton’s legal troubles and the Ken Starr’s controversial career as an independent prosecutor. The second part looks at the Paula Jones case and its origins. The third part of the book looks at the Monica Lewinsky scandal and how it was added to the Paula Jones case to ensnare the president thanks to his inability to control himself. The fourth part of the book looks at the grand confessional where President Clinton tried to save his marriage and his presidency in the face of a humiliating scandal. The fifth part of the book looked at the blundering impeachment trial against Bill Clinton and how it could have succeeded more, and closes with an epilogue that demonstrates Clinton learned nothing from it. Among all the pages there are a host of major and minor characters, and the reader is placed in the point of view of having to choose which of the stories to believe.
So, how do I take it? In light of the 2016 presidential campaign, the corruption of the Clintons is not surprising. Likewise, the demonizing that Ken Starr suffered for being a decent and honorable man is not surprising in light of the way that the ugly forces of the “progressive” left have treated anyone of decency in the public sphere. This book is more grim and ugly and disappointing, in that it demonstrates the point at which our political order in the United States lost any sort of ability to stare into the vacuum of itself and projected its own sins on to enemies, and that includes just about everyone where except for a few people who come off rather well (Starr and the Lewinskys and the plucky Arkansas federal judge come off the best–most everyone else does not come off all that well at all, the Clintons and their associates perhaps worst of all). This is a long book, and it is a difficult book that few will likely read to completion, yet it is a worthwhile book and it has something to say about the horrors of our political age. At 52 chapters it almost certainly goes on a bit long and I have to admit my own interest flagged towards the end, but this is still a worthwhile book and one that will reveal to the reader where they stand in our troubled political times, if you want to know. You may not really want to know.
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