The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr

Overview

Ten years after one of the most polarizing political scandals in American history, author Ken Gormley offers an insightful, balanced, and revealing analysis of the events leading up to the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton. From Ken Starr’s initial Whitewater investigation through the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit to the Monica Lewinsky affair, The Death of American Virtue is a gripping chronicle of an ever-escalating political feeding frenzy.

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The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr

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Overview

Ten years after one of the most polarizing political scandals in American history, author Ken Gormley offers an insightful, balanced, and revealing analysis of the events leading up to the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton. From Ken Starr’s initial Whitewater investigation through the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit to the Monica Lewinsky affair, The Death of American Virtue is a gripping chronicle of an ever-escalating political feeding frenzy.

In exclusive interviews, Bill Clinton, Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Susan McDougal, and many more key players offer candid reflections on that period. Drawing on never-before-released records and documents—including the Justice Department’s internal investigation into Starr, new details concerning the death of Vince Foster, and evidence from lawyers on both sides—Gormley sheds new light on a dark and divisive chapter, the aftereffects of which are still being felt in today’s political climate.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard L. Berke
…recreates it all, from the Clintons' investment in the Whitewater development in rural Arkansas to the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and Clinton's affair with Lewinsky, culminating in the impeachment trial. This hefty volume, going beyond the sordid details, provides helpful context for the larger story, the fractionalization of American politics that defined the Clinton years…the sobriety of The Death of American Virtue also offers a relief from the familiar overheated chronicles. Unlike some other commentators, Gormley allows for the possibility that even the most rabid-seeming players might have acted out of honorable considerations.
—The New York Times Book Review
David Greenberg
…a restrained, fair-minded, soup-to-nuts history of the largely fruitless investigations of Bill Clinton that shadowed so much of his presidency…All but the most unregenerate partisans should deem this book fair, even if individual judgments can be challenged…Charitable toward his sources, Gormley lets every character in the drama put his best foot forward.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
The early parts of the imbroglio, especially the Whitewater real estate investigation involving James and Susan McDougal, are no less confounding than they ever were. But by and large Mr. Gormley has packed his narrative with intense, overdue and definitive testimony about the still-surprising investigation of Mr. Clinton's activities spearheaded by Kenneth W. Starr…Mr. Gormley is as successful in capturing big-picture issues as he is in setting bizarre intimate scenes…And its paradoxes are rich, sad and inescapable.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This book’s readers will quickly think of water. Facts overwhelm you like Niagara. And when you’ve finished reading about President Clinton and special prosecutor Ken Starr, you may want to take a long shower. Gormley, a professor of law at Duquesne (Archibald Cox), reviews the entire sordid business of Clinton’s foolishness and his enemies’ efforts to bring down his presidency. It’s not an edifying tale. Very few of the book’s cast come off well, except for Secret Service officials and a judge or two. If there’s a sympathetic character, it’s Susan McDougal, who refused to rat on her friends. Starr makes error after error and confuses vindictiveness with duty. While not altering the basic story in any way, Gormley gains much from effective interviews 10 years after with participants and his use of newly available documents. While his book is too long, Gormley remains in control of the details, and this riveting first look at events that only future history will put into full relief shows how affairs of sex and enmity can become affairs of state. 24 pages of b&w photos. (Feb.)
Library Journal
The Whitewater investigation, led by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, investigated the scandals that tarnished the Clinton administration—scandals that, says Gormley (law, Duquesne Univ.; Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation), diminished respect for the office of the President. The author interviewed many major players, including Bill Clinton himself, who would not discuss the Lewinsky affair. The result is an illuminating account that could overwhelm the general reader with oceans of detail. Starr is presented as a highly respected attorney and not a religious fanatic determined to destroy Clinton. His weakness was his lack of experience as a prosecutor; he later acknowledged that he should not have expanded the Whitewater investigation to include the Lewinsky affair. Starr resigned in 1999, and the Office of Independent Counsel's final report, issued by his successor, Robert Ray, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Clinton. VERDICT This is the most complete and likely the most impartial account available of the Clinton scandals. It will appeal to readers of such recent serious works as Richard Sale's Clinton's Secret Wars: The Evolution of a Commander in Chief and Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President.—Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A law professor revisits the scandals, investigations and trials that crippled and nearly killed a presidency. Three locomotives barreling down separate tracks-independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation of shady Arkansas real-estate and banking transactions, a private lawsuit filed by Paula Jones alleging sexual harassment against President Bill Clinton and the president's dalliance with a White House intern-smashed horribly together Clinton's impeachment hearings in 1998. Gormley (Law/Duquesne Univ; Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation, 1997) appears in remarkable possession of every detail pertinent to this complex story, beginning with Jim McDougal's ill-fated 1978 Whitewater land development and ending with a still-secret Department of Justice investigation of the Starr deputies' initial interview of Monica Lewinsky. An acknowledged expert on special prosecutors, Gormley handles the many legal aspects of this story especially well-the inner workings of Starr's office, the strategies of the many defense lawyers representing multiple defendants and the controversial Supreme Court decision that exposed a sitting president to civil suit. He explains the unholy political warfare and the special role played by the mainstream, partisan and emerging Internet press, and he offers sharp snapshots of the many players that marched across TV screens for too many years. For most Americans, an intervening decade is perhaps insufficiently long for reintroduction to the likes of the vapid Lewinsky, her turncoat confidante Linda Tripp, her "avuncular" attorney William Ginsburg, the smarmy Webb Hubbell and the egregious Susan Carpenter-McMillan; too soon to be reminded of the stained dress, theVince Foster suicide, "the vast right-wing conspiracy" or the details of the Starr Report. But for those wishing to understand exactly what happened during this confusing, dismal time, Gormley's informed reporting and evenhanded analysis is the place to start. The entire nightmare vividly recalled. Agent: Mel Berger/William Morris Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307409447
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/16/2010
  • Pages: 789
  • Product dimensions: 9.52 (w) x 6.38 (h) x 2.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Gormley is a law professor at Duquesne University, specializing in constitutional law, as well as a nationally renowned expert on Watergate and special prosecutors. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Prelude: Collision in the Capitol

Chapter 1 The Impeachment Vote 3

Chapter 2 Bill Clinton and Ken Starr 15

Part 1 Arkansas Mischief

Chapter 3 Breathtaking "Whitewater" 33

Chapter 4 McDougal Paints the Town 44

Chapter 5 Seeds of Scandal 57

Chapter 6 Death Song in the West Wing 66

Chapter 7 Conspiracy Theories 81

Chapter 8 The Special Prosecutor 91

Chapter 9 David Hale Visits Justice Jim 99

Part 2 Pursuing the President

Chapter 10 Paula Corbin Jones 115

Chapter 11 Danny Traylor: "Can We Settle for Five Thousand Dollars?" 128

Chapter 12 Three Judges in Black 143

Chapter 13 Ken Starr: Special Prosecutor 155

Chapter 14 Paula Jones on Film 170

Chapter 15 Arkansas Felons 184

Chapter 16 The "Cooperating Witness" 202

Chapter 17 Paula Jones Goes to Washington 219

Part 3 The Monica Thread

Chapter 18 Monica S.Lewinsky 231

Chapter 19 Inside a Texas Prison 242

Chapter 20 The Settlement That Never Happened 252

Chapter 21 Trapped Outside the White House 262

Chapter 22 The Hundred-Page Referral 270

Chapter 23 An Unexpected Caller 278

Chapter 24 A Cubicle in the Pentagon 295

Chapter 25 Pinning the Tail on Clinton 314

Chapter 26 Panic in the Justice Department 324

Chapter 27 Vanity to Prayer 339

Chapter 28 "The Brace" 348

Chapter 29 The Avuncular Mr. Ginsburg 362

Chapter 30 Clinton Takes an Oath 376

Chapter 31 Scandal in Washington 392

Part 4 The Grand Confessional

Chapter 32 A Presidency in Peril 411

Chapter 33 "Of Trust and Confidence" 420

Chapter 34 One Nation Divided 431

Chapter 35 The Vilification of Ken Starr 440

Chapter 36 A Mother's Collapse 452

Chapter 37 Last Night in Solitary Confinement 459

Chapter 38 The Indictment of Hillary Clinton 470

Chapter 39 Out-Gunning the Secret Service 484

Chapter 40 Ginsburg's Final Photo Shoot 494

Chapter 41 Monica's Truth 505

Chapter 42 The Drudge Revolution 527

Chapter 43 A Walk in the Woods 532

Chapter 44 Maximum Peril 552

Part 5 High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Chapter 45 Bombshell Report 565

Chapter 46 Starr Witness 582

Chapter 47 "Men of the Year" 600

Chapter 48 Thirteen Angry Managers 614

Chapter 49 A Scottish Vote 629

Chapter 50 Clinton's Contempt 646

Epilogue: White House Exodus

Chapter 51 "Who Will Blink?" 655

Chapter 52 Aftermath 671

Notes 691

Bibliographical Sources 762

Acknowledgments 770

Index 775

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Knight's Tale for the 20th Century

    It this book objective? For the true believers on either side of the Clinton/Starr debate, the answer is no. But, for everyone else, this book is extremely enlightening. In the end, however, it becomes quite clear that Ken Starr had no business as a prosecutor in a case of this nature, and his reliance upon professional prosecutors only worsened his ability to use judgment. President Clinton, on the other hand, made it too easy for overly aggressive prosecutors to paint a target on his back. And, Judge Susan Webber Wright allowed totally irrelevant testimony (as she later ruled) to help create a political nightmare that really had nothing to do with the country.
    I am from Arkansas. So, I had some concerns at the start of the book when I noticed numerous basic errors about the State. These are not errors of interpretation, but factual errors. For example, Mr. Gormley states that Frank White, with the help of Justice Jim Johnson, defeated President Clinton in an early congressional race. It was a gubenatorial battle. So, I asked whether this kind of blatant error could occur again, and if so, how could I tell.
    Towards the end of the book, as he juxtaposed comments from Mr. Starr and his staff as to why they were not zealots, he also used "quotes," about how they had the President "in their sights." Even prosecutors are supposed to want fairness and justice, not a target. So, either the prosecutors were zealots, or Mr. Gormley is biased in his account. I choose to believe the former, but many will believe the latter.
    These flaws notwithstanding, it is an excellent work of fairly contemporary history for those who wish to place things in order. One of the most difficult aspects of Whitewater, and the various investigations, is how they were linked. How, for example, did a cable television case for Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker relate to claims that Monica Lewinsky had sexual relations with the President in the White House? Mr. Gormley guides these kinds of connections very carefully, and provides good understanding and insight.
    A weakness of the work, however, is the failure to pose the question to the various prosecutors, "so, why was it really that important?" While it might offend the perfect person that a married man would be dishonest about his affair, or liaison, with another woman, the law is designed to deal with the reasonable man. Was it really so important to pursue that avenue as a possible ground for impeachment? Further, while Mr. Gormley gives a "stated reason," that the Starr report read like the letters in Hustler's advice column, there is really no challenge to the parties as to why they ever believed that was necessary for an impeachable offense. Or, why did Mr. Gormley not follow up with Henry Hyde on the question of the failure of the House of Representatives to carefully read the Starr report and develop a new set of evidence to provide to the Senate, instead of just relying on the Starr Report as the evidence.
    The key, though, is that without a dispassionate presentation of all the twists and turns of this challenging time in American history, the ability to ask these various questions would be impossible. While President Clinton can correctly state that certain things should not have occurred, this is an insufficient explanation for why they occurred. And, without reading this book, one is not able to even ask the right questions. Read it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    America's Virtue did not die with Clinton.

    Virtue means "moral excellence." If indeed America's virtue is waining, it began to decline a few generations ago, not with Bill Clinton. Our system of education no longer teaches morality and ethics; the Socratic "the unexamined life is not worth living" is still in its Cave of Illusion. We The People continue to elect leaders who are emotional invalids, narcissistic, rich and powerful,controlled by corporations and institutions, selling America and our jobs, to China, Russia, Japan and others, like a cheap prostitute. Virtue also means mental health, personality integration. Since we do not teach these to our children, how do we expect our leaders to behave? We have taught them well!!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    A COMPELLING READ

    Being a true political junkie, this is one of the most compelling and truly "readable" stories I've found. Surely this is the definitive account of the entire Starr v Clinton saga: The author is to be commended for tackling this exhaustive story, and for obtaining first-hand background information from nearly all participants, while most of the "cast of characters" are still alive.

    Don't be put off by the 780+ pages: At least twice as lengthy as most books, but with no wasted words.

    The author apparently had no "agenda", and presents a relatively unbiased account from all perspectives: From Linda Tripp to Susan McDougal to Ken Starr and Bill Clinton. Apparently the only interview he didn't get was Hillary Clinton's.

    Nevertheless, the last impression is that while Bill Clinton - still as glib as ever - has serious personal, emotional and even addictive flaws: Ken Starr, despite his protestations, definitely had an agenda, and was a poor choice to conduct the investigation. While Starr and his supporters might justify his actions on legal or quasi-legal grounds, he lacked both the impartiality and "gravitas" to be in that position.

    The House managers, led by Henry Hyde, come off as sanctimonious fools: So bent on "getting" Clinton and so over-reaching that the Nation accurately saw them as even more guilty than Clinton.

    Love to see this become a movie. Charlie Sheen can play Bill Clinton...maybe Ken Starr can play himself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2010

    Virtual History Book

    Mr Gormley has written an interesting story book of interesting times in recent history. Apparently he has glossed over the certain facts that happened with Clinton and dwells with a sort of back slap to Ken Starr who was only doing what he was hired to do after the initial Fiske appointment was ready to end the whitewash. Maybe the author received his new position at the D.U. law school by adhering to political facts. Don't get me wrong, this is an interesting to read 780 page book but like the history books in the educational system today (high school and college)configures history to blend with the main stream media. Hopefully the author has backed off his karate posturing at certain venues.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    For those who followed the story...

    I found the book to be poetic and enlighting. It gives the history and the relationship of both players: Clinton and Starr. How similar their backgrounds were yet very different. Both men had ambitions that would soon lead them to the top of their professional careers, what brought these two men to power would soon expose the secrets and mishaps of a series of unfortunate events. I recommend this book, for those who love the back room news of politics: this is a good read, and for those who are Clinton or Starr fans this is also a good read.

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  • Posted February 27, 2010

    O-****

    Well said. The decline of American virtue did indeed begin several years ago; it found its metaphor in Bill Clinton via talk radio. Honesty and transparency is an anachronism. If it existed at all...

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is old News

    I am glad that President Clinton Did not die. I thank that Ken Starr was and still is as bad for the U.S.A. as Osama Bin Laudan. The Republicans and all there friends can go you know where.

    0 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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