The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr

The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr

by Ken Gormley

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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


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.

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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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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