You Don't Know Jackboots!

You Don't Know Jackboots!

You Don't Know Jackboots!

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
March 26 1998 10:01 PM

You Don't Know Jackboots!

Chatterbox yields to no content-provider when it comes to condemning special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's excesses--in particular, Starr's attempt to criminalize criticism by calling Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal into the grand jury room. But the reaction to Starr's subpoena of the records of Monica Lewinsky's purchases at a Washington, D.C. bookstore has been mindlessly critical. Former Democratic Congresswoman Pat Schroeder immediately called the subpoena "repugnant to the Bill of Rights" and "a scenario that belongs in Baghdad." The ACLU harrumphed about "the right to buy books without government scrutiny," while the director of the Americans for Democratic Action drew a comparison to "some of the worst abuses under a totalitarian regime." Nicholson Baker, whose phone-sex novel Vox Monica allegedly bought, went for a cute, somewhat forced sound bite by saying that "Starr should get down on his kneepads and beg the country's pardon for undermining the Constitution in this way." Monica's lawyer William Ginsburg charged ... well, you can imagine what William Ginsburg charged.

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Everyone should calm down. Can't books be evidence? If someone bludgeons Chatterbox to death with a copy of David Halberstam's The Children, Chatterbox hopes prosecutors will be able to check whether any of its enemies previously purchased that worthy tome. If someone blows up the United Nations, it's worth knowing if the prime suspect bought The Anarchist's Cookbook or Michael Reagan's book on the "New World Order." And, to pick another hypothetical example, if Monica Lewinsky has told Linda Tripp's tape recorder that she, Monica, had phone sex with the president on December 3 after buying a copy of Vox, isn't Starr permitted to try to support the accuracy of those taped recollections by finding out if Lewinsky actually bought the book around that date? Were Starr trying to punish Lewinsky for her thoughts or tastes or reading habits or speech--the way he was threatening to punish Blumenthal--all the Nazis-are-coming hysteria might be justified. But there's no evidence that's what Starr's up to, nor is it a likely scenario. ...

STUPID CLINTON DEFENSE #2: Meanwhile, the self-humiliation of New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis in the service of the president continues apace. Lewis has been a reliable First Amendment defender, but his last column suggested that judges should hold journalists in contempt (and even throw them in jail)if they keep publishing "stories without attribution based on gossip, speculation and innuendo." Here is an idea that really is "repugnant to the Bill of Rights." ... Lewis proposes his censorship in order to prevent sheep-like juries and judges from being swayed by publicity. The jury he's thinking about is the Paula Jones civil suit jury. His opening example of irresponsible press activity is the "overwhelming television and print coverage" of Kathleen Willey's allegations. Lewis can't really be proposing to suppress the "60 Minutes" Willey interview--which was, in truth, not a story based on "gossip" or "innuendo" but first-person testimony about the behavior of the president in the Oval Office, about which the voters are surely entitled to form an opinion--in order to protect a puny civil suit for money damages? By the end of Lewis' column you realize that yes, that's exactly what he means. ... By sacrificing the ideal of informed political debate in the name of the "administration of justice," Lewis is at least hewing to his prior reputation as a pathetic court-worshipper. But a few weeks ago Lewis more or less argued it didn't matter if Clinton lied under oath in a court case. Chatterbox wonders what this "don't-worry-about-perjury" principle would do for the "administration of justice." ...

Paranoid's Corner: If Clinton really wanted to escape Flytrap for good, here's what he'd do: Have a fresh, previously unknown woman come forward alleging unwanted sexual advances along Jones/Willey lines. Let her story get big play in the press. Let her have a packed, nationally-televised news conference. Then have her confess that it was all a lie, that she was in fact a tool of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy! ... Her example would not only retrospectively discredit Jones and Willey, it would protect Clinton by prospectively discrediting any women who might come forward in the future. But the Clintonites would never try this. ... Wait. ... Excuse Chatterbox for a second ... What's that on the Drudge Report? ... Some woman named Zercher ...