JAMES L. IANNONE, a native of Mineola, Long Island (NY), is a recent graduate of the Emory University School of Law. While in college studying politics, he incited many heated debates with his controversial student newspaper articles. Iannone lives in Dix Hills, NY.
The REAL Scandal in Washington
JAMES L. IANNONE
It seems like Congress cannot get enough of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Nor will this never ending escapade come to a merciful conclusion anytime soon. Last week the House of Representatives voted for a full Impeachment Inquiry. Despite poll after poll that indicate that we are sick of this soap opera, our representatives in Congress have a different attitude.
Republicans in the House voted as a block for the impeachment inquiry, which will not be limited to the information contained in Kenneth Starr's report. Apparently Republicans have embarrassingly noticed that after spending four years and well over forty million dollars, Kenneth Starr's report contained few high crimes and misdemeanors and more smut than a 450 page dime store novel. The Republican leadership is keenly aware that the perpetuation of this scandal is essential to divert the public's attention from a true scandal -- how the only thing the Republican controlled Congress has accomplished this year was to defeat every widely supported initiative that threatened a special interest group to which the Republican party is beholden.
Don't believe me? Take a good look at how many bills Congress has passed this year. A grand total of five. Republican's used every procedural trick available to derail the teen smoking bill, campaign finance reform, and HMO reform. Each time these bills were defeated, the Republican leadership promised to draft an alternative resolution, fearing a voter backlash. To date, none of these counter proposals has ever been voted on. The reason is simple. The much anticipated backlash never materialized, for the sexual escapades of the President has captivated the media and diverted the American Public's attention away from the Republican Congress' scandalous voting record.
Congressional inactions comes with a steep price. The world's financial markets teeter dangerously on the verge of a financial meltdown. Many Asian countries are looking to the United States for assistance in stabilizing their beleaguered economies. It is clear that the world's financial markets desperately need US leadership and guidance to avert a global financial crises. That leadership has been sorely lacking. The Republicans in Congress refuse to pass any emergency funding increases for the International Monetary fund. In fact, they risked the prospect of another government shutdown by not passing a budget until well after the beginning of the fiscal year despite the fact that the Treasury department announced the first budget surplus since 1969.
The recent developments on Wall Street and the world's financial markets threaten and concern all of us, not just investment tycoons. Congress should be holding hearings about how a relatively obscure bond arbitrage fund like Long Term Management nearly caused a stock market collapse and worrying about the safety of the average American's pension investments. Yet, the Republican Congress is too busy preparing for months upon months of hearings to answer the essential dilemma facing the American family today: "Does fellatio fall within the definition of sexual relations?"
I voted for Bill Clinton twice. I agree with most of his initiatives and plans. However, I do not condone his reprehensible behavior with regard to the whole Monica Lewinsky mess. I am angry about how he deceived the people closest to him and dragged out this ordeal instead of owning up to it back in January. Yet, I am most distressed about how he has squandered his chance at greatness and unwittingly exchanged lasting fame for enduring notoriety.
That being said, I am outraged by Kenneth Starr's four year, 45 million dollar fishing expedition, which has amounted to nothing more than an incomprehensible waste of money. He has investigated every aspect of the President's life over a twenty year period, and the culmination of his inquiry was to inform the American public in graphic detail that Bill Clinton cheated on his wife and doesn't believe that oral sex constitutes adultery. The original focal point of his investigation, Whitewater, was a forgotten footnote in his report to Congress, warranting only two mentions in a four hundred and fifty page report.
When Kenneth Starr was appointed to investigate Whitewater, he took an oath to uphold the law and investigate the President as a neutral, independent prosecutor. His actions and flagrant abuse of power show how seriously he has betrayed his position. He opened offices in three different jurisdictions in an effort to forum shop for conservative grand jurors. His investigation is itself under investigation for press leaks that flowed freely from his staff. Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, yet apparently Kenneth Starr never studied criminal procedure in law school. Moreover, his report failed to include any exculpatory information obtained from Monica Lewinsky, who testified to the grand jury that the President never asked her to lie or offered to find her a job in exchange for her silence. Mr. Starr was under a constitutional duty to include this information in his report -- I assume that such a learned attorney and former judge would remember the thirty five year old Supreme Court precedent set forth in Brady v. Maryland.
It also now appears that in his zeal to destroy the President, the prosecutor himself may have broken the law and is, at the very least, guilty of gross dishonesty towards the American people. National Public Radio reported on October 14, 1998 that Kenneth Starr counseled Gill Davis, a member of Paula Jones legal counsel, on over 12 occasions about the Constitutionality of suing a sitting President and offered to write an Amicus Curie brief on Paula Jones' behalf. Mr. Starr was under an ethical duty to disclose this information to Janet Reno and the three judge panel who empowered his investigation, however, he failed to do so. Yet, conflicts of interests are nothing new to Mr. Starr, who is morally capable of zealously prosecuting the President for allegedly perjuring himself with regard to an extra-marital affair, yet only a few years earlier counseled tobacco industry CEO's who perjured themselves in front of Congress about the smoking induced illnesses caused by their products that claim the lives of 400,000 Americans a year.
All of these facts explain the most incomprehensible poll number to the Republican Party. Despite the best efforts of Kenneth Starr's smear campaign, poll after poll indicate that the majority of Americans approve of Bill Clinton as a President. That does not mean that they would like to be married to him or they approve of adultery. It does mean that the majority of Americans believe he cares about issues that concern them, such as keeping cigarettes and guns out of the hands of their children, keeping the social security system from going bankrupt and allowing people the right to sue their health care providers for wrongfully denying coverage. That is more than can ever be said about the Republicans in Congress, whose only agenda is advancing and protecting the interests of the special interest groups that keep them in power: tobacco companies, insurance companies and the NRA.
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