Starr Search: Can He Indict?
Kenneth Starr has been telling friends that he expects to wrap up his investigation within weeks, as Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde reportedly think he might. Starr thinks he has to turn the matter over to Congress—he can't indict a president before an impeachment. And that is the conventional view. But it is likely to come under increasing scrutiny as Washington focuses on the rapidly-approaching conclusion of the investigation. Today's papers include two arguments that Starr may, indeed, be able to indict if he has evidence of indictable offenses: one by Gary McDowell in the Wall Street Journal, and one by Daniel Troy in the Washington Times. (A longer version of Troy's article will appear in the next issue of National Review, as the Washington Times should have noted.) Starr is open to these arguments, and he may yet surprise everyone with an indictment.
Two remarkable things happened in Washington two weeks ago: a lifelong politician, Rep. Bill Paxon (R., N.Y.), swore off all future political ambitions, and a large chunk of official Washington accepted his explanation that he did so to spend more time with his family. Usually Beltway types ridicule that line, both because it often is phony and because they themselves would never give up career for family. Since a lot of people, including Kate O'Beirne and Al Hunt on Capital Gang, bought Paxon's line, journalists who continue to affect skepticism also get to be revisionists. In Slate, Jacob Weisberg writes that the "only remotely convincing interpretation" of Paxon's resignation is that he knew he'd lose the race against Majority Leader Dick Armey. There are, as Weisberg mentions, some nasty and implausible rumors swirling around the resignation, which makes Arianna Huffington's not-so-sly insinuations in her column questioning Paxon's explanation particularly poisonous.
Our sources, on both sides of the Paxon–Armey fight, tell us that Paxon actually had more votes committed to him than Armey did, but faced a bloodier fight than he had expected. Is it so implausible that the prospect of that fight—and the travel it would have entailed—might have forced Paxon to rethink his priorities? To ask himself whether it would be worth it in the end? The night before Paxon announced his resignation Majority Whip Tom DeLay spent two hours trying to talk him out of it. Paxon kept on bringing up his family in response.
For a selection of recent Washington Bulletins
Ramesh Ponnuru - National Reporter
John J. Miller - National Political Reporter
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