15 February 2010

Looking Back on American Virtue

Today’s New York Times offers Janet Maslin’s review of The Death of American Virtue, a history of the Clinton impeachment debacle by Duquesne Law School professor Ken Gormley.

The review calls the book “tough, labyrinthine,” and sometimes in its detail “impressive but not entirely necessary. . . . 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.”

I edited Ken’s previous big book, Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation, which also offered a very detailed account of an impeachment—in that case, of Richard Nixon for abusing the powers of the presidency. The Watergate controversy was the first national news I remember paying attention to, and I was honored to work on that book and meet Cox.

Somewhere back then Ken told me about his idea for this new book, and I was skeptical. Not of the importance of delving into how a failed development in Arkansas became a constitutional crisis that ended in offers of free plastic surgery. Rather, I thought it was too soon: sources might not be ready to talk, and the public certainly wasn’t ready to read more about the controversy.

But that was ten years ago, before the Supreme Court assigned George W. Bush the presidency, before the terrorist attack on New York, before the Iraq War and Guantànamo prison. Now we can even feel nostalgia for the days when Congressional Republicans wanted to impeach the President for lying about an affair.

You remember those defenders of American virtue: Rep. Newt Gingrich, Rep. Bob Livingston, Rep. Henry Hyde, Rep. Bob Barr, Rep. John Ensign, Rep. Mark Sanford, Rep. Joe Scarborough, Rep. Dan Burton, Rep. Vito Fossella, Rep. Helen Chenoweth, Rep. Bill Thomas, Sen. Strom Thurmond, Sen. Larry Craig, Sen. John McCain,…

1 comment:

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I still have Larry Flynt's expose of cheating Republicans. When I was throwing out lots of other stuff I couldn't yet part with it.