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Home LATEST NEWS How Ken Starr helped reshape Congress, for the worse

How Ken Starr helped reshape Congress, for the worse

Over the past 20 years, Congress, particularly when controlled by the Republican Party, has been transformed from a legislative body to an investigative one.

One of the people who played a central role in institutionalizing the culture of endless investigations was Kenneth Starr, who died Tuesday at age 76 of complications following surgery. Starr was a longtime Republican operative, judge, and, in his later years, college president and conservative commentator. However, he will be best remembered for his role as an independent attorney during the administration of President Bill Clinton. Starr held that position from 1994 to 1999.

Because Congress has always been a check on the executive branch, oversight is naturally part of its mission. But in recent years, investigating has become a way to limit executive power by setting the president’s agenda.

Because Congress has always been a check on the executive branch, oversight is naturally part of its mission. But in recent years, investigating has become a way to limit executive power by setting the president’s agenda. If the president and an administration have to respond to a series of inquiries, they are more likely to divert their focus from other governance issues.

The relevance and legitimacy of these investigations vary and are often viewed through partisan lenses. For example, the Democrats generally seen the first political trial case against Donald Trump as legitimate while viewing the investigation of Hillary Clinton after the tragedy in Benghazi as a politically motivated waste of time. Republicans, however, viewed those events in precisely the opposite light.

Starr was not the first independent lawyer tasked with investigating a presidential scandal. Among his notable predecessors was Archibald Cox, the freelance watergate attorney. Some 15 years later, Lawrence Walsh served as a special prosecutor during the Ronald Reagan administration, focusing primarily on the Iran-Contra scandal.

What made Starr unusual was that his portfolio was so broad. His investigation began in 1994, investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton’s investment in property in Arkansas, which became known as Whitewater and provided no proof of wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons. That investigation led to addressing issues that go beyond cronyism, corruption or Arkansas real estate.

The issue that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 was not one of financial corruption. Instead, Starr focused his attention on Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and how sincere Clinton was when he tested him. An investigation of real estate deals focused on the president’s infidelity, not because the two were related, but because Starr interpreted his mandate extremely broadly.

That was a turning point in the use of congressional investigations. Republicans in Congress, particularly after Clinton’s re-election in 1996, used an investigation to try to reign in a popular president. But that plan failed. When the Republicans lost seats in the House and failed to win a Senate seat in the 1998 midterms, showed that the strong economy of the 1990s was more important to voters than anything Starr and the GOP could unearth about the Clintons.

Nonetheless, the approach remained a tool that Republicans continued to use, generating media and political support rather than impeachment or impeachment.

We saw it again during the Obama administration, which, by most measuresWhich of the more ethical in modern history. Still, beginning in 2011, after the GOP gained control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican-led Congress investigated the administration for allegedly using the IRS for political gain, his support of the Solyndra energy company, and a program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that was trying to track illegal gun sales near the southern border. These were better understood as policy mistakes than presidential scandals, but that was the framework the GOP found most effective.

The Obama administration’s best-known and most time-consuming investigation was into Benghazi. She also took aim at 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who had been Secretary of State in 2012 when she attacks on Benghazi It occurred. Benghazi was investigated by five House standing committees and one select committee. The select committee investigation it lasted more than two years and cost almost 8 million dollars. His report found that the Obama administration had been incompetent, but did not lead to any indictments. For years, the GOP-led Congress focused on investigations rather than trying to pass laws or govern.

To be sure, there are times when investigations are appropriate, but problems arise when political parties use them not as a tool to obtain information from the administration, but simply to absorb the energy and time of key administration personnel.

If, as seems likely, Republicans win back the House this November, they have shown a willingness to initiate investigations in everything from The role of Nancy Pelosi in the attempted insurrection of January 6, 2021 – yes, you read that right – to the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and, of course, Hunter Biden’s laptop. Many Republicans in Congress mistakenly believe that Pelosi had some control over bringing police to Capitol Hill when Trump supporters raped him. All of these events are best understood as political differences or, in the case of the Capitol Police, conservative fantasy rather than scandals worthy of investigation. They would completely sidetrack the administration of President Joe Biden while keeping the Republican base mobilized.

To be sure, there are times when investigations are appropriate, but problems arise when political parties use them not as a tool to obtain information from the administration, but simply to absorb the energy and time of key administration personnel. The question of which investigations are worthwhile and which are not is subjective, but Congress has lost its way when investigations replace passing laws that help people in the US.

The right, both in office and in the media, loves to call the January 6 investigation a political witch hunt. However, a basic understanding of reality suggests that the attack on Capitol Hill is worth investigating while Biden is charged with the mismanagement of withdrawal from Afghanistan it’s absurd. Republicans in Congress have already filed articles of impeachment against Biden, all but guaranteeing a lengthy investigation of a poorly implemented policy that comes nowhere near an impeachable crime.

In 2023, if House Republicans are dominating the news by exploring what Pelosi told the Capitol Police or re-litigating the 2020 election and investigating voter fraud which has proven to be unfounded, we must remember the role that Starr played in all of this. He helped create a staff that uses the investigation not as a way to get to the bottom of a scandal, but to undermine, distract and harass a presidential administration. That’s a big part of the legacy he left behind.

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