The death of Vince Foster, a close associate of the Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as Hillary’s law partner in Arkansas, sparked lots of speculation by detractors of the Clintons. Was it really a suicide, as initially supposed, or was there foul play?
Ken Starr, the independent counsel appointed to investigate Clinton involvement in Arkansas banking wrongdoing, took on the additional assignment of investigating Foster’s death. Starr’s predecessor in the job, Robert Fiske, had already looked into it. Fiske concluded that Foster did, in fact, commit suicide. He found that Foster suffered from depression and in that state took his life.
But Foster’s depression was a longstanding condition. What finally caused him to kill himself?
Fiske found that Foster became extremely depressed over mistakes he and others made during the early days of the Clinton administration. Of particular concern were the failed nomination of Zoe Baird, the administration’s choice for Attorney General, and the “Travelgate” scandal. The Baird nomination had to be withdrawn because Baird didn’t pay taxes for her nanny. Foster was in charge of vetting Baird.
Ken Starr’s investigation confirmed that Foster’s death was a suicide and that the suicide was due to depression. However, Starr also came to believe, based on the FBI’s work, that the event that triggered the suicide was Hillary Clinton going full Amy Klobuchar on him. Specifically, in front of White House staff, she raked Foster over the coals for incompetence, reportedly telling him he would always be a little hick town lawyer who was obviously not ready for the big time. I discussed this charming matter in a 2016 post.
Starr, though, did not include Hillary’s mistreatment of Foster in his report on Foster’s death. Starr’s explanation? According to this report, Starr says he “did not want to inflict further pain” on Hillary.
I can understand Starr’s decision. The public needed to know whether Foster’s death resulted from foul play. It didn’t need to know who had been nasty to Foster, such that he became so depressed that he took his life. Hillary shouldn’t have humiliated Foster, but doing so did not make her culpable for his death.
Thus, it seems defensible, and perhaps even praiseworthy, that Starr left Hillary’s rant out of his report. At the same time, Hillary’s conduct was sufficiently deplorable that it would have served her right if Starr had declined to “spare” her.
This wasn’t the only time Starr went out of his way to spare the First Lady. In drafting the indictment of Webb Hubbell, a partner of both Foster and Hillary in Arkansas, Starr insisted that Mrs. Clinton, who played an important role in events pertaining to the indictment, not be referred to by name. Instead, she was referred to as the Rose Law Firm billing partner — an odd evasion, if you ask me.
We know that no good deed goes unpunished, especially when the Clintons are in a position to do the punishing. Starr’s forbearance towards Hillary did not prevent the Clintons from vilifying him during the Lewinsky phase of his investigation. You would have thought it was Starr who had sex with “that woman” and perjured himself about it.
Starr, a gentleman, was no match for the Clinton machine. Arguably, the Clintons deserved a more ruthless prosecutor. They were, however, the President and First Lady of the United States, and I don’t blame Ken Starr for showing as much respect as he could for the offices.