One special counsel report is more than enough for me, thank you very much.
As the long-awaited Mueller Report was being released on Thursday, I retreated to my Upvalley office for the day to take care of some personal business close to home. Nobody around to talk to. No radio. I scanned my normal online news sites at lunch, but gave only scant attention to the summary stories.
And I emphatically did not open the report, which, it seems, was posted by just about every website in the universe.
Is it that I am not curious about the contents? No, I would eventually like to know more.
Is it that I am desperately sick of the whole thing? Yes, but that doesn’t normally stop me from following the news.
Rather it is that I have been through this before. And once was enough.
In late 1998, big trucks pulled up in front of the U.S. Capitol bearing large boxes full of the 445-page report by Kenneth Starr. It detailed (and I do mean detailed, in near pornographic ways) the sexual affair between President Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky.
My time covering Congress was almost entirely consumed by the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which broke the week I started on the Hill and never really stopped for my next three years there.
On the day the report was released, we all lined up in the press galleries to receive our copies. Every TV in both the House and Senate press galleries was tuned to CNN, where reporter Candy Crowley was reading, live and unrehearsed, the most salacious parts of the report. I never asked her, but I have this feeling she never expected to be saying some of those things on live TV.
We reporters were torn between listing to Candy, reading the report ourselves, and banging out our own stories as rapidly as we could.
I scanned the report that day and later read all of it in some detail. At the time, I read it as a tale of a 50-something man acting like a silly teenager to pursue a frivolous affair with a woman less than half his age.
For a column I wrote last year, I reread the key parts of the report and I came away with a different impression, possibly because of the whole #metoo movement, and possibly because I am now the same age as Bill Clinton was then.
What formerly seemed to me like a middle-aged man pathetically acting like a love-struck teen now has a much more sinister feel: more like an experienced sexual exploiter grooming a naïve and star-struck underling to provide him with some illicit gratification.
Either way, the report was gross and dispiriting.
The Starr investigation and report, and the subsequent political uproar and impeachment proceedings, did no good for anyone. It deepened a partisan divide. It pushed the president’s critics and supporters alike into untenable positions – and in many cases hypocritical positions. It made Congress a worse place and made us a coarser, angrier country.
In a lot of ways, that era set the stage for the utterly dismal state of our current politics and social discourse.
I remember the Starr report – and that whole part of the Clinton era – with a distaste bordering on horror.
I suppose someday I will read the Mueller report. Certainly by Friday, I was back to listening to and reading news more or less as normal.
Just somehow on Thursday, I couldn’t bring myself to be part of the first day excitement. Been there, done that, and I never want to go back.