It seems like the 1990s are being remixed with some surprising results. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Ken Starr praised Bill Clinton as "the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation," when Starr could be seen as the last person to praise Clinton. For those who don't remember the time when the name "Monica Lewinsky" filled the front page of every newspaper in the country, Starr led the investigation of Clinton's affair in the landmark Starr Report. The fallout from that report resulted in only the second impeachment of a president in US history.
Yet at a panel discussion at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Starr said, “[Clinton's] genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear. It is powerful, it is palpable, and the folks of Arkansas really understood that about him — that he genuinely cared. The ‘I feel your pain’ is absolutely genuine.”
Starr acknowledged his past campaign against Clinton with a hint of remorse, and implied that he felt that Clinton had redeemed himself since his presidency. “There are certain tragic dimensions which we all lament," he said. "That having been said, the idea of this redemptive process afterwards, we have certainly seen that powerfully ... President Carter set a very high standard, which President Clinton clearly continues to follow.”
Since 2010, Starr has served as president and chancellor of Baylor University in Texas. However, he's come under scrutiny over his alleged mishandling of sexual assault claims at the school. As The Washington Post noted on Tuesday, "On Starr’s watch, the school is accused of failing to respond to rapes or sexual assaults reported by at least six women students from 2009-2016." On Tuesday, it was reported by Scout's Horns Digest, and later Central Texas NBC affiliate KCEN, The Daily Beast, and other sources, that Starr was being dismissed from Baylor. According to The Washington Post, Baylor declined to respond to reports that Starr was being dismissed, and Starr had not responded to that publication's request for comment. The school later released a statement on Tuesday that it would not "respond to rumors, speculation, or reports based on unnamed sources," but that it expected to make an announcement by June 3.
2016 Starr is singing a vastly different tune from 1998 Starr. During Clinton's presidency, he was the independent counsel who led a number of controversial investigations of Clinton, including his Whitewater real estate investments.
Donald Trump's recent attacks on Clinton have brought greater scrutiny to his sexual behavior. Trump has renewed discussion of Clinton's sex scandals, and has accused the former president of rape. Nick Merrill, Hillary Clinton's campaign spokesperson, responded in a statement shortly after Trump made his remarks: "Trump is doing what he does best — attacking when he feels wounded and dragging the American people through the mud for his own gain. If that’s the kind of campaign he wants to run, that’s his choice." A Trump attack ad released Monday attempted to smear Clinton by featuring tearful women, including Juanita Broaddrick, who claims Clinton raped her in Arkansas 38 years ago. Clinton denied the allegation through his lawyer in 1999.
Though he didn't refer to Trump directly, Starr did say that he feared the "transnational emergence of almost radical populism, deep anger, a sense of dislocation," which The Times interpreted as a reference to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Perhaps a mixture of time and Trump have led Starr to come out with this praise of Slick Willie?