Starr Takes on Executive Privilege

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Did you catch that, Mr. Clinton? With a captive audience watching on CNN, Ken Starr took a timely historical tour of Watergate and other court battles that presidents have lost. On the surface, it was a snoozer: Executive Privilege 101. But pick apart the professorial text, and you get Starr's most savage attack on the President to date. Take the ending: "No one, absolutely no one, is above the law." Technically, a quote from Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski, but also the exact words Newt Gingrich has spent the last week crafting into a rallying cry for the right. Was Starr trying to be simpatico with the Speaker? It's hard to imagine otherwise.

Packed with references to Nixon, Starr's speech was pointedly delivered on the 24th anniversary of the day that president refused to let the courts hear his Oval Office tapes -- and to the same audience, the San Antonio Bar Association, that Jaworski addressed in that year. So the independent counsel is trying to spin Intern-gate into Watergate, and himself into Jaworski. Spinning the evidence might be a taller order: Whatever else the Tripp tapes contain, they're no smoking gun.