What is Kenneth Starr doing? Is he incompetent, or is he complicit in covering up high crimes and misdemeanors by the Clinton administration? With what we know now of Whitewater witness testimony, it has to be one or the other.

Take, for example, the latest revelations from former Arkansas state trooper L.D. Brown. The Washington Times reported last week that Brown and his attorney, John B. Thompson of Miami, have informed Starr’s office that representatives of the Clinton administration have attempted to bribe him with cash and an offer of a government job in an effort to influence his Whitewater testimony.

Brown corroborates two other witnesses’ charges that President Clinton, while governor of Arkansas, participated in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration. Of the four people present during a conversation concerning the solicitation of that $300,000 loan, three — Jim McDougal, David Hale and Brown — all say Clinton pressured Hale to make the loan. Only Clinton has a different recollection.

In fact, Clinton has testified under oath to Whitewater prosecutors that he had no knowledge of the loan. If Brown, Hale and McDougal are telling the truth, that would make Clinton guilty of perjury, in addition to defrauding the federal government over which he now presides.

Even more interesting is Brown’s story about attempted bribery by a man in England purporting to represent the Clinton administration. On June 16, he says, he was riding a public bus to Heathrow Airport. During the two-hour ride, the bus was pulled over by a taxi. The passenger boarded the bus and sat next to Brown. After some small talk, he reportedly offered Brown $100,000 and an assignment with the National Security Council in Moscow for Whitewater testimony favorable to Clinton.

If that isn’t enough, a second offer was made in a follow-up call to Brown in Little Rock.

In a letter to Starr, Thompson asked, “This would be witness tampering, would it not?”

It sure sounds like it to me.

What will it take, Mr. Starr, for you to act? When are you going to stand up like a man and enforce the laws of this land? When are you going to do the job the taxpayers of this country are paying you to do? Are you so intimidated by partisan critics like James Carville that you are paralyzed into inaction? Are you afraid of losing your establishment credentials, future job opportunities, a political career? What is it?

Think about it. The very witnesses who have cooperated fully with Starr’s investigation, people like David Hale, have served more time than anyone convicted by the Independent Counsel’s Office. Meanwhile, openly hostile witnesses, like Webster Hubbell, have served their time and gone on to their rewards for furthering the biggest political cover-up in the history of this country.

He has closed the investigation into Vincent Foster’s death, but the public knows no more than it did four years ago when his body turned up in Fort Marcy Park. Starr buried his report, refusing to release it to the press or public. We’re just supposed to accept his conclusions based, I guess, on his sterling investigative record.

All the while, Starr stands by. Periodically, he leaks some information to the press, floats a few trial balloons and sniffs around for better opportunities once his investigation is concluded.

Will Starr ever act? I doubt it. The latest leaks from his office indicate, once again, no more major indictments will be forthcoming. Incredible. This was not the man for the job.

Remember, Starr never prosecuted a case before his appointment to this critical job. So maybe it is incompetence. Maybe he’s just been outclassed and outmaneuvered by the Clinton administration.

But his investigation is becoming such a joke, that it’s time to begin asking whether it’s just possible that there’s something much more sinister behind his failures. Ineptitude can explain only so much.

Independent counsels are the people we hire to investigate government corruption when conflicts of interest might prevent the Justice Department from doing the job. But whom do we hire to investigate corruption and conflicts of interest in the office of independent counsel?

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