I am not a prude, Starr tells America

THE RE-INVENTION of Kenneth Starr as a doughty fighter for American justice and a modest lawyer just doing his job took a step forward on Wednesday night with an hour-long interview on ABC television in which he sought to banish his negative image. Deliberately low-key, the man castigated by President Bill Clinton as evil softened his voice, smiled and laughed at the awkward questions and offered to talk about his sex life, if that was what the interviewer, Diane Sawyer, wanted - she didn't.

To counter his image of stodgy formality, Mr Starr appeared in casual jacket, open-necked lumber shirt and beige slacks, sitting back on his sofa. He dismissed the idea that he harboured personal animosity towards the Clintons. He stated, as released in advance by ABC, that he thought Mr Clinton "extraordinarily talented, wonderfully empathetic", and also offered a tribute to Hillary: "Very, very intelligent, very dedicated to the things she believes in..."

He repeatedly, but in the end unsuccessfully, denied that he was at all "prudish" or self-righteous, but said he disapproved of extra-marital sex and had never been unfaithful to his wife of 28 years. As for the idea that he was a dour fundamentalist, or an obsessive crusader against the Clintons, he insisted he had "a ton of friends" at school and brought in the other members of his legal team to quash the notion that he was a loner. There was "no one, no one" in the investigators' office, said his associate Brett Kavanaugh, who believed the Monica Lewinsky affair should not have been investigated.

Mr Starr himself was bullish in his defence of the invest- igation, including the much-criticised tactics of prosecutors, who had detained Ms Lewinsky for 10 hours and resisted her requests either to call her mother or her lawyer. Members of his team intimated that he had been a little naive about prosecution tactics, never having been a prosecutor himself. Mr Starr, however, appeared to have adapted to the prosecutorial culture without undue difficulty.

"It was fair and right to go to someone who is in the midst of a very serious thing," he said, referring to her efforts to persuade her confidante, Linda Tripp, to lie under oath. "She was in the process of committing serious offences."

Mr Starr did say, however, that there were some aspects that could have been better handled, including Linda Tripp. The fact that she had been informing both his office and lawyers for Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against Mr Clinton had confused the issue and laid his office open to allegations that it was conspiring with the Jones team against the President.

Striking a sadder and more genuinely personal note, Mr Starr as good as admitted that his investigation of the President had probably lost him all chance of the Supreme Court post that was his life's ambition. "I know," he said, "that there's a time and a season, and I think that time, had there been one, has long since passed."

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