Morning Joe puts the "wit" back in Wittes: We're willing to agree with Kenneth Starr on one point. As our political norms melt down, we have begun to flirt with life inside an "age of impeachment."
Two of the nation's last four presidents have now been impeached. That's out of a total of three in all of American history!
Back when Starr was the Javert doggedly tracking Bill Clinton, people sometimes said that a Clinton impeachment might tend to lead to future impeachments. That struck us as far-fetched at the time. But whatever one thinks of the Trump impeachment, it seems less far-fetched now.
That said, it was odd to see Ken Starr, of all apparent people, wringing his hands yesterday about the age of impeachment. On this morning's Morning Joe, this led to one of the best political jokes we've ever seen.
Joe Scarborough started the program by staging an epic rant about the dunce-like behavior of the Trump lawyers at yesterday's hearing.
Below, you see part of what Scarborough said about Starr. Then you see the dry-as-dust reply from Benjamin Wittes, a legal journalist and the cofounder of Lawfare:
SCARBOROUGH (1/28/20): This is a man who put in the impeachment report allegations of "oral, anal contact." That’s what Ken Starr did. That’s what a [potential] Supreme Court justice did. That’s what they put in their impeachment report.Does Ken Starr know he's Ken Starr? It was Wittes' dry delivery which totally sold the remark. You can watch the award-winning quip at this link, just after the three-minute mark.
And we’re talking now about a president who’s not only asking a foreign power to interfere, he then goes on national TV a week later and asks China to interfere in America’s democratic elections, a risk that Donald Trump’s own intel agencies say is the greatest threat to American democracy. And Ken Starr is lecturing America about taking impeachment too lightly? When I told you what he filled his impeachment report with?
It's just—it's preposterous...
WITTES: Yeah, so I was sitting with a colleague yesterday watching Ken Starr’s presentation. And she turned to me and said, "Does Ken Starr know he’s Ken Starr?"
The Morning Joe panel broke for laughter after Wittes relayed his colleague's remark. "I think that kind of, you know, captured the whole thing, that there was so little self-awareness," Wittes finally said when he continued speaking.
In fairness, a certain lack of self-awareness can perhaps be spotted at various present-day venues. That said:
Does Ken Starr know he's Ken Starr? Even as our systems melt down all around us, scholars say there's no reason to avoid the occasional mordant quip!