The Ghosts of Impeachment Haunt the Kavanaugh Fight

Ken Starr, David Schippers, even Kavanaugh himself were key players in impeachment of Bill Clinton

Senate staffers watch from their offices as police begin to arrest protesters opposed to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the atrium of the Hart Building on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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Ghosts of Impeachment

Washington is doing its best to prove the William Faulkner maxim that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Twenty years ago, the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton hung over the city and dominated its comings and goings. That’s kind of how it feels now, with the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, with its rapidly changing storyline and underlying sense of sexual dread taking over everyone’s narrative.

The protests, votes, the light projections against buildings, social media, cable news — it feels inescapable, even as the Senate moves seemingly inexorably toward a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

There is just that tiny little bit of hope that, at some point, it will be over. Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Or not. We will move on, if not from the issues that his nomination has surfaced. 


Plenty of people thought that about the Clinton saga, too. The House impeached Clinton. The Senate acquitted him. He served out his term. Game over. 

Not really. 

The ghosts of the 20-year-old impeachment saga, you see, are still with us, too. 

Most prominently, it’s right there in Kavanaugh, who worked for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the scandal and was one of the authors of The Starr Report that detailed the case to impeach Clinton.

Think the Clintons aren’t still on Kavanaugh’s mind? In his angry testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27 to rebut sexual assault allegations, he denounced what he said was a campaign against him partly motivated by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

Hillary Clinton, the first lady during impeachment time, was in town this week for The Atlantic Festival, all too glad to laugh that comment off.

“Boy, I’ll tell you, they give us a lot of credit,” said Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president. 

“It would’ve had to have happened 36 years ago,” she said, referring to the time of Christine Blasey Ford’s alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh. “And that seems a stretch, even for the vast right-wing conspiracy stories about me.” 

Starr is still with us, too, having resurfaced to peddle his new book “Contempt” about, what else? The Clinton investigation. Yes, that was him on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” a couple of weeks ago.  

Ken Starr during his swearing-in for the impeachment hearings in the house....Rebecca Roth/@Roll Call
Kenneth Starr during his swearing-in for the impeachment hearings in the House. (Rebecca Roth/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, too, who went from House impeachment manager in 1998 to Senate Kavanaugh cheerleader in 2018. The South Carolina Republican’s rant during the Judiciary Committee hearing on behalf of Kavanaugh stands as one of the indelible political tantrum moments of the current saga. 

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., points at the Democrats as he defends Judge Brett Kavanaugh during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, focusing on allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh against Christine Blasey Ford in the early 1980s. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., points at the Democrats as he defends Kavanaugh during the Senate Judiciary hearing on his Supreme Court nomination on Sept. 27. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

Even David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s hard-charging chief investigative counsel, has been in the news, though likely for the last time.

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David Schippers died on Sept. 28. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Schippers, a brusque, rumpled, rootin’ tootin’ former U.S. attorney, trial lawyer and Chicago Democrat who made the case that Clinton should be impeached, died at the age of 88 on Sept. 28.

If anyone thinks this will all go away once the Kavanaugh nomination is either confirmed or rejected, well, let’s not forget that there are already rumblings about impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh from either the Supreme Court or his current post at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Calling Mr. Faulkner.

This Week’s Podcast


In 2009, Republicans hit a nadir in New York. After the 2008 elections, their numbers in the House delegation had dwindled to three, compared to 26 Democrats. Then they lost a special election in November that year and saw three become two. They’ve been moving on up ever since, and even while Donald Trump was losing his home state in 2016, the GOP had cut the House delegation margin to 18 Democrats and nine Republicans. 

Now Democrats want some of those seats back, specifically in the Hudson River Valley-based 19th District represented by John J. Faso and the Utica-anchored 22nd District held by Claudia Tenney. Bridget Bowman was in the area recently to report on those races and spoke to the Political Theater Podcast about what she learned.

The Kicker

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