Cover Story

Daniel of the Year

"Daniel of the Year" Continued...

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 1998," Dec. 5, 1998

Mr. Starr's deep religious convictions also preserve him from a sense of moral superiority and push him toward service: "Ken is perhaps the one person most dedicated to public service that I have met in my time in Washington," Mr. Cappuccio insists. "He takes it as a very serious obligation, akin to a tithe. Ken will not say no to an important request to serve the public."

Mr. Starr's career path, though spectacular, is not one that an ambitious climber would have mapped out. After clerking for Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1975, Mr. Starr went into private practice at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where William French Smith was a prominent partner. When Ronald Reagan tapped Mr. Smith as his first attorney general, the young Mr. Starr was brought in as a top aide. Just two years later, President Reagan appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a lifetime position on an important bench that has frequently served as the on-deck circle for future Supreme Court justices. The year was 1983, and Mr. Starr was just 37 years old-the youngest appeals court judge ever.

But then duty came knocking. In 1989, as Mr. Cappuccio recalls, "The White House called over and asked him to step down to become solicitor general," the lawyer who argues the government's position before the Supreme Court. "Ken did not want to go, and he told us he did not want to go. You're trading a lifetime appointment for a job that lasts a couple of years. But his decision was, 'If I'm asked to do this, then I've got to do it.' It shows how serious he is about this."

When the Bush Administration ended three years later, Mr. Starr found himself doing something he never thought he'd have to do again-hunting for a job. He had barely settled into his lucrative private practice at Kirkland & Ellis when duty knocked again, this time with the offer of independent counsel. "He viewed the initial call from Attorney General Reno, and then later the offer from the three-judge panel, as the same sort of call to public service," Mr. Cappuccio says. "It's clear that he would rather be with his wife and children practicing law in McLean or teaching in Malibu."

Instead, he finds himself in the lions' den, the subject of an unprecedented attack from an administration desperate to divert attention from its own legal and ethical lapses. Only his faith has enabled him to stay the course, according to his friends. "He's handled it better than most human beings could," says Theodore Olson, a longtime colleague and partner in Mr. Starr's original law firm of Gibson, Dunn. "The thing that has helped him withstand this constant, withering attack from the White House is his strong sense of personal values. His critics have laughed at his religious convictions, but I think this is a very strong asset for someone to have. It's very, very helpful to know what you believe in, and to know that those are enduring values."

Those values are distinctly out of step with the relativist, postmodern ethic of the day. Despite the pressure to bow the knee to public opinion polls, the independent counsel has remained independent and insistent that standards of right and wrong must be fixed and external, no matter how powerful or popular the wrongdoer. For Mr. Starr, that fixed, external reference point is the law of God. For the public figures he investigates, the reference point is the law of the land-the very law that the president is sworn to uphold.

Mr. Starr has ordered his entire life on those beliefs. Now, public opinion has declared he must no longer do so. But like Daniel before him, he refuses to hide his beliefs behind a veil of expediency. For that, he has been thrown to the lions. And for that, in turn, he is WORLD's first Daniel of the Year.


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