Spouse's message clear, but not motives

February 04, 1999|By Robert Reno

ONE CAN only admire the instincts that drove Mrs. Kenneth Starr to fly to the defense of a husband whose approval ratings rival those of Newt Gingrich and Bob Barr.

It's more than some of the wives of Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Barr have done. But to have chosen to stand by her man in a prattling, not to say feline, interview with the Ladies' Home Journal shows poor judgment.

Mrs. Starr pointedly tells the Journal that unlike Hillary Clinton, she has had the same hairdo for 20 years and that she'd "rather not be married" to a cheating spouse. To begin with, what does she mean by "rather not?" If she caught Ken with a floozie, would she snatch her bald or would she just say, "Ken, I'd rather you didn't do that?"

Just what is Alice Starr getting at here? Surely she isn't reducing the great impeachment debate to a cat fight over hairdos and whose husband is more faithful.

No, I suppose this is her subtle way of taking a swipe at some of the conservative hypocrites. She's telling us her Ken's a better person than a lot of those Republicans in Congress who've made such a mess of the impeachment process and who have less than sterling marital histories.

I guess she means Henry Hyde, Bob Barr, Bob Livingston, Dan Burton, Helen Chenoweth and whoever turns out to be February's congressional confessor of the month. If so, I suggest she not be such a judgmental scold. These people and their spouses are human and their sexual histories are really none of our business.

Another thing eating Mrs. Starr is "very liberal" college professors. She whines that her son Randy, a Duke University student, avoids telling people who his father is. Poor Randy, she says, is "shy about it and I don't blame him. Most professors on campus are very liberal these days. It would probably be best if they didn't know."

Now, first of all, it would amaze Mrs. Starr to know how many conservative professors, economists especially, are "these days" cranking out right-wing dogma at such places as Harvard University and Stanford University, where her daughter Carolyn matriculates.

And it never ceases to amaze me how rich conservatives like the Starrs will scratch and claw to get their children into tony universities and then complain that they are cesspools of liberal thought. Someone must tell Mrs. Starr that there are perfectly good universities, some of them accredited, where her children could go and get thoroughly right-wing educations. What's wrong with Pepperdine University or Oral Roberts University? And doesn't Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson operate a perfectly nice university somewhere in Virginia?

Still, I don't fault Mrs. Starr for her wifely loyalty. I do fault the ladies at the Ladies' Home Journal for not asking her the obvious question: What was it like for a girl from Westchester County to marry into a fundamentalist Texas family where the father preached that women who wore Bermuda shorts on Sunday were godless sluts?

Robert Reno is a Newsday columnist.

Pub Date: 2/04/99

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