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Starr Time

[whitespace] Kenneth Starr and Martha Stewart

By Bob Harris

HERE'S A NEW and important twist on the whole Fornigate thing, courtesy of our good friends up at Mother Jones magazine: Remember the GM trucks with the side-saddle gas tanks that a bunch of lawsuits alleged were like driving with a Ford Pinto strapped to each door?

Thanks to some newly released documents, it's now clear that as far back as 1973, one of the company's engineers actually calculated how much it would cost whenever a customer went up in flames as the result of a traffic accident. And once the lawsuits started, that engineer told GM's lawyers that he wrote the memo, quote, "for Oldsmobile management."

Now, since supposedly nobody had any idea there was any real danger, you can see why GM wouldn't want that public. Well, when the engineer got on the witness stand in 13 various lawsuits, he changed his story--claiming instead that nobody at GM asked him to write the memo, nobody saw it, and he couldn't remember why he wrote it. Apparently one fine day he just decided to do a bunch of fire-death cost-benefit analyses for his own personal amusement.

And I thought Eddie Murphy had some weird hobbies.

The earlier, more incriminating statement didn't come out right away because a GM lawyer worked hard to get it suppressed, claiming attorney/client privilege. Thing is, you're not allowed to do that just to conceal perjury. If that's what happened, it's not only unethical, it's also obstruction of justice.

And who's the GM attorney? None other than Kenneth Starr, now the special prosecutor accusing Bill Clinton of obstruction of justice.

The Justice Department has received a bunch of affadavits and documents and whatnot, but the current word is that their plate is full for now and they'll get to it, uh, whenever. You can get the latest updates via the Mother Jones website, but right now it looks like Janet Reno won't be rolling any eggs at the White House this Easter.

However, one of the lawsuits continues in Florida, and they're calling at least some of the GM attorneys in to testify. So apparently there's still a small but finite chance that Kenneth Starr himself might still eventually find himself precisely in Bill Clinton's shoes. Cool.

In comparing the two cases, it may not be long before Americans have to ask themselves: What's a worse thing to cover up--Slam-and-Flam or thank you, ma'am?

A CHUNK OF the seating chart for last week's Time magazine 75th anniversary bash in New York was printed in the Los Angeles Times last week. The president's table was next to the stage, and the status flowed outward from there. Want to know who the real movers and shakers are? Let's have a look (and these were the real seating arrangements):

In the wake of the Monica Lewinsky thing, it's no great surprise almost all of the available women in the room were seated at least five or 10 tables away from the president; the Rev. Billy Graham was right next to Clinton, just in case.

Actress Mira Sorvino was one table over, but even if she got any wild ideas, Kofi Annan was right there to talk her out of them. Raquel Welch was only two tables away, but she was seated right next to the producer of 60 Minutes. No action there.

Sharon Stone sat next to Bill Gates, who didn't say a word to anyone but kept pointing and clicking all evening long. And Martha Stewart sat behind Sean Connery, whose bald spot now has lovely wainscotting.

Table 2 included Tom Cruise and John Glenn, whose co-workers gave them a lot to talk about: Tom starred with Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man," and John Glenn works in the U.S. Senate. Table 7 included Joe DiMaggio and Henry Kissinger, two guys for whom the phrase "Yankee Go Home" have entirely different meanings. And Table 9 included Muhammad Ali and Ted Kennedy, both of whom are famously good at absorbing a punch.

Finally, Kevin Costner was seated alongside Mikhail Gorbachev, who could learn at last what it's really like to unleash one's bombs onto a horrified population.

Speaking of which, if Clinton sincerely wants to crack down on terrorism, he should really start with Costner. Waterworld and The Postman are a matter of public record. They execute people in Texas for less.

Kevin, if you're reading this--for the love of God, just tell us your demands. What is it you want? We'll give it to you. Just stop what you're doing, Kevin. Put the camera on the ground and slowly back away.

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From the March 19-25, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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