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Sexual McCarthyism in the '90s

Are you now or have you ever been an adulterer? The question has an ominous ring. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz says that it recalls the frightening '50s, when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy asked witnesses if they were or had ever been communists.

Dershowitz makes his point in the new book Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton, Starr and the Emerging Constitutional Crisis.

In the book, Dershowitz argues that the independent counsel law is a necessary evil but that the appointment of Kenneth Starr was improper. He maintains that Starr had a conflict of interest, as he had previously done some work on the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Dershowitz adds that Starr's behavior was improper in itself, noting that he "leaked grand jury material."

In fact, Dershowitz says the independent prosecutor "has done much more damage to our liberties than anything charged against the president of the United States."

Dershowitz also faults Mr. Clinton's attorney, Robert Bennett, for not having informed his client that he had the option of defaulting on the Paula Jones case. That would have allowed the president, says Dershowitz, to settle the case out of court and keep his dignity while declaring that he was too busy doing the people's business to see the case through. "Robert Bennett wanted to win the case," Dershowitz says.

Dershowitz believes it would be a disservice to the country if the president were impeached or forced to resign. "The framers of the Constitution I don't believe intended for this kind of misconduct to constitute an impeachable offense," he says. He adds that the entire affair seems to be based on what he calls "the misconduct of two men, both of whom seem to be obsessed with forbidden sex."

Dershowitz in fact hopes and believes that the president will not be impeached or resign. In fact, Dershowitz says, the irony is going to be that "Newt Gingrich is removed, and Starr is sanctioned" while Bill Clinton remains in office.

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