Published Wednesday, March 18, 1998
Biographer: Cox wouldn't have looked at private life
By Pam Mansell
Is the current role of independent counsel a little out of control? Duquesne School of Law professor Kenneth Gormley thinks so.
Would former Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox have pursued the Whitewater-Monica Lewinsky investigation the same way Kenneth Starr has?
``No way,'' Gormley said Tuesday at Westminster College.
Gormley spent seven years writing ``Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation,'' a biography of the man some called, ``integrity incarnate.''
Some people are born into wealth, Gormley said; Cox was born into public service. His great-grandfather had defended President Andrew Jackson in his impeachment hearings. Farther back in his lineage was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Cox himself served as solicitor general _ a position sometimes called ``the conscience of the government'' _ under President John F. Kennedy and helped craft the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gormley said.
Cox went back to teaching at Harvard in the late 1960s, until the call came in 1972 to serve as special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. When President Richard Nixon refused to turn over the tapes of Oval Office conversations, and Cox refused to give in, Nixon fired him and abolished the position of special prosecutor.
That act was arguably what led to Nixon's forced resignation; it certainly led to the independent counsel statute that created the office as it exists today.
Gormley told the Westminster audience about one of Cox's decision that did not make it into his book, but that seems relevant in light of the current twists in the investigation into President Bill Clinton's activities.
Gormley said that some evidence in Cox's investigation indicated that Nixon had been taping his own brother's conversations. ``Democrats wanted Cox to pursue that but he wouldn't,'' Gormley recounted of his research. ``Cox thought it was unrelated to the Watergate investigation.''
Gormley said Cox was always aware of the more far-reaching implications of his work, and genuinely worried about how the Watergate investigation would affect the office of the presidency. Gormley thought current independent counsel Kenneth Starr should ask himself some of those questions.
``He should be asking, `What happens if I go too far? What happens to the presidency? What happens to the courts?' ''
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Updated March 18, 1998
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