For days now, I’ve had a song bouncing around in my head.
I blame Joe Scarborough.
Scarborough, the former Republican congressman and current host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” invoked the song in discussing Ken Starr’s presentation to the U.S. Senate.
“As Judy Collins would sing,” Scarborough said, “isn’t it rich?”
He was referring, of course, to the Stephen Sondheim classic “Send in the Clowns.”
“Isn’t it rich?” the song goes. “Are we a pair? Me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air. Where are the clowns?”
Moments before, Scarborough had launched into a rant about the man who so ruthlessly pursued one president now defending another.
“Where do we begin with Ken Starr?” he asked. “If irony weren’t already dead and buried years ago, it was Ken Starr yesterday talking about how abuse of power is not sufficient to impeach a president. … He literally dragged the corpse of irony out of the grave. He meticulously tied the corpse’s neck bone to the back of a tractor, and he ran that tractor throughout the graveyard of stupidity and ran over every headstone before once again kicking dirt on the corpse of irony again!”
In his remarks during the trial of President Donald J. Trump, Starr had insisted it was time to bring an end to “the age of impeachment.”
“In this particular juncture in America’s history, the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently,” he said. “Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment. ... How did we get here?”
As he referred to the song, Scarborough was talking to Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
“I was sitting with a colleague yesterday watching Ken Starr’s presentation, and she turned to me and said, ‘Does Ken Starr know he’s Ken Starr?’” Wittes recalled. “I think that kind of, you know, captured the whole thing, that there was so little self-awareness in this sort of pious presentation of the dangers of hyperactive impeachment, and you kind of watched it saying, ‘Do you know who you are in this conversation? Do you know, have any understanding of the role you played?’”
Starr, after all, was the special counsel who had worked so relentlessly to drive President William Jefferson Clinton from office. It was Starr whose investigation of an Arkansas land deal eventually evolved into an examination of the president’s sexual relationship with a White House intern.
In addressing the Senate this time around, Starr described the impeachment process as “a war of words and a war of ideas” that “divides the country like nothing else.”
“Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment understand that in a deep and personal way,” he said.
Watching him speak, you could almost picture Starr breaking into song.
“Isn’t it rich?” he’d sing. “Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career. But where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns.”
Starr isn’t alone. Lots of folks are singing a different tune these days. Take the president himself.
“I really think that Ken Starr is a disaster,” he said back then in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
He called the man now charged with defending him a “total wacko” who was “off his rocker.”
This saga is filled with folks who saw things differently all those years back.
“Don’t you love farce?” the song goes. “My fault, I fear. I thought that you’d want what I want. Sorry, my dear! But where are the clowns? Send in the clowns. Don’t bother. They’re here.”