Allan Favish is a Los Angeles-based attorney whose focus is on General Insurance Defense and Litigation Insurance Coverage/Reinsurance & Bad Faith Litigation. A UCLA graduate, he received his J.D. at Hastings College of Law in 1981.
After years of seeing twisted conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I was very skeptical when I found a copy of "The Strange Death of Vincent Foster" in my mail. In fact, I was less interested in reading it than in seeing what off-the-wall publisher had put it out.
My first surprise was that it was published by Free Press, a very reputable publisher of very serious books. The second surprise was seeing that the author, Christopher Ruddy, had been a fellow at the Hoover Institution, the think tank where I work, though I never saw him while he was on campus, because I work at home, miles away. Then I began to leaf through the book and saw immediately that the tone was not like that of the conspiracy-theory books about the Kennedy assassination that I had read. In fact, this study of the death of White House aide Vincent Foster was very carefully put together and very systematic in its analysis. Moreover, it had no grand conspiracy theory, just a lot of very disturbing facts, some of which I was already aware of before reading the book.
Two facts are indisputable. The most important of these facts is that the White House impeded the investigation of Foster's death in both gross and subtle ways. I didn't need to read this book to learn that. This was painfully clear from last year's U.S. Senate Report 104-280 (pages 51-90, for anyone interested in the facts).
These blatant attempts at covering up do not necessarily mean that the White House was somehow involved in Foster's death. They do suggest that a full investigation of his death might have brought out other things that the Clintons preferred to keep quiet. They have a lot of things that they have gone to a lot of trouble to keep quiet.
The second conclusion that seems undeniable is that the U.S. Park Police, which investigated Foster's death after finding his body in a federal park, immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a suicide committed in that park, even before the investigation really got underway. Clues that might suggest otherwise were just not followed up. Various independent forensic experts have been scathing in their criticisms of how the Park Police handled the case and neglected the evidence.
This should not be surprising. The Park Police are great at giving tourists directions from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial but investigating homicide is not part of their normal routine.
Even if you accept all the sins of omission and commission charged by author Christopher Ruddy against the Park Police, this does not mean that there was some kind of conspiracy between the Park Police and the White House -- nor does he claim that there was. But once bureaucrats botch something, their next move is to cover it up or lie about it. This is not peculiar to the Park Police.
Moreover, people who relied on the Park Police's report for their own conclusions likewise have every incentive to refuse to admit that they were misled into public support of something that turned out to be wrong. They also do not want to be considered conspiracy-theory kooks and may want to see the case closed to spare the family further grief.
Any number of things might have happened on July 20, 1993, when Vincent Foster's body was discovered in Marcy Park. The hardest thing to reconcile with the evidence is that he committed suicide in that park.
He may have committed suicide somewhere else, where it would have been embarrassing to have the body discovered, so that it was moved to the park. Some experienced police detectives have suggested this, partly because the small amount of blood found with the body in Marcy Park is wholly inconsistent with what they have seen happen when someone puts a .38 revolver in his mouth and pulls the trigger. Moreover, there are many other inconsistencies.
Another possibility is that Foster might have been killed somewhere else and a suicide faked. Far out as this sounds, it is more consistent with the book's diagram of the pattern of powder burns on Foster's hands than the notion that he pulled the trigger himself. To produce that same pattern of powder burns by shooting himself would have required some real contortions.
"The Strange Death of Vincent Foster" goes through all this in painstaking detail, including photographs and diagrams. It raises more questions than it answers but these are very serious questions that cannot be swept under the rug with some pat phrase like "conspiracy theories."
Nationally Syndicated Column
Book Review of Christopher Ruddy's "The Strange Death of Vincent Foster"
Published on September 18, 1997 (and thereafter as published in various newspapers).