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Starr's Report To Congress: Author! Author!

By Jodie Morse

TIME magazine

(TIME, Sept. 7) -- Congressional reports tend to be jargon-filled affairs, usually tackling sleepy themes like IRS restructuring or census sampling. Not so the 300-page tome on the Lewinsky investigation that Ken Starr is expected to deliver to the House of Representatives by late September. To help craft the report that could decide the fate of the President, Starr has turned to author and legal scholar Stephen Bates. Known for his sober scholarship and shy demeanor, this soft-spoken, Harvard-pedigreed lawyer is the literary editor at the Wilson Quarterly, a cerebral journal whose summer issue boasts an article on the history of conscription and another titled "Is the Bible Bad News for Women?"

Bates, 40, is best known for his frequent writings on the Christian right. "He's a genuinely moral conservative, religious-based, but not an ideologue," says a colleague. For his part, Bates describes himself as a "lapsed Episcopalian" and has been quick to criticize the right's more extreme tactics. His 1993 book Battleground, the story of a school-book censorship case in eastern Tennessee, earned kudos from both sides of the political aisle for its evenhanded portrayal of fundamentalists. In 1996 he co-wrote a similarly fair-minded piece for Playboy on the issue of censorship in cyberspace.

Bates began working with Starr's team in 1995. And he has been on a previous publishing venture with Starr. Last year the two tag-teamed on a book proposal for a scholarly study of the separation of church and state. None of the 15 publishers approached would pay the six-figure asking price, according to the Washington Post. It was too much "from a pro-religious ideological perspective," an editor said, and "a bit dry." That is unlikely to be the criticism lodged at the literary culmination of the Starr investigation. While Bates' lawyerly and scholarly sobriety will ensure that the report will not be a Harlequin bodice ripper, it could well be titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know (and Many Things You Didn't) About Sex in the Oval Office.

--With reporting by Elaine Shannon/Washington

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: September 7, 1998

Free Fall
Stormy Weather
Starr's Report To Congress: Author! Author!
A Pair Of Quick Arrests
Essay: Go, And Spin No More
Notebook: Giving Newt A Hand

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