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Starr Catches a Flack

By Al Kamen
From "In The Loop"
Wednesday, April 8, 1998; Page A21

As independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr put it last week, he works "in the realm of facts and law, and not public relations."

Maybe so, but he sure was focused on public relations when he flew back from Little Rock Thursday before last.

Starr was in seat 24A, returning by way of Memphis, talking to Charles G. Bakaly III, a former Reagan White House director of press advance and an aide to James A. Baker III at Treasury.

Bakaly, Los Angeles lawyer, most recently has been chief spokesman for independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz, who's investigating former agriculture secretary Mike Espy. He had spent the day with Starr in Little Rock, meeting prosecutors in the office there because, as of next week, he's leaving Smaltz to be chief spokesman for Starr.

On the plane, according to a Loop Fan -- with pen and paper handy -- seated nearby, Starr told Bakaly he "would really like to get your views on how to nurture relationships with individual reporters," to get them "away from the pack" to have a real conversation about things.

Bakaly recalled that he used to have reporters over to his house back in his White House days.

Might be a bit difficult for me, Starr observed, to have a reporter over for "libations."

The whole notion of executive privilege was "too scholarly" for people, he mentioned at another point, wondering how best "to educate people." Starr also wondered if it would be "best to have surrogates do that so I don't have to get involved."

Bakaly said it seemed -- remember, this is the week before Paula Jones's case vaporized -- Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett could be the biggest loser for the way he's handled President Clinton's defense. Starr indicated he agreed, our source said.

"I'd love to talk to you much more about this," Starr said as the plane landed in Washington. "What's your schedule for the rest of the week?" he asked as they compared calendars.

Bakaly apparently will have plenty of time to chat and strategize with Starr. He's moving his family to Washington to work full time to help Starr improve his relations with the press.

For starters, Starr might want to try returning phone calls. Also stop talking on airplanes.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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