About 3:00 p.m. on a sweltering Tuesday in July 1993, a witness saw a gray Honda Accord swerve abruptly from the George Washington Parkway into the parking lot of Fort Marcy Park in Virginia.
A tall, slender man stepped out of the car. He wore dark trousers, and his white dress shirt was open at the collar. In his right hand there was a .38 Special Colt revolver.
He walked into the park, where for no less than thirty minutes and no more than an hour and fifteen minutes, he sat on an embankment near a Civil War era cannon, before placing the gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger.
The man’s name was Vincent Walker Foster, Jr. He was a husband, father of three, and loyal friend, born in Hope, Arkansas in 1945. His friends and coworkers spoke about him in terms that most people would consider the highest possible regard. At the time of his death he was White House Assistant Counsel. He, along with Thomas “Mack” McLarty, was a childhood friend of President Bill Clinton. He had been the most-respected partner in the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, AR.
Some believe he was murdered.
Whether he pulled the trigger of that gun or not, the dishonorable, toxic Washington, DC culture and the Clinton White House killed this honorable man as surely as, more than 20 years later, decades of lies, subterfuge and amorality have killed so much of the American spirit and dragged anything resembling national honor through mud and blood.
Who was Vince Foster?
The first part of Vince Foster’s FBI file, released to the public last week, consists of the standard FBI background check on a new White House appointee. As a lawyer, Foster appears to have been the best, not just in “successful” litigation but in conduct of himself and his profession.
Vince graduated first out of his class of 46 at the University of Arkansas School of Law 23 years before he was invited to give the Commencement Address as a returning graduate.
The Dean of the law school, interviewed in February, 1993, has had his name redacted from Foster’s FBI file. However, the recommendation given has been preserved.
Foster, the Dean said, was “one of his very best students for as long as he had been teaching law, and he gives the appointee his highest recommendation for a position of trust and confidence with the United States Government.”
One of his colleagues at the Rose Law Firm, who had worked with Foster since 1982, said he was “a wonderful individual who is ethically sound.” She further said “the appointee puts the client first and himself second … [he is] well-liked and respected both as both an attorney and private citizen. He has outstanding abilities and is the best writer she has ever assisted.”
Still another colleague told the Washington Post shortly after Foster’s death, “In the courtroom, he was extremely eloquent, the best I’ve ever seen. He was a great writer: He’d go through 20 drafts if he had to. He could be demanding; some associates didn’t want to work with him …” because of too much work. Not integrity.
Another colleague told FBI agents that Foster was “the most respected lawyer in the state of Arkansas. [His] integrity is unquestionable. The appointee is meticulous, thorough, and always professional.” He added “young associates aspire to be like the appointee.”
Still another colleague said Foster was “one of the smartest lawyers he has ever known … an outstanding lawyer and loyal friend,” adding “everyone in the firm went to the employee for assistance and advice.”
Opposing counsel from one of the many cases Foster litigated in his 20-year career said he was a “phenomenal trial lawyer with enormous integrity . . . he is brilliant and works very hard.”
He was identified as the Rose Law Firm’s top earner and most respected member. His neighbors spoke of his honesty, integrity, and willingness to give back to community efforts. The FBI included a lawsuit in the file which was filed by a disgruntled former employee of the Legal Aid Foundation, the free legal assistance organization for which Foster had served as a board member. The lawsuit was found to have been without merit; it shows Foster conducted himself impeccably and fairly.
He performed service for the state Bar Association, and was committed to social justice causes not only in word, but in deed, serving as one of the few white members of the Harold Flowers Law Society, an African-American society back in those still highly-segregated days. Foster was aware of, and addressed, the discrimination of the all-white Little Rock Country Club, stating he believed the high financial cost to join was the reason why the club was just accepting its first African-American member as he was participating in the security investigation prior to accepting his appointment at the White House.
It is widely rumored that Vince Foster had a sexual relationship with Hillary Clinton.
More than 20 colleagues, and 20 others, were interviewed in the FBI background check, and the following investigation into Foster’s death included interviews with his family, including his wife Lisa and his sisters.
In his eloquent commencement speech to Arkansas Law School graduates just a few weeks before his death, Foster said,
“I cannot make this point to you too strongly. There is no victory, no advantage, no fee, no favor which is worth even a blemish on your reputation for intellect and integrity,” he said . . . Dents to the reputation in the legal profession are irreparable.”
The images regarding Foster are strictly controlled. It is known that the Clintons socialized with Foster and his wife Lisa. This is one of the few pictures, frequently reproduced.
We know what is going on with the couple on the right.
People make fun of me and my little foibles. Once upon a time, the kind of words, work, and personal ethic Foster shows in the FBI character interviews, community leadership, and statements of family and friends, were intimately familiar to me. They guided my life. Maybe they still do. My grandfather was the best man I ever knew and he taught me the values I have to this day.
My word was my bond. If I shook someone’s hand and looked in their eyes and said, “I’ll do it,” it was done. A done deal. I worked the kind of hours Foster did helping homeless families. I spent those kind of hours thinking about ethical issues, right and wrong. I wrote stories about those things. I spent hours crafting every word, every nuance, every feeling.
So I look at that picture and I don’t feel that man would cheat on that beautiful, open-faced wife, Lisa, with Hillary Clinton or anyone else. If he did, it wouldn’t be the kind of cheating we think of as full-on cheating.
Vince Foster’s commencement speech to his law school mentions Lisa over and over again. He speaks of his gratitude to her and how much he loves her and how much he owes to her, because she put him through law school. He specifically mentions that he’d skipped his own graduation and was sorry; it hadn’t seemed important at the time. His relationship with Lisa was more important.
I don’t think Vince Foster was a dishonest man who cheated on his wife, helped the Clintons with dirty business deals, and suddenly represented them with no integrity, filing their taxes for them and falsifying records.
I don’t think Vince was murdered, either. It just doesn’t feel that way.
But he sure as hell feels to me like a man who’d sacrifice his life to save his family and reputation. I know if that’s the choice I were given, I’d pull that trigger without hesitation.
Six days after Vince’s death, people in the White House discovered torn pieces of paper in a locked briefcase placed near his office door. One of the reasons there are so many conspiracy theories about his death is that only White House personnel, not law enforcement, were in and out of his office doing unknown things. Anything could have happened and anything likely did. The torn pieces of paper were withheld from authorities for an additional 30 hours after they were found. The stated reason was that White House staff wanted President Bill Clinton to have a look at the note before turning it over — for the good of Vince’s family.
I’m pretty sure he did not write this note freely and of his own accord, based on reading other things he’d written and on the evidence of repeated testimony as to how well he expressed himself in court, and in writing. This is the note of a child. Not a man, and especially not the best lawyer in Arkansas.
Just as a side note regarding this note, which is believed to have been in Foster’s handwriting — if indeed, he had a sexual relationship with Hillary Clinton — I have yet to have known a man to refer to a woman they’ve made love to by their initials. Especially not in a “last message.”
I think even those who are not very sensitive can “hear” a voice in this note. That voice, very likely, is that of Hillary Clinton. Maybe the two talked about the White House Travel Office scandal, and maybe these were notes of “talking points” she recommended. Someone tore the note up. Someone kept it. Someone put it in that briefcase in his office for it to be “found” after his death.
The Best of Us
I believe Vince Foster did take his own life that long-ago day in Fort Marcy Park. But I don’t believe it was for no reason, nor was it because of the White House Travel Office scandal. I believe he, not in the grip or throes of severe depression (though he was depressed and severely anxious, and had just received medication, and had taken only one dose) but in the throes of anagnorisis, realized that large portions of his life were based on a lie. Not just any lie, but a huge, encompassing lie — one that our country continues to suffer from.
Vince Foster, like me (even to this day — and I’ve had my own anagnorisis), was a person of honor. The lies in his FBI file aren’t the ones about his character, his reputation, his abilities or who he was. His pictures show a man with a clear conscience and an honest face. Everything about him and his family show good, honest, upstanding people of decency and honor.
What does a person like this do when confronted with an insoluble problem?
They choose to do what, I believe, Vince did. To save himself from terrible dishonor in a situation where he knew he could not prevail, where honor and honesty played no part, he chose to take his own life and give his family an opportunity to return home to Arkansas and recover.
This is not about any specific scandal. I believe it’s about Vince’s recognition that the whole house of cards was founded on a lie and that nothing but lies had been told ever since: an evil wholly embraced by the Clintons on to this day — and wholly rejected by Vince.
Reading the things others said about Vince only a few months before his death brought tears to my eyes. Because they really are important. Honesty, integrity, compassion, hard work, respect, self-sacrifice.
Medical evidence shows that Vince Foster made love before he died. I believe it was with his wife at home, before he left for work in the morning. If I felt I was going to do what he did, I would have done the same.
No one knows what he did or where he went after leaving the White House at 1:00 p.m. and his body’s discovery in Fort Marcy Park.
Linda Tripp, made famous during the Monica Lewinsky scandal years later, was the assistant to Bernard Nussbaum, Vince’s superior. She served Vince his last lunch.
Tripp alleged in later Grand Jury testimony that she feared for her life resulting from the actions of other White House staff after Vince Foster’s death, and the mysterious death of a Little Rock private security business owner Jerry Parks (wrongly identified as Clinton’s head of security) in September, 1993. While at a stoplight in Little Rock, Parks was shot 9 times by an assailant in a white Chevy who then sped away. The crime has never been solved, but years later, Parks’ son was convicted of murdering his stepfather, and Parks’ widow gained financially from the violent death of each of her former husbands.
The .38 Colt revolver found in Vince Foster’s hand at his death was made up of the parts of two different guns. And apparently, it has gone missing.
Amy Sterling Casil is the author of 40+ nonfiction books, 3 novels, 3 short fiction & poetry collections, hundreds of articles, and is a high-level nonprofit fundraiser and executive, and a business planner and developer, primarily for women and non-traditional owners. You can buy her most recent fiction book (sci fi short stories all about women) via Amazon.