President Clinton’s defenders keep making their case that his private life has no bearing on how he does his job.
They prattle on about his job approval ratings, which actually track how fat our wallets have become, not whether he can lead this country in a serious crisis.
Maybe you think that Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s report is about Clinton, the lothario.
But, if you want to learn something about Clinton as a leader, I refer you to the part about the pizza date with Monica Lewinsky at the White House.
That was also the night that Clinton was on the phone with a powerful Alabama Republican congressman, H.L. “Sonny” Callahan. What we didn’t know is what they were talking about.
Now it’s emerging that they were discussing sending American troops into harm’s way in Bosnia–putting our sons and daughters into a dangerous place that is full of death.
The president needed a vote from Callahan–chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that controls billions of dollars in foreign aid–for the peacekeeping mission, which would augment an international accord being developed in Dayton, Ohio.
But while he was on the phone, Clinton was simultaneously occupied.
White House intern Monica Lewinsky was performing oral sex in the Oval Office.
Imagine someone receiving those favors while they’re talking to you on the phone.
Now imagine that the subject you’re talking about is literally about life and death.
At issue was the fate of American troops. And also the fate of the Balkans, one of the bloodiest killing grounds in the world. What’s going on there threatens to spill over into Greece and Turkey, while Russia continues to crumble.
I called the White House on Monday on the chance they would dispute the facts as presented by Starr and Callahan on that night, Nov. 17, 1995. And as they have done in the past few days, officials declined.
Callahan, meanwhile, is issuing this statement: “I do recall talking to the president during which time he was seeking my assistance for the American mission in Bosnia. But I do not have any recollection of any inappropriate behavior or comments from the president during my conversation. . . .
“I had no knowledge that I was sharing the president’s time or attention with anyone else.”
That night, Callahan and a handful of other Republicans voted with the president’s side in opposing a move to prevent funds from being spent to send those troops overseas. They lost.
Eventually, the Dayton Peace Accords were signed. The president sent thousands and thousands of soldiers to Bosnia. He promised he’d bring them back by the end of 1996.
They’re still there.
I called Callahan’s office on Monday and talked with his chief of staff, Jo Bonner.
“Sonny has very mixed emotions about this,” said Bonner, who added that Callahan was considering a critical public address about Clinton on the House floor. “He could be voting on this (impeachment) issue, and he’s not trying to grandstand.
“But the president says it’s a personal matter. It became a public matter when he lobbied the congressman, talking about sending men and women overseas, even as he was being entertained by Miss Lewinsky. . . . You could say it is an insult. And worse.”
A White House official said on background that the president has great respect for those who serve their country overseas.
Yeah. Sure. He proved it.
According to her grand jury testimony, Lewinsky said that Clinton suggested she bring him some slices of pizza. When she arrived, she was immediately welcomed and ushered inside.
But during their loving caress, Clinton had a telephone call. She recalled that the caller was a member of Congress with a nickname.
While Clinton was on the telephone with the congressman, she testified that Clinton unzipped himself and she did her duty. She was at the White House that evening from 9:38 to 10:39 p.m.
White House phone records confirm, according to the Starr report, that Clinton had only one telephone conversation with a member of Congress. From 9:53 to 10:14 p.m., he spoke with “Sonny” Callahan.
While the House vote took place, diplomats anguished about whether the peace process would collapse. Muslims, Serbs and Croats, along with diplomats from America and other countries huddled in Dayton.
The people of the former Yugoslavia were desperate for relief from terror. American soldiers drilled. Their commanders planned, and most likely worried about their troops, as good officers always do.
Across this country, the mothers and fathers of soldiers worried and prayed. Some surely lit candles. U.S. representatives with opposing views fought it out with each other.
And the commander in chief, the president of the United States, his mouth full of pizza, entertained himself with a groupie in the Oval Office.
He is without shame.
By John Kass
September 15, 1998
|Taking the (Excess) Worry out of Deployment to Bosnia||Sending in the Troops||Why the United States is at War with Serbia|