Hillary Clinton finally acknowledged what even Howard Wolfson couldn’t spin away — that she didn’t stroll off an airplane in Tuzla in 1996 under sniper fire. In an editorial meeting with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Hillary called the controversy a “minor blip”, but admitted that she made a “misstatement” when it came to the danger she faced in Tuzla. That admission only came after video clearly showed Hillary and her entourage, including a 15-year-old Chelsea, smiling and moving unhurriedly to a greeting ceremony she claimed never happened:
Clinton acknowleged today for the first time that it was a “misstatement” when she said in a major prepared foreign policy speech last week that “I remember landing under sniper fire” but also tried to brush off the entire issue as “a minor blip.” She also gave a revised account of her airplane landing and her tarmac greeting at the Tuzla Air Force base 12 years ago — seeking to explain a picture re-published this weekend in the Washington Post showing her and daughter Chelsea calmly greeting an 8-year-old girl.
In her speech last week at George Washington University, Clinton maintained “[t]here was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. Today, she told our group at the Daily News that she was informed that we “had to meet this 8-year-old girl,” so “I took her stuff and left.”
The dispute is hardly a trivial one because the New York senator has tried to stress that foreign policy experience is why voters in Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary should chose her over Sen. Barack Obama, the overall leader in delegates and primary votes. And she has placed the Bosnia trip front and center, to the extent that her account of her visit there led off last week’s televised speech. Here’s what she said then:
I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. But it was a moment of great pride for me to visit our troops, not only in our main base as Tuzla, but also at two outposts where they were serving in so many capacities to deactivate and remove landmines, to hunt and seek out those who had not complied with the Dayton Accords and put down their arms, and to build relationships with the people that might lead to a peace for them and their children.
Even CBS decided to offer the conclusive proof of her “misstatement”, showing the video on its national news program last night. When CBS provides the torpedo, then the rest of us know the target has already been sunk for the Clintons.
Hillary still wants to spin this, as her extended answer demonstrates. She insists that her argument about foreign-policy experience still remains relevant. The meltdown over her credibility has fogged the actual argument in which Hillary used Tuzla, which was that she was so good at foreign policy that her husband’s administration would send her instead of the diplomats, especially if it was too dangerous for the President to visit personally.
Unfortnately for Hillary, she still hasn’t come up with an actual example. She told the Inquirer editors that she visited 80 countries, but that doesn’t mean she conducted any heavy foreign-policy duties on those trips. First Ladies travel abroad frequently, with and without their presidential husbands, but that doesn’t constitute the kind of experience that Hillary demands we infer from her journeys. In all of the cases we have seen, she conducted the kind of ceremonial duties that First Ladies always do, not hard-charging diplomatic initiatives that would demonstrate better experience than Barack Obama or John McCain, especially the latter.
And now the admission that she misrepresented the Tuzla trip in both danger and importance undermines what little credibility she had left after insisting that she should receive credit for all of the foreign-policy initiatives during her husband’s administration. Without experience or credibility, just what can she offer?