Equity: WaPo gives two Pinocchios to Hillary's Marine Corps tale

To paraphrase an old car commercial jingle: You asked for it! You got it — a fact check! After the media started vetting Ben Carson’s biography and claimed to have found discrepancies, conservatives wondered why Hillary Clinton’s record of personal fabulism wasn’t getting the same level of scrutiny. Glenn Kessler stepped up to the plate today after Hillary told yet another version of her supposed 1975 rejection by the Marine Corps on Tuesday, and the results are … satisfying.


Kessler starts off by noting that even when Hillary first told this story in 1994, reporters like Maureen Dowd and Tony Kornheiser were deeply skeptical. Kessler quotes both, but Dowd had the best analysis:

  • “At the time, Hillary Rodham was an up-and-coming legal star involved with an up-and-coming political star.”
  • “She had made a celebrated appearance in Life magazine as an anti-establishment commencement speaker at Wellesley College, where, as president of the student government, she had organized teach-ins on her opposition to the Vietnam War.”
  • “She was a Yale law school graduate who had worked on the anti-war Presidential campaigns of Eugene J. McCarthy and George McGovern.”
  • “Mrs. Clinton told friends that she had moved to Arkansas for only one reason: to be with Bill Clinton.”
  • The Clintons married on Oct. 11, 1975, in Fayetteville.

Still, another Post reporter found two of Clinton’s friends who recalled hearing the tale before 1994. Neither had a detailed account of her purported attempt to join the Marines, but one thought it was an attempt by Hillary to test whether Marine recruiters on campus would accept women as recruits. That explanation doesn’t make much sense, Kessler concludes, because the Marines have accepted women since 1918, had deployed them to war zones since Korea, and had 2700 women in the Corps at the height of the Vietnam War, in all positions except combat.


Kessler also notes that Bill Clinton told the story differently in Hillary’s previous presidential campaign:

Complicating matters is that in 2008, Bill Clinton told an audience that his future wife tried to join the Army. “I remember when we were young, right out of law school, she went down and tried to join the Army and they said ‘Your eyes are so bad, nobody will take you,’” he said.

Overall, this smells like fabulism to Kessler, giving the story two Pinocchios. The Tuzla Dash even makes a cameo appearance in the conclusion:

So far, we do not have enough documentary proof to say the incident never happened, such as supposedly landing under sniper fire in Bosnia or getting the date wrong for hearing a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. This is simply a personal recollection — one that at least two friends have confirmed they had been told about at the time.

But the circumstances are in question. She pitches it as a matter of public service, but her friends suggest it was something different. So at this point Clinton’s story is worthy of Two Pinocchios, subject to change if more information becomes available.

WaPo reporter Michael Dobbs gave Hillary four Pinocchios for the Tuzla Dash in March 2008, thanks in large part to the fact that Dobbs himself had traveled to the Tuzla region before either Bill or Hillary and knew it to have been pacified long before either showed up. That fact check is worth another read, especially given its more recent recollection by Hillary at that time — and the bald-faced, provable lies she told about it. In fact, it might be worth having Hillary answer questions about it now, maybe in the next debate, if some enterprising moderator thinks honesty and integrity to be as important for Democratic candidates as they do with Republicans.


Update: The 2008 fact check had no byline, so I assumed it was written by Kessler. However …

It has been corrected above. Thanks to Glenn for letting me know.

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