On March 19th, President Clinton held his first solo presidential news conference in almost a year. Besides his failure to justify why he was planning to send young Americans to their deaths in Kosovo, the press corps turned in a sorry performance, with one alleged journalist asking the president why people are so mean to him and stating, “They treat you worse than they treated Abe Lincoln,” who, of course, was literally assassinated.
A more appropriate question would have had to do with the infamous 1969 letter in which Bill Clinton described how he and his comrades felt about the military. In a letter to Colonel Eugene Holmes, director of the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas, Clinton said that “many fine people”—himself included—find themselves “loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes, of the best service you could give.” Clinton, who had reneged on his promise to go into ROTC, admitted in the letter that he had no interest in the program but signed up only to “protect myself from physical harm.”
The Starr report reveals that rather than loving his country, he was loving Monica Lewinsky – or else she was loving him—while he was on the telephone with a Congressman trying to drum up support for sending U.S. troops to Bosnia. Those troops were supposed to be home two years ago. This record of lies and deceit wasn?t raised in his first solo presidential press conference in almost a year. Some questions about Kosovo were asked, but they were all designed to prod Clinton into sending troops. NBC?s Scott Pelley got the closest to asking an intelligent question on the matter when he wondered what Clinton?s “threshhold” for sending the soldiers was supposed to be.
A better question is what legal basis Clinton has for acting. Spokesmen for the Serbs keep making the point that Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia and that the U.N. or NATO have no legal right to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. We may not like them or their policies, but they happen to be right.
Columnist Charley Reese has put the matter this way: “Suppose six foreign nations told the United States, ?Grant Puerto Rico full autonomy or we will slap you with trade sanctions and arms embargoes and freeze any assets you have overseas.?” Reese is describing what the U.S. has done to the Serbs—prior to bombing them. Columnist Harry Summers, a retired Army Colonel, has wondered what the United Sates would do if the U.N. threatened to bomb Washington, D.C. if the federal government didn?t grant autonomy or independence to Hispanics in the Southwestern states who wanted to reunite with Mexico. The situation of the Hispanics is comparable to the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, who want to be part of a greater Albania.
Perhaps, if Clinton were asked about this, he would defer to a lawyer, like he does on the Juanita Broaddrick matter. But he should be asked anyway. It?s the job of the press to hold the president accountable.