Senator Trent Lott isn’t the only one in Washington speculating about an “October surprise” military operation to divert attention from the president’s political troubles. Lott, though, is talking about it openly, wondering what the administration thinks it might accomplish by bombing the country of Yugoslavia. Lott has been a supporter of such action in the past, but thinks a military strike at this time, just a few weeks before the election, would have strong political overtones. The problem is that Lott has not taken any action to stop the use of U.S. troops as cannon fodder in a partisan political enterprise.
As the House Judiciary Committee began considering authorizing a presidential impeachment inquiry, Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner said the issue was one of the most solemn ever to come before Congress. He said the only other comparable matter was Congress issuing a declaration of war. Yet Congress hasn’t officially declared war since World War II. In the case of President Clinton, he has not requested legislative approval for military actions in Iraq, Haiti, or Bosnia. Now he seems prepared to bomb Yugoslavia—again without obtaining advance Congressional approval.
As Sensenbrenner and his colleagues were debating the matter of impeachment, the New Yorker magazine was coming out with a dramatic story by liberal journalist Seymour Hersh basically showing how the Clinton Administration had lied about justification for the recent U.S. military strike on Sudan. This attack, with few exceptions, had been hailed by Republicans in the Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Lott. They thought the administration was launching a long-overdue attack on terrorists.
The Hersh article confirms what we have talked about in some of our previous broadcasts—the attack on Sudan was a “wag the dog” effort designed to take public attention away from the president’s troubles. It occurred just three days after Clinton had completed his grand jury appearance in the Monica Lewinsky matter. The New York Times and ABC News have raised questions about the attack, but the Hersh article discloses, for the first time, how the decision to approve the attack was made under very secret conditions, and how important people were excluded from that decision. For example, he reports that four members of the Joint Chiefs and FBI director Louis Freeh were not consulted during planning for the raids. Hersh also reports that Attorney General Janet Reno had strong doubts about the administration’s case.
Ross Perot has struck a chord with the American people by asking them to complete a survey about President Clinton’s fitness for office. One of his questions is: Does Bill Clinton have the character, integrity and moral authority to send your son or daughter into combat? The results show more than ninety five percent answering “no.” At the same time, the American Legion Magazine has just come out with its October issue, featuring an article on “The Honor Principle” at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Cadet Honor Code says, in part: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” But their Commander-in-Chief remains in his job, prepared to send more Americans off to war.