Clinton aides massaged message on '98 Iraq strike as impeachment debate neared
WASHINGTON — President Bill Clinton's advisers carefully considered how to explain the president's military action against Iraq in 1998 as the House was debating his impeachment, according to records from the Clinton White House that were released on Friday.
The National Archives released about 1,000 pages of restricted documents from Clinton's two terms, part of 20,000 pages of Clinton records that have been disseminated since February. A look at the revelations:
The White House mulled how to explain Clinton's decision to launch a military strike against Iraq the day before the House was to debate bringing impeachment charges against the president in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The notes of national security aide Tony Blinken include a draft of Clinton's address announcing the airstrikes in December 1998 as a response to Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow U.N. inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction.
The draft shows White House counsel Charles Ruff, who defended Clinton against impeachment, cleared a version that said: “All of us would have preferred that the need for this action had not arisen on this day — on the eve of the impeachment debate in the House of Representatives.”
Instead, Clinton's address ended up sticking close to what the draft refers to as White House Chief of Staff John Podesta's version. The president said: “Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans, or weaken our resolve to face him down.”
One tweak: In Podesta's version, the impeachment debate was termed “grave” instead of “serious.”
House Republicans suggested it was Clinton who was trying to distract Americans with the timing of the attack. The Republican-led House voted to impeach; the Democrat-controlled Senate later acquitted Clinton.
Osama bin Laden
In one file referencing bin Laden, Clinton urgently asked his top national security aide whether the CIA overstated the involvement of the terrorist leader in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In his April 1999 scrawled note, Clinton referred to a New York Times story from that month that suggested U.S. intelligence officials had gathered no firsthand evidence of bin Laden's involvement.
“If this article is right, the CIA sure overstated its case to me — what are the facts?” Clinton asked national security adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger. Clinton's note prompted a flurry of replies from Berger, counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke and aide Daniel Benjamin, but those responses were withheld, apparently for national security concerns.
The files show the behind-the-scenes planning that took place to win Senate confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's and Stephen Breyer's Supreme Court nominations.
Clinton's team noted that “Senate leaders, particularly Chairman (Joe) Biden, have previously made strong statements about their desire to be consulted on Supreme Court nominations.”
Ginsburg's papers include a list of recommended witnesses that had been sent by her husband, Washington attorney Martin Ginsburg.
Before the hearings, White House aide Ron Klain wrote that Ginsburg's preparation showed she viewed the White House as “having a stake in presenting her as a moderate and in getting along well with the Senate; she sees her interests as ‘being herself,' preserving her ‘dignity' and promoting her ‘independence.' ”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 1 Marine killed, 9 hurt in helicopter hard landing
- U.S. Catholics at odds with church, survey finds
- Man slain by police said to have had knife
- Clerk aims to block Ky. governor’s order
- Financial exec gets 8 years for fraud
- VA enrollment data labeled unreliable
- House panel sets hearing on Planned Parenthood
- Sasquatch sighting! Maine police say Bigfoot artist nabbed
- Clinton: Women ‘expect’ extremism from terrorists, not GOP candidates
- Thousands in New Orleans became targets of unscrupulous contractors
- West Point law professor resigns amid remarks that critics of war on terror are ‘treasonous’