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Hillary Clinton's Bout of Giuliani Syndrome

March 22, 2008

While all eyes this week focused on Barack Obama the repercussions of the Jeremiah Wright imbrolglio, conflicting stories about the two sides of Hillary Clinton seemed to get lost in the noise. On Saturday, the AP offered a positive assessment of Clinton's record of hard work in the Senate. But new revelations regarding her histories on NAFTA and Bosnia suggest Hillary may be telling some tall tales. And by seemingly exaggerating her role during her days as First Lady, Hillary Clinton may be exhibiting symptoms of Giuliani Syndrome.
Back in August, then GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani ran into trouble with a revisionist history that put him at the center of the American fight against terrorism spanning a generation. Just days after the Village Voice thoroughly refuted Giuliani's claims about his supposedly central role prosecuting the 1985 murder case of Leon Klinghoffer by PLO terrorists aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro, the former New York mayor favorably compared himself to World Trade Center rescue workers on and after 9/11:

"I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers...I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

Now, it would appear, Hillary Clinton may be suffering from a less serious case of the ailment that befell self-proclaimed terror fighter extraordinaire, Rudy Giuliani.
On Friday, the Washington Post offered a devastating assessment of Hillary Clinton's claim of courage under fire during her 1996 visit to Bosnia. On March 17, Senator Clinton told an audience at George Washington University:

"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."

As it turns out, not so much. Despite her past claims that she was sent to places "too dangerous" for her husband, President Clinton, Hillary's excellent Balkan adventure was not as perilous as she advertised.
Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who traveled to Bosnia during that same time period, said "I can attest that the physical risks were minimal during this period, particularly at a heavily fortified U.S. Air Force base, such as Tuzla." Others on Clinton's trip had no memories of sniper fire. General William Nash, then commander of U.S. troops in Bosnia, concurred. (As Dobbs later reported in an update, Nash noted that "while he was unaware of any 'sniper threat'...there was a 'non-specific report' of a possible truck bomb in the area.")
The release of papers from Hillary Clinton's days in the White House is also prompting a reexamination of her retelling of another key episode, the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In the run-up to her critical primary win in Ohio, Clinton announced she had been against NAFTA, a position essential to her win there.
The reality, it seems, is more complex than that. According to the Huffington Post, former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor noted "Hillary Clinton long held reservations over the labor and environmental fallouts of the free trade agreement." But then-Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich concluded:

"The answer is HRC didn't want the Administration to move forward with NAFTA, but not because she was opposed to NAFTA as a policy. She opposed NAFTA because of its timing. She wanted her health-care plan to be voted on first."

Bill Clinton's one-time aide David Gergen provided Hillary with some support, noting:

"I'm not sure she objected to all the provisions of it but she just didn't see why her husband and that White House had to go and do that fight. She was very unhappy about it and wanted to move on to health care. So I do think there's some justification for her camp saying, you know, she's never been a great backer for NAFTA."

But the Clinton White House papers don't seem to square with Senator Clinton's assertion that she had "long been a critic of the shortcomings of NAFTA." As First Lady, she attended five meetings related to NAFTA. But while Clinton spokesman Jay Carson stated, "In four of the five meetings Senator Clinton was pushing back," some of the attendees paint a different picture. ABC's Jake Tapper interviewed three former administration officials and concluded the Hillary "opposed the idea of introducing NAFTA before health care, but expressed no reservations in public or private about the substance of NAFTA."
Laura Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, attended a November 10, 1993 session on NAFTA. She rejected the notion that Hillary Clinton voiced opposition to the trade bill:

"That's ludicrous. There was no question that everyone who spoke including the First Lady was for NAFTA, it was a rally on behalf of NAFTA to help it get passed. It's unquestionable. And there are many people out there who were there who remember the incident who work in this industry."

In her defense, while Hillary Clinton may be prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, hers is not Rudy Giuliani's gift for fiction. If Clinton were indeed suffering from a full-blown outbreak of Giuliani Syndrome, her claims would far more outrageous and demonstrably false. Hillary did not, after all, claim she helped wounded Army Rangers in Mogadishu in 1993. She did not assert that she donned a burka and lived among the Taliban in order to provide coordinates for missile strikes against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1998.
Still, Hillary Clinton has made herself vulnerable to new charges from the Obama campaign and the media alike that she is "not trustworthy." And that's too bad, given the positive consensus over her work for New Yorkers in the Senate. Even former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, an Obama supporter, praised her tenure in Congress:

"She surprised people. There was a lot of skepticism among many of her colleagues about the degree to which she would be a team player...She was sensitive to that concern and tried to address it."

Unfortunately, the simmering controversies over her apparent revisionist histories on NAFTA and Bosnia will continue to produce comparisons between Hillary Clinton and another New Yorker, Rudy Giuliani.

3 comments on “Hillary Clinton's Bout of Giuliani Syndrome”

  1. To Linda:
    This is not 'Hillary bashing'.
    She lied. Those are the facts. The comparison between Clinton and Giuliani is spot-on. She's been padding her resume with silicone since she began her campaign, and now she's being called on it. Don't whine; be an adult and deal with it.
    But at least Rudy knew when to end his campaign, I'll give him that. Too bad Clinton doesn't share this trait with Giuliani, as well.
    Excellent article.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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