washingtonpost.com
Well, It Did Happen to Somebody

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, March 27, 2008

For those of you who doubt that story involving a Balkan airport, the one Hillary Rodham Clinton tells about darting across the tarmac to dodge sniper fire, take note: It really did happen.

Just not to Clinton.

In October 1995, six months before then-first lady Clinton led a delegation to Tuzla, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and six other senators went on a fact-finding mission through war-torn Sarajevo, just before the Dayton accords resulted in a U.S. military presence on the ground in Bosnia.

Snowe's congressional delegation had an experience remarkably similar to the one Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) described in a speech delivered on St. Patrick's Day. Clinton has since said that she "misspoke" when she recalled arriving in Tuzla under sniper fire.

Unlike Clinton's version, Snowe's story was backed up by news accounts. Clinton's story has been debunked by sources including television news accounts and the memories of the comedian Sinbad.

The seven senators flew into the host city of the 1984 Olympics on a military C-130 that, in addition to its senatorial payload, was carrying 20,000 pounds of peas to the starved city. A States News Service dispatch from Oct. 20, 1995, provided a portion of Snowe's Bosnia account:

"It's really sad. People are basically just living there and trying to survive," the Maine Republican said. "They're constantly living under threat of shelling or sniper fire." . . . As the plane landed she took note of the fortified bunkers surrounding Sarajevo's airport. . . . She glanced at the wall of firetrucks lined up along the airport tarmac, acting as shields from any Serb gunman looking to make a name for himself. She dashed across the runway to an armored vehicle waiting to whisk the senators to the city center. She glared at the hollowed-out remains of buildings along the city's main highway, better known as "Sniper Alley."

And here's Clinton's description of her landing in Tuzla in 1996, with an entourage that included Sinbad and singer Sheryl Crow:

"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."

That was Clinton's March 17 recounting of the '96 trip, coming six days after Sinbad had already publicly refuted Clinton's prior versions of the trip. In other accounts, Clinton had said there was a "threat of sniper fire," so they ran across the tarmac into an awaiting military vehicle.

The Tuzla airport case culminated this week with Clinton sheepishly admitting that she "misspoke" after archived CBS News footage showed her calmly walking off the plane with her daughter, Chelsea, then a teenager, at an arrival ceremony that offered no sign of gunfire.

Snowe, who is vacationing this week, declined to comment about her own trip 12 1/2 years ago.

Rewarding Dropouts

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) made no secret of his angst last year when four Democrats in his caucus were actively campaigning for president. With Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) joining Republicans on war votes, Reid often lamented that he really had only 46 votes he could count on any given day.

So Reid went the extra mile to welcome Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) home after he dropped out of the White House race. Reid did what any leader should do: He cut Biden a check.

On Feb. 25, Reid sent a $5,000 check from his Searchlight Leadership Fund to Biden for President, helping pay off remaining debts that the Foreign Relations Committee chairman is carrying from his campaign, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the leader was happy to oblige Biden's request, something Reid did last year to help pay off leftover debts still haunting Wesley Clark's 2004 presidential campaign.

Does this generosity mean that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who also dropped out of the White House race after Iowa, can expect to feel the love from Reid, specifically $5,000 worth? And what about the eventual loser between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)?

"He's always willing to do whatever he can to help out his colleagues," Manley said.

Major-League Redemption

Politicians who have been maligned by the media find redemption all the time. So why shouldn't that be the case for journalists who have been maligned by politicians?

It seems to have happened for Adam Clymer, the former New York Times correspondent who once was considered an enemy of the right. That's the same Adam Clymer who conservatives collectively rallied against after 2000 GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush, not realizing his microphone was on, dubbed the newsman a "major-league [expletive]."

"Yeah, big-time," affirmed Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney.

Clymer's newfound comeback with conservatives comes in part from his new book "Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right." He argues that congressional approval of the first of the two 1978 canal treaties was a critical event in the growth of the conservative movement. Apparently, that's all it takes to get a bunch of conservatives who once hated your guts to swoon over you.

Notable figures on the right, including former congressman Phil Crane (R-Ill.), American Conservative Union chairman David Keene, Thomas Winter, editor in chief of Human Events magazine, and lobbyist Bernie Robinson are hosting a book party for Clymer on April 1. And they swear it isn't an April Fools' joke.

Clymer says that, despite hearing his name used interchangeably with the term Bush called him and fielding his fair share of abusive e-mail messages, he "usually got along pretty well" with the conservatives he has covered over the years. "When it came to researching the book, no conservative refused to talk to me," Clymer said.

The two most famous conservatives -- President Major League and Vice President Big-Time -- weren't invited to next week's book party, however.

Let's Talk About Sex

If you've ever wondered how many male interns work for Congress, just show up at today's event on Capitol Hill featuring actor Kate Walsh. Every last one of them will probably be there.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is hosting a forum billed "Private Practice Star Kate Walsh Talks About Sex on Capitol Hill: Actor Leads Congressional Briefing on Real Sex Education."

That ought to do it, but just to be sure they draw a standing-room-only crowd, the sponsors are also providing the other fail-safe method of drawing a crowd: free lunch. (As long as there are aides who still dare to accept free lunch in the post-ethics reform world.) Walsh, a star of "Grey's Anatomy" and its spinoff, "Private Practice," is lobbying for Planned Parenthood's mission to end federal funding for abstinence-only programs. She's also scheduled to attend Planned Parenthood's D.C. awards gala tonight with fellow TV and silver-screen celebs Blythe Danner and Suzanne Whang, all three of whom serve on the group's "board of advocates."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company