Clinton vs. Obama: Credibility, Exaggerations, and Lies

With all the media hubbub surrounding Senator Clinton's 1996 Bosnia trip, you'd think the woman had never been to Bosnia, or that she just took a trip to the beach and worked on her tan with her daughter.

There have been accusations that she has lied about her trip. Some pundits are claiming it calls her credibility into question.

Let's just get one thing straight, right here, and now - there is a huge difference between lying and misspeaking.  I'll even go further, because there are some who hear everything Senator Clinton says under the veil of suspicion and believe her capable of calculating every single word she ever utters and incapable of "misspeaking," and I will call her misspeak an exaggeration.  I chose to call it an exaggeration, because similar to a lie, they both require a purposeful action - they are not accidents. But that is where the similarity ends.

An exaggeration, has a foundation of truth. To exaggerate means to represent as greater than is actually the case, or to overstate. A lie on the other hand, has absolutely no ounce of truth. A lie is a false statement deliberately presented as being true. To lie means to present false information with the intent of deceiving.
One can say she exaggerated the dangerousness of the trip, but one cannot say she lied and said the trip was dangerous. There were snipers. It was a potential war zone. It was dangerous. It was not a lie, it was an exaggeration.

For Senator Clinton's exaggeration to be a lie, there would have had to be no danger in the situation. No snipers anywhere, much less firing. However, we know the situation was dangerous, and that there were indeed snipers. How do we know this?
Because numerous contemporary reports confirm the situation was dangerous.

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported on March 24, 1996:

The First Lady is scheduled to travel Monday to the northeastern Bosnian town of Tuzla, the headquarters of the U.S. contingent in the Balkan conflict zone. She will visit troops and Bosnian government officials.
The trip is the first independent visit to U.S. troops overseas by a first lady since one was made by Eleanor Roosevelt.

USA TODAY reported on March 25, 1996:

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her latest venture onto the international stage Sunday with a visit to offer support for families of U.S. troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today, she travels to Bosnia, where she will meet U.S. soldiers and religious and community leaders in Tuzla and two nearby outposts. Her trip, her sixth overseas tour without the president, includes
stops in Turkey and Greece -- for ceremonies lighting the Olympic torch -- before returning home March 31.

USA TODAY reported on March 26, 1996:

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
paid tribute Monday to U.S. troops serving in Bosnia, touring
remote outposts not even her husband has seen
.
...
Not even President Clinton, whose January visit to Bosnia was
curtailed because of bad weather and security concerns, got the
first-hand glimpse of the war's aftermath and the U.S. military
presence here
.

The White House said no first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt has
made a trip into such a hostile military environment.
...
The first lady visited a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital called
Bedrock, where she observed how doctors use teleconferences with
Army hospitals in the USA for diagnosis.

Soldiers said she was the first dignitary to visit them since
the deployment began about three months ago
.
...
In helicopter hops between the main U.S. base in Tuzla and the
outposts, the effects of the war were vividly, unforgettably clear
to the Clinton party.

House after house was either roofless or in rubble. Fields had
been ravaged; whole areas were stripped to the soil.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia) reported March 27, 1996

Protected by sharpshooters, Hillary Clinton swooped into a military zone to deliver personal thanks to US troops.

"They're making a difference," the US First Lady said yesterday of the 18,500 Americans working as peacekeepers in Bosnia.
Mrs Clinton became the first presidential spouse since Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of wartime president Franklin D. Roosevelt, to make such an extensive trip into what can be considered a hostile area.


All articles from 1996 can be found via LexisNexis.

It is obvious that the area was dangerous. Senator Clinton was protected by sharpshooters (ie. snipers). Moreover, we know that it was the first independent trip by a First Lady into a military zone since Eleanor Roosevelt. Video also reveals that she planned the trip herself, and had to avoid looking like she was doing the president's job (this was often the case with Senator Clinton's First Ladyship...many thought she had too much involvement and was doing too much).

Now let's get  to the nitty gritty - so what if there was no sniper fire and no one had to run to their cars? Does that mean she didn't go to a dangerous, military zone? Of course, not. Does it mean her over 80 trips overseas representing our nation, many of them independent of the president, never happened or should not count for anything? Of course, not.

Senator Obama is guilty of some exaggerations of his own. He's noted as saying to crowds:

I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.

However, Sen. Obama was not a professor, he was a senior lecturer. This can be called a gross exaggeration - being that professors usually have Ph.Ds, tenure, and a large body of research and work in their field. I wouldn't call it a lie, however, because he did in fact teach, so there is a foundation of truth.

If only Senator Obama stuck to exaggerations.

Sadly, Senator Obama has told several blatant lies during this campaign.

Senator Obama on NAFTAgate in this live interview:

"Our office has said the story is not true. It's important for viewers to understand that it was not true."

Anchor: "So, completely inaccurate, did not happen, end of discussion." Sen. Obama: "It did not happen."

The AP would later release the memo from the meeting that indeed did occur.

Lie: The meeting "did not happen."

Truth: The meeting did happen - there's documentation and witnesses.

Senator Obama in two different television interviews on his knowledge of Rezko's corruption:

Obama on Rezko to CBS News: "He was somebody who I knew and had been a supporter for many years. He was somebody who had supported a wide range of candidates all throughout Illinois. Nobody had an inkling that he was involved in any problems. "

Obama on Rezko to ABC: "You know, the facts are this. This is somebody who was active in politics in Illinois, who I knew. Nobody had any indications that he was engaging in wrongdoing. At the point where he was engaging in alleged wrongdoing, it had nothing to do with me, and nobody has made that allegation."

Obama in the Chicago Tribune:

The senator said that at the time, in early 2005, he was aware of the growing controversies surrounding Rezko's dealings with state and city government. In March 2005, for example, city officials alleged that a minority contractor at O'Hare International Airport acted as a front for a Rezko firm. "I started reading the reports that were surfacing," Obama said. Rezko "gave me assurances that this wasn't a problem."

Lie: No one had any inkling Rezko was in legal trouble.

Truth: I knew about his legal problems, read about them in papers, and asked him about his legal trouble.

Sen. Obama in MSNBC interview on whether he knew about Rev. Wright's statements and whether he was in church:

Olbermann: Did you know that he made these statements before the videotape appeared?

Obama:  You know, frankly, I didn't.  I wasn't in church during the time when the statements were made.

Transcript of Obama's "Race Speech":

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes.
 

Lie: I did not know of statements, and was not in church when controversial statements were made.

Truth: I knew about controversial statements and views, and heard them in church.

In short, there is a big difference between lies and exaggerations. There is also a big difference between issues and non-issues. Senator Clinton's exaggeration of one aspect of a 1996 trip to Bosnia (one of over 80) is a non-issue, it is a distraction.

However, Senator Obama's staff saying one thing to voters and another thing to foreign governments is an issue. Senator Obama's legal work, political favors, and land deals with a man he knew to be under investigation for corruption at the time, is an issue. Senator Obama's refusal to leave a church where the pastor promoted anti-American sentiment and often used hate speech, reflects on his judgment, which, according to Sen. Obama, is an issue. Moreover, lying about issues, is an issue. We should stick to the issues.

Tags: 1996, Barack Obama, Bosnia, experience, first lady, Hillary Clinton, lie, misspeak, Misspoke, presidential election, Primary, trip (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Dangerous?

Yeah, the area was dangerous, but not dangerous enough to deter 8 year old girls, Hillary's daughter, or an entire class of seventh graders.  

It's a stretch.

It is quite common for the term 'professor' to be used colloquially for anyone who is the instructor of record for a college or university course. When capitalized, it represents a specific rank within the professoriate. "Lecturer" or "Senior Lecturer" are also ranks in the professoriate. And many 'professors' as well as many Professors, are untenured.

by furiousxgeorge 2008-03-26 11:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton vs. Obama: Credibility, Exaggerations,

Your diary says that Hillary's exaggeration doesn't meet the criteria for a lie, but by your own definition, it sure looks like a lie:

  • You define an exaggeration as an overstament meant to represent something as greater than is actually the case.

  • You define a lie as presenting false information "with the intent of deceiving."

  • You say that both exaggerations and lies are purposeful and not accidental.

If Hillary exaggerated, meaning that she purposefully overstated elements of her story (e.g., the element of danger), and she also included elements that were false (e.g., we had to run to our vehicles, the celebration was cancelled), then by your definition she lied.

And if she purposefully exaggerated, but said it was accidental and she just misspoke, then she lied about that too.

But even if you choose to ignore the false elements of her story, an exaggeration still qualifies as a purposeful attempt to deceive the listener. If I exaggerate my income, it's because I want to deceive you about how much I make. If I exaggerate the number of pushups I can do, it's because I want to deceive you about how in shape I am. These exaggerations present false information, so they fit your criteria for a lie.

For the record, I'm not all that concerned about whether she exaggerated or lied. I just don't like her ever-changing rationale. And I don't like the way you characterize Obama's consistent, accurate statements about NAFTA-gate and Wright as lies, but are doing mental gymnastics to explain away Clinton's inconsistent, inaccurate statements.

by jdusek 2008-03-27 12:14AM | 0 recs
Wow. Same debunked talking points. Different day.

Here's one for you. As Roger Cohen points out in the New York Times today, the Bosnian war was over in 1996.

Maybe someone should put the debunking of these Clinton campaign talking points into a clip file for easy pasting. It would seem particularly bad form to post them again when Alegre's version of them is still high on the rec list.

My favorite is the Professor vs. professor line. Quite the joke. Meant for people who haven't spent much time in academia I suspect. Anyone who has knows that anyone in Obama's position would be referred to as "professor". Possibly in written correspondence you'd refer to Obama as "professor" (lower case) and a full professor as "Professor" (upper case). How dumb does Hillary think you folks are to fall for this stuff? (Don't answer that.)

by Travis Stark 2008-03-27 04:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton vs. Obama: Credibility, Exaggerations,

Don't forget that Pat Nixon visited Vietnam in 1969.

But you Clinton people need to stop trying to defend an untenable position. If you'd have just said "Hey, she screwed up, it's inexcusable," it makes it a non-issue and then it makes it harder for people to use it against her. You folks, however, are doing a bang-up job of keeping it in the news and the forefront of people's mind.

by ragekage 2008-03-27 04:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton vs. Obama: Credibility, Exaggerations,

truthfulness is NOT one of her stellar qualities.  Bill's either!

The whole Bosnia thing is a COMPLETE fabrication                              -- other than the trip did happen.

by Rocky37 2008-03-27 11:01AM | 0 recs

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