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Video contradicts Clinton's tale of harrowing Bosnia arrival

March 24, 2008 |  9:08 pm

Some years back Frank Taylor was one of those rural county sheriffs in Texas who don't speak much but when they do, you listen and they made real sense. He once said, "Nothing focuses your attention quite so quickly as someone shooting at you." So it was a pretty compelling story last week that Sen. Hillary Clinton opened her foreign affairs speech with at George Washington University.

"I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia," she began in the second sentence of her prepared text for the prestigious audience, "and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the first lady. That’s where we went.

"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."

The New York senator has told that story before as part of an....

ongoing attempt to build up her foreign affairs experience and credentials from those first-lady days of the 1990s to qualify her for future days as president.

After she told it earlier in this campaign, Sinbad, the alleged comedian who is a Barack Obama supporter and was along with Mrs. Clinton on that trip to Tuzla Air Base to visit U.S. troops in 1996, said he remembered the incident quite differently. He recalled the biggest danger being where he'd eat next.

Still, Clinton has continued to describe the incident.

Today, the Obama campaign suggested that Clinton's continued recounting of that seemingly harrowing tale was another example of that campaign inflating her record. This would probably not be the first time in history that a senator had, shall we say, somewhat overstated his/her role in some event. Obama's references to his numerous bipartisan Senate efforts don't seem to be backed up by the record either.

Both need to be careful in any resume exaggerating, as Al Gore's accomplishment-stretchers became a running joke during the 2000 campaign.

But this time, however, the Obama campaign pointed to a news video of Mrs. Clinton's arrival in Bosnia which shows her and Chelsea casually walking across the tarmac in bulky winter coats, greeting officials and taking time to hug a little girl, who doesn't appear afraid either.

Another video from CBS News does not cover the allegedly hairy airport arrival, but does show the first lady visiting troops close to the front lines with Sinbad and singer Sheryl Crow.

For some reason today, the chief Clinton spokesman, Howard Wolfson, referred to Mrs. Clinton's best-selling book "Living History." It mentions nothing about gunfire or running either. "Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip," Clinton wrote, "we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find."

"That is what she wrote in her book," Wolfson told the Associated Press. "That is what she has said many, many times and on one occasion she misspoke."

Actually, it's been several times she's used the story and, in fact, when questioned after her speech last week, Clinton reaffirmed the harrowing details. "There was no greeting ceremony," she said. "And we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened."

The unanswered question now is how does one misspeak when one precisely follows the text of one's prepared speech on one's own website?

-- Andrew Malcolm