Thwack! Another nail drives into the coffin of Bill Clinton’s legacy.
No other president in recent memory has pursued a “legacy” with such reckless abandon only to have it repeatedly exposed as a smoke and mirrors extravaganza based on arrogance, ignorance and selfishness.
Dereliction of Duty is the personal account of Lt. Col. “Buzz” Patterson while he served the nation during the Clinton administration as one of the carriers of the “nuclear football.”
In retrospect, it is easy to see how Clinton’s loathing of the American military led to his failure in his primary responsibility: the protection of the American people. Webster’s Family dictionary defines “betray” as “. . . to be unfaithful in guarding or fulfilling: to betray a trust.” Dereliction of Duty leaves little doubt about the cost of Clinton’s betrayal.
As President, Bill Clinton’s actions with regard to military preparedness speak for themselves. In less than three years, deployments increased while manpower decreased from 2.1 million to 1.6 million. That was, of course, Al Gore’s dirty little secret about the “reinvention” of government. As Patterson recounts, out of the 305,000 employees removed from the federal payroll, 286,000 (or 90%) of those were military cuts.
The statistics for America’s defense during the Clinton years reveal the deep-seated animosity of the administration toward those who wore her country’s uniform. The Army was cut from 18 divisions to 12. The Navy was reduced from 546 ships to 380. Air Force flight squadrons were cut from 76 to 50. The flower power children of the sixties apparently were quite comfortable divvying up pieces of the peace pie.
While the U.S. military was used as a ‘meals on wheels’ service by the Clinton administration in its nation building adventures, the military had its own humanitarian crises at home on its own bases. Patterson points out that the pay freeze instituted by Clinton was imposed on a military in which 80% of our troops made $30,000 or less.
Food stamp applications soared and re-enlistment rates dropped.
Despite the dearth of good news contained in his book, Col. Patterson is not motivated by a personal vendetta against his former boss but a conviction that such a man should never reside in the White House again as commander-in-chief.
“I arrived in this position filled with professional devotion and commitment to serve. I left disillusioned and disheartened.” Patterson felt that Clinton regarded the “country as a mass to be manipulated rather than defended.” As a combat veteran of tours in Grenada, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti and Bosnia, service at the White House proved difficult for the dedicated airman used to order, discipline and respect.
Doubts about a president who cut and spread the military were common in all ranks. “Damn near all” of Patterson’s military associates viewed the administration’s military policies as “open-ended” and “rudderless.” It’s never good for a soldier on a mission to go in asking himself the question, “Why the hell am I here?” but that’s exactly what was happening in Haiti. Criticism of the chief was new and widespread.
Character flaws often show up in the minutia of life. Take, for example, the golf cheat sheet which Patterson wrote down while following Clinton on the golf course. Patterson and the White House doctor kept the real score, which was 92, but Clinton awarded himself a 79 that day.
As the carrier of the nuclear football, Patterson was astounded that Clinton repeatedly said on the campaign trail no American children would have to go to sleep with nuclear missiles pointed at them. Such a statement was patently untrue. Conversations overheard in the car most often did not revolve around foreign policy issues but subpoenas, lawyers and executive privilege. They had priorities and national security was not one of them.
The nuclear football goes everywhere with the President. Several days after testifying in the Paula Jones deposition, Patterson went to exchange the codes for the football with the president only to find that he didn’t have them. “I don’t have mine on me. I’ll track it down, guys, and get back to you.” They turned the White House upside down and still didn’t find them.
Patterson notes that in the wake of the president’s troubles with women, the White House staff referred to attractive women as “security risks.” That day he realized, “The biggest security risk was the president himself.” One would think the top priority was to find the codes but then one has to remember that this was the Clinton White House. The chief worry for John Podesta and Bruce Lindsey was that this story might find its way to the press.
Patterson continued to serve in an administration which was “renowned for its lack of professionalism and courtesy.” Hillary Clinton was no exception and was known for her temper, her own personal “football” (a box of files) and for attempting to keep Bill in line. Patterson also paints a less than flattering portrait of the Rodham brothers who also used the White House staff as their personal servants.
Abusing the privilege of rank, Patterson recalls that Hillary threw a fit when Chelsea forgot her back pack after a Renaissance weekend and arrived in St. Thomas with upcoming exams but without her school books. Chelsea, a senior in high school, was not responsible for her own books. The blame was assigned to the White House valets. Clueless at best, as to what shuttling the first family around involves, Hillary once demanded that Marine One return to the White House so she could retrieve her forgotten sunglasses. She used government aircraft for her junkets to New York while campaigning for senator aboard AF C-9A’s or C-20’s, which operate at $3,366 and $3,587 per hour respectively.
One of Clinton’s distinct talents was the empathetic “I feel your pain” charade. Take for instance the flight above tornado-ravaged Florida as Clinton, Lockhart and Lindsey played cards aboard Marine One. Patterson recalls, “When it was time to align Marine One with the press helicopter for a picture, the president quickly peered out the window, feigning an interested and grief-stricken expression. The sole reason for the trip, in his mind apparently, was for that photograph.”
Along with the lack of respect for the military went a failure to understand its purpose. One of Hillary’s staffers remarked on a drive through South Africa that she was appalled by the poverty. Didn’t they have a military to do something about this? The Clintons saw the military primarily as a humanitarian organization, not as a professional force to defend the country. CNN diplomacy meant that if human suffering was on CNN, American troops would be there.
Osama bin Laden and his terrorist related activities were well known to the United States by 1995. Clinton had an opportunity to catch him in the fall of 1998, but was unavailable. When he was finally reached, further consultation was needed with various secretaries. The two-hour window in which bin Laden could have been caught was lost.
In one of his most damning quotes Patterson opines, “This lost bin Laden hit typified the Clinton administration’s ambivalent, indecisive way of dealing with terrorism. Ideologically, the Clinton administration was committed to the idea that most terrorists were misunderstood, had legitimate grievances and could be appeased, which is why such military action as the administration authorized was so halfhearted, and ineffective, and designed more for ‘show’ than for honestly eliminating a threat.”
Hits on Americans by Islamic fundamentalists associated bin Laden continued through the decade as the price for an administration, which was indeed derelict in its duties and traitorous in its effect. The nation was at risk while the commander-in-chief golfed, cavorted, dialogued or was otherwise unavailable for the ultimate task of defense against a foreign enemy. Pray, that we may we never again be subjected to such a man (or woman) as president.