Clinton missed key policy decisions

On the day that dozens of US cruise missiles rained down on Serbia in an attempt to punish Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for the country’s onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, first lady Hillary Clinton was far from the White House war room: she was touring ancient Egyptian ruins.

In her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton has touted her experience in the White House as preparation to lead in a time of crisis. “Ready on Day One,” has been her slogan.

But an initial reading of some of the more than 11,000 pages of Clinton’s schedules from her days as first lady, released yesterday by the National Archives and the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library, shows that often she was far from the site of decision making during some of the most pivotal events of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Clinton, who was an attorney and first lady of Arkansas before moving to the White House, frequently claims more than 30 years’ experience in public life, contrasting herself with Barack Obama’s slimmer resume – he served several years in the Illinois legislature and was elected to the US senate in 2004.

“The schedules do help illustrate Hillary Clinton’s extensive and exhaustive work as a public servant and her role as an influential advocate at home and around the world on behalf of our country,” Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson said in a statement.

But documents from her first lady office threaten to undermine her claim to have played a major role in Clinton’s foreign policy decisions.

For instance, Clinton has said she helped negotiate the April 1998 Good Friday agreement between warring factions in Northern Ireland. But while Catholic and Protestant figures hashed out details of a power-sharing agreement in Belfast Clinton was at the National Press Club in Washington at a “Hats on Bella” party honouring Bella Abzug, a congresswoman from New York who had recently died. While President Clinton phoned major participants in the peace talks she met with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and joined a farewell party for Democratic worker Karen Finney. The day the agreement was inked she met with Philippine first lady Amelita Ramos.

When Nato launched air strikes against Serbia in an attempt to punish Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for the country’s onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo Clinton toured Egyptian ruins, including King Tut’s tomb and the temple of Hatshepsut. She dined at the Temple of Luxor, and stayed overnight at the Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel there.

Presidents of three Balkan states signed a peace agreement in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995, ending years of ethnic violence in the former Yugoslavia. Clinton’s file lists no public schedule for that day, but indicates she was in Washington.

The documents released yesterday came in response to a conservative organisation’s freedom of information request and subsequent lawsuit. The records include schedules from nearly 3,000 days Clinton was in the White House, and detail meetings, trips, speaking engagements and social activities.

Bruce Lindsey, a Little Rock attorney and long time Clinton confidant, vetted the pages prior to their release. National archives staff checked the documents for information sensitive to national security and law enforcement matters.

Nearly a third of the pages have redactions, most of which the archives said were made to protect the privacy of Clinton’s associates. The redacted material includes home addresses, telephone numbers and social security numbers, the archives said.

Christopher Farrell, director of investigations and research with Judicial Watch, the organisation behind the two-year-long legal effort to win the documents’ release, said he doesn’t anticipate finding any “smoking gun” within the reams of pages. He said Lindsey “has enormous discretion” to redact information potentially damaging to Clinton’s White House bid. “My expectations are quite low.”

Hillary Clinton was present in the White House, however, for at least one significant event of the Clinton presidency. On November 15 1995, when President Clinton is said to have begun his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, she was in the White House, according to her schedule.

First lady’s schedule

November 17 1993
The House of Representatives votes to approve the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving President Clinton one of the biggest triumphs of his early presidency. Senate approval was virtually assured.

Hillary Clinton meets congressional and cabinet spouses. She returns to the White House later for meetings and “Office/Phone Time”.

April 7 1994
Hutu extremists in Rwanda begin the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Eight thousand are killed on the first day of the genocide. Americans have been shocked by US military deaths in Somalia and the US evacuates American citizens but President Clinton resists calls to intervene in Rwanda.

Names of participants in Clinton’s schedule have been redacted by national archives staff. Later in the day she meets with the wife of a Georgia congressman, has private meetings with staff, and gives media interviews on healthcare issues.

April 9 and 10 1998
Catholic and Protestant parties work through the night thrashing out the Good Friday power-sharing agreement in Belfast.

Hillary Clinton attends a memorial event at the National Press Club in Washington for a New York City congresswoman. She also meets with Philippine first lady Amelita Ramos.

March 24 1999
US cruise missiles rain down on Serbia in an attempt to punish Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for the country’s onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo.

Hillary Clinton tours ancient Egyptian ruins.

Daniel Nasaw