Clinton's Fox News Snit Ensnares Grams in Old Criticism

Poor Rod Grams. He got bounced from the U.S. Senate by daft Mark Dayton, had that Bush brown-noser Mark Kennedy cut in line ahead of him to challenge Amy Klobuchar when Dayton predictibly crashed and burned, and was left with the boobie prize of waging a longshot, not to say hopelessly Byzantine, campaign to try and unseat U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar up in the 8th District, where Iron Rangers have been voting the 78-term incumbent back to Washington ever since he invented the taconite pellet and rode beside Ulysses Grant in the Second Battle of Bull Run.(Actually, Oberstar has served only 16 terms, a period in which he has always received at least 59 per cent of the vote. And, to further set the record straight, he has graciously never claimed credit for inventing taconite.)

So Grams has gone from being a talking head on Channel 9 to one of the silver spoons in the U.S. Senate to persona non recogniza, more invisible than Chevy Chase in that horrible movie with Darryl Hannah, everywhere but a few fur-trapping precincts up in 8th. Until this weekend, when, wonder of wonders, he finally scores a little national pub. And what does it turn out to be for? Casting aspersions on former President Clinton's attempt to kill Osama bin Laden eight years ago. This is one of those cases where the "as long as they spell my name right" rule does not apply.

This time it really is all Clinton's fault. If the former Prez hadn't pitched a snit at Chris Wallace on Fox News the other day, Grams could have ridden that obscurity bandwagon all the way to election day and then seamlessly faded back into the vinyl siding. But Clinton had to point out the hypocrisy of Republicans for questioning his motives back when he bombed one of bin Laden's compounds in Sudan in 1998, claiming Slick Willy was making a Wag the Dog gesture to deflect press attention from Monica and the looming debate over impeachment. Now, of course, they and Wallace at Fox want to know why he didn't dog bin Laden more assiduously.

As bad luck would have it, if you go back and look at Republican criticism of Clinton during that bombing incident, Rod Grams was obviously dragooned into a specially commissioned single-syllable name brigade that also included Dan Coates and Trent Lott. Worse, if this weekend's citations of Grams's comments had put his words in their complete context, they would show that he never directly took Clinton to task for going after bin Laden. On the contrary, on the August 20, 1998 edition of the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, where Grams was part of a four-Senator roundtable discussion on the bombing, Grams flatly stated that, "I very strongly support this, and I think these raids were carried out, I hope, very successfully."

But it was what Grams said later in the program that would permanently link him to the criticism of Clinton. His most memorable soundbyte cited the then-recent movie "Wag the Dog"--a wicked satire about a President staging a war to distract the country from more unpleasant matters--more directly than any other prominent politician.

"I think it was an appropriate response," Grams reiterated. "But I think in the back of many people's minds you're going to have these questions that come to the surface, and I know I've talked to many reporters today, and in just about every interview the reporters asked that very question. And I think it just goes back to the controversy that still surrounds the White House today."

"Did it leap to you--to the back of your mind, Senator?" Jim Lehrer asked Grams.

"Yes, it did," Grams confessed. "I had this question, and although, you know, I just kind of thought about it, because of the movie 'Wag the Dog'..."


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