Paul Greenberg

My moment of truth came in September 1991, when Bill Clinton, still governor of Arkansas, was preparing to run for president. He'd invited us country editors to lunch at the Governor's Mansion - I was with a little paper down he road at the time, the Pine Bluff Commercial - in order to talk about his plans.

Back then, the country was still in an exultant mood over its victory in the brief Persian Gulf War earlier that year. And I heard Bill Clinton note, almost in passing, that he'd supported George H. W. Bush when that president asked Congress to authorize him to use force in that crisis.

I was stunned. That's not the way I remembered it. Or the way I'd been writing about it all those months. I thought Bill Clinton had said he agreed with those who'd opposed authorizing the president to use force.

Had I been wrong all this time? I headed back to Pine Bluff in a sweat, dreading the mammoth correction I was going to have to run.

But when I checked the files, sure enough, there was the AP story. Its headline: "Clinton Waffles on War Decision." It had appeared three days after the fateful vote in Congress, and here was what he'd actually said:

"I agree with the arguments of the people in the minority on the resolution - that we should give sanctions more time and maybe even explore a full-scale embargo Š before we go to war."

But now that the war had been fought and won, Slick Willie was all for it. He was not about to desert his country in its hour of victory. If a single personal experience made me resolve never again to trust anything Bill Clinton said, that was it.

Was his ex-post-facto support for that war just an innocent lapse of memory, or of character? Me, I've always had the greatest respect for Bill Clinton's memory.

Now he's back playing games with the past again. But never fear, should the long light of history reveal that in the end this long, long struggle in Iraq has bolstered freedom and stability in that always-volatile part of the world, rest assured, Bill Clinton will have been for it all along.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.