Paul Greenberg

It happens. Or rather it didn't happen. How many of us can remember an event, often full of emotional overtones, that didn't happen? It's a common enough experience to have a name: false memory.

Just how that false memory forms and is reinforced over the years can be left to the psychologists to explain in detail. Maybe first we exaggerate what happened, then elaborate the imagined memory with each retelling, especially to ourselves. And before we know it, we've fully incorporated the event into our dramatic life story. Our ever-absorbent psyches could put any ordinary screenplay to shame.

Maybe that's what happened with Hillary Clinton and her exciting tale about landing under sniper fire at Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia back in '96, and how she and her brave platoon "ran with our heads down" to take cover. Exciting stuff. She told the story, not for the first time, in a speech at George Washington University to back up her credentials as the kind of leader you'd want answering that red telephone at 3 a.m. (Every time the Clinton campaign ran that commercial, John McCain must have jumped another 10 points in the polls.)

It turns out that others on that now famous trip to Tuzla didn't remember it that way. Not at all. And the news footage shows Mrs. Clinton walking in stately fashion down the rear ramp of an Air Force C-17 with 16-year-old Chelsea at her side, their heads held high, to meet the reception committee on the tarmac. First Lady and First Daughter would be accompanied by comedian Sinbad and singer Sheryl Crowe. It all had the look of the usual ceremonial visit, including a photo of Mrs. Clinton kissing the cutest little girl, and the usual unidentified suits in the background. Not exactly heavy combat.

Or as Barack Obama would say in his understated way, it was just Hillary Clinton exaggerating her foreign policy experience. To lift a phrase from the immortal Gilbert of Gilbert-and-Sullivan comic-opera fame, Sen. Clinton was adding "merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."

Hillary Clinton finally admitted, in a meeting with the editorial writers at the Philadelphia Daily News, that she'd "misspoke." Who says the lady has no sense of understatement?

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.