A closer look at Clinton's Bosnia schedule

Newly released documents provide further insight.

By Mark Benjamin
Published March 19, 2008 7:39PM (EDT)

As proof of her national security credentials, Hillary Clinton and her surrogates have repeatedly emphasized a dangerous March 1996 voyage she made to Bosnia.

All nine hours of it.

This Bosnia name-dropping occurred most recently on Monday, in a speech about national security issues at George Washington University. Togo West, former secretary of the Army, mentioned the trip when he introduced the New York senator, claiming that the Secret Service "would not allow" then President Bill Clinton to go to Bosnia because of the danger. Hillary Clinton went instead. West called it a "serious trip under serious circumstances."

"I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia," Clinton said when she began her speech. "And as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor or too dangerous, the president couldn't go. So send the first lady," she recalled. "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

Imagine the importance of such an adventure, since Clinton and her aides still bring it up with such emphasis 12 years later. And imagine how intense it must have been to make such a lasting impression on Clinton -- particularly since the entire trip was scheduled to last for exactly nine hours.

On Wednesday, the National Archives released 11,046 pages of Clinton's schedule as first lady. These include her schedule for March 25, 1996, during her one-day trip to Bosnia.

Clinton was set to land at Tuzla Air Base at 8:45 a.m. And if a sniper was about, it's a good thing the welcome ceremony was canceled, since it included U.S. ambassador John Menzies, a seventh-grade class and an 8-year-old Bosnian girl who was supposed to read Clinton a poem.

She did then go to a meeting with Acting President Ejup Ganic, which lasted 10 minutes. This was followed by a "roundtable discussion" moderated by Menzies from 9:35 to 10:45. Clinton was then supposed to meet with some nongovernmental organizations for 30 minutes.

She then received a very important-sounding "Task Force Eagle" briefing. It lasted 15 minutes. Next, Clinton got an hourlong tour of a military camp, lunch with the troops and a second hourlong tour of another military camp. (Travel between locations took some time, too.)

By 3:45 it was time for a show for the troops back at Tuzla, with entertainment provided by singer Sheryl Crow and comedian Sinbad. Her flight was set to leave at 5:45 p.m.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Clinton spokesman Jay Carson recommended that reporters "not view these schedules as a comprehensive compendium of every minute of Senator Clinton's time as first lady." He called the records "an idea of a number of activities in which she participated, but you're not going to see every single event in which she was involved, the impromptu phone call or running into somebody in the hallway."

Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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