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Remember Bill Clinton’s ‘Sheehan Moment’?

Surely you remember the media furor that occurred after the parents of a Medal Of Honor soldier blamed Bill Clinton for his death? I don't either.

In reality, the reports about this were few and far between. One of the rare accounts came from a foreign newspaper, the London Sunday Times:

May 29, 1994

Dead Hero's Father Tears into Clinton

It was the moment President Bill Clinton wanted to restore his tattered reputation with the military before his departure for the D-Day celebrations in Europe this week, James Adams reports.

He had just presented posthumous Congressional Medals of Honour, America's highest military decoration, to the widows of two soldiers for valour in Somalia. After inviting the families for a moment of quiet reflection in the Oval Office, the president approached Herbert Shughart, the father of one of the two soldiers, and offered his hand.

To his astonishment the handshake was declined. '' You are not fit to be president of the United States ,'' said Shughart Senior. '' The blame for my son's death rests with the White House and with you. You are not fit to command.''

The president reeled and the unprecedented onslaught continued for some minutes. According to witnesses it was a ''highly charged emotional moment'' which resulted in Clinton trying to explain to Shughart,Sr. why the events of that day last October were not his fault.

Shughart and his colleague, both sergeants, were killed trying to rescue fellow rangers from a vicious fire-fight in which 18 died and 75 were wounded. A later Pentagon investigation revealed that the troops had been refused the right equipment and there was no political or military plan to justify the Americ an presence in Somalia. Although the president has tried to escape the blame, he is largely credited with the failure of the whole American effort to bring peace to Somalia. According to witnesses to the Oval Office scene, the Shughart family remained unconvinced by the president's arguments.

''The medal doesn't help anything, other than that we are grateful that Randy will be remembered in such an honourable way,'' said Lois Shughart, the soldier's mother.

This incident is also recounted in Lt. Col. Tom McKenney's book, The Clinton Chronicles:

Eventually, after Clinton had sat on the paper work for eight weeks, two of the slain soldiers, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. As usual in such cases, the medals were presented to the next of kin.

Following the May 23 presentation at the White House, the families of the two men were invited into the Oval Office for a private visit with Clinton. Inside the office, the father of Sergeant Shughart refused to shake Clinton's hand, then look him in the face and calmly told him that he was responsible for his son's death, that it was for no purpose, that he was not fit to be President, and not fit to be Commander in Chief.

Clinton was visibly shocked, amazed, and momentarily speechless. It is revealing that he was surprised that the man should feel that way. Clinton really doesn't think the way most people do, seeming to lack a sense of personal responsibility. After a brief, awkward silence, Clinton caught his breath. Becoming angry, he turned to the mother of the dead soldier and said, "What's he jumping on me for? I didn't kill the kid! "

The Shugharts should feel lucky, I guess. At least Clinton didn't have them arrested or sic the IRS on them, as he did with his others who refused to shake his hand, such as Patricia and Glenn Mendoza.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, August 24th, 2005. Comments are currently closed.

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