Clinton sought draft counsel from Fulbright Campaign admits contacts in 1969

September 19, 1992|By New York Times News Service

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK — FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton's campaign organization acknowledged yesterday that the Democratic presidential nominee discussed options to the draft with Sen. J. W. Fulbright's office in 1969, when Mr. Clinton was seeking a spot in the University of Arkansas Reserve Officers Training Corps to avoid being drafted.

Asked whether Mr. Clinton had gone to Mr. Fulbright for help entering the ROTC, Dee Dee Myers, the candidate's spokeswoman, acknowledged in a statement that Mr. Clinton had "talked to the Fulbright people about what his options were and asked them to help him ascertain those options, but he didn't ask anyone to influence anyone on his behalf."

"This is what senatorial offices do," she added. "That's what taxpayers pay them to do."

This statement seems to run counter to Mr. Clinton's previous statement that he received no "unusual or favorable treatment," and apparently contradicts an earlier claim by the campaign that "he never asked anyone for help" as he sought to avoid serving in Vietnam.

A document in Fulbright archives at the University of Arkansas shows how Mr. Fulbright's office provided that help.

The single sheet of handwritten notes is sketchy but suggests that in July 1969, Mr. Fulbright's top aide discussed Mr. Clinton's request to join the training program with Army officials and was familiar with the details of the arrangement Mr. Clinton was seeking.

A discussion of the memo this week with Mr. Fulbright's aide, Lee Williams, supports this interpretation of the document.

At the time senators, other politicians and their staffs often exercised their influence to help young men find alternative forms of military service when faced with the draft. The Fulbright archives show that the senator was providing assistance to a number of others at the same time.

Mr. Clinton had worked in Mr. Fulbright's office a year earlier, while he was a student at Georgetown University.

These matters have become an issue in the presidential campaign not so much because of the events 23 years ago but because of Mr. Clinton's difficulty this year in giving a full account of them.

Mr. Williams' notes and Ms. Myers' statement suggest that Mr. Clinton has been forced once again to add to his explanation of how he avoided the draft -- though he has now said several times that there is nothing more to tell. The changes in his position have become one of the Clinton campaign's largest vulnerabilities, one the Bush campaign has sought to exploit.

But Mr. Clinton's explanations of another disputed area of his draft story may be supported by the document in the Fulbright archives.

It shows that in July 1969, Fulbright's office was discussing the terms of an arrangement with the Army training program in just the way Mr. Clinton has described them this year.

Col. Eugene Holmes, who commanded the university's ROTC program at the time, issued an angry statement Wednesday night alleging that Mr. Clinton had "defrauded the military" and "purposely deceived me."

In the statement and in a previous interview, Mr. Holmes asserted that he had been led to believe that Mr. Clinton would enter the program right away and then did not do it.

But Mr. Clinton has been saying since February that Mr. Holmes had agreed to let him return to Oxford for a year under the shelter of the ROTC deferment so he could complete his studies as a Rhodes Scholar, and that he had promised to enroll at the Arkansas law school the following year, 1970.

Mr. Williams' notes appear to be the only existing record of any kind involving the arrangement between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Holmes, and they indicate that the terms sought by Mr. Clinton, including the one-year delay, were at least under discussion at the time.

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