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Arkansas man keeps Clinton draft issue alive


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Bill Clinton is having an easier time fending off George Bush than he is Cliff Jackson, an Arkansas man who has been instrumental in keeping the draft issue alive.

Mr. Jackson, a Little Rock lawyer and former friend of Mr. Clinton during their days at Oxford University in England, has succeeded Gennifer Flowers as a damaging source of questions about the Democratic nominee's character.

While hardly anyone talks anymore about Ms. Flowers' disputed account of an affair with Mr. Clinton, Mr. Jackson continues to generate unfavorable stories.

First, there was the story in April about how Mr. Clinton received an induction notice while he was at Oxford, a fact he had not mentioned previously. That disclosure was based on a letter his Oxford chum, Mr. Jackson, wrote to a friend in 1969.

Mr. Jackson, who is the same age as Mr. Clinton, 46, was a Fulbright Fellow at Oxford from 1968 to 1969, the first of two years Mr. Clinton spent there as a Rhodes scholar.

While he was in England, Mr. Jackson says he wrote a lot of letters, later returned to him, in which he occasionally noted the efforts of his friend to avoid being drafted. Mr. Jackson himself received a medical deferment. "Because I didn't [serve], I'm not on any higher moral ground than Bill," he said. "The issue is not even his draft-dodging; it's how he dodged it."

He says he turned over those letters to the Los Angeles Times, which published excerpts in April. Two weeks ago, the newspaper, again relying partly on Mr. Jackson's information, revived the draft issue by reporting on the previously undisclosed efforts of Mr. Clinton's uncle to keep him out of the service during the Vietnam War.

To make matters worse for Mr. Clinton, Mr. Jackson is telling reporters there are more damaging revelations to come.

Though this has not been substantiated, he charges that at Mr. Clinton's request he used his Republican connections to effectively kill the draft notice Mr. Clinton received at Oxford. "I was the central cog," Mr. Jackson told The Sun.

Elaborating last night on CNN's "Larry King Show," Mr. Jackson said the U.S. Selective Service was among the agencies lobbied on Mr. Clinton's behalf. He did not provide many details, but brought one of his letters written in 1969. It said: "Bill has been drafted and will have to enter the Army in July. It's such a shame."

Clinton aides have a hard time attacking the credibility of Mr. Jackson. It's been easier to question Mr. Jackson's motives, however.

Mr. Jackson insists he is not working with or for the Republican Party. He says he never opposed Mr. Clinton politically until he ran for president, at which point Mr. Jackson helped form a group -- backed by some Arkansas Republicans -- that attacked Mr. Clinton's record during the primaries.

But like Mr. Clinton, Mr. Jackson is a bit inconsistent when it comes to his recollection.

While in one interview he says he didn't recall much of Mr. Clinton's draft efforts until finding the letters, he wrote a column the other day in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he feels "obligated to break the silence which I have maintained . . . for the last 23 years."

Another inconsistency concerns his claim that until this year he never opposed Mr. Clinton politically.

He worked for the Arkansas Republican Party in various capacities from 1969 to 1974, which he acknowledges. What he doesn't mention is that in 1985 he publicly criticized Mr. Clinton over a highly controversial utility rate the state gave to Arkansas Power & Light Co.

A 1985 letter Mr. Jackson wrote to Mr. Clinton, published by the Arkansas press, is eerily similar to the warning he gave earlier this year.

"Aside from occasional blunders," he wrote, listing the rate case as an example, "you, your intelligence, your drive and enthusiasm have so much to offer the people of this state, and I think it would be sad indeed for your career to flounder over this issue."

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