VANCOUVER British Columbia -- In a subtle but calculated attempt to patch up his rocky relations with the U.S. military establishment, President Clinton went running yesterday morning with an Army general who'd been insulted while at the White House.
The officer, Lt. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, is the most decorated man in the U.S. armed services. He was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross twice for valorous service in separate tours in Vietnam and was the officer who directed the victorious U.S. ground forces in Kuwait during the Persian Gulf war.
General McCaffrey, special assistant to Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was visiting the White House on business shortly after Mr. Clinton was inaugurated when he said good day to a woman he presumed to be a Clinton aide. He said she responded: "I don't speak to people in uniform."
Word that one of the nation's military heroes had been slighted swept through the media and the military establishment like a brush fire.
The story had such resonance because it confirmed the worst fears of military families: that the president, who avoided military service, and his administration were actively hostile to the military.
When asked about such stories, Mr. Clinton has bristled visibly. And last Thursday in Annapolis, Mr. Clinton termed the story involving General McCaffrey an "abject lie," that was "made up out of whole cloth."
This was not true, as the White House press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, had already confirmed. Her version is that General McCaffrey was, indeed, insulted, but that he couldn't be positive that the woman on the White House grounds was actually a White House employee.
Asked yesterday about the jogging session on the second day of the U.S.-Russian summit, Ms. Myers responded that the media had made too big a story of this episode and claimed that the two men have never had a problem with each other.