Clinton Hit by Friendly Fire

As of 1:40 p.m. ET, James McDonough, director of strategy for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, has not been contacted by any of his higher-ups at the White House concerning an extraordinary op-ed he wrote that appears in today’s Wall Street Journal. In the op-ed piece, which mysteriously still hasn’t been picked up by the wires, McDonough becomes the first White House aide to vigorously denounce the president and, essentially call for his impeachment. McDonough’s rage is directed at the president’s now-famous phone call to Rep. “Sonny” Callahan about funding troops that might be sent into Bosnia. While the commander-in-chief was discussing this matter, you’ll recall, he was (according to Monica Lewinsky’s testimony) getting a blow job. At the time, McDonough was an Army colonel preparing to lead the troops in question into Bosnia, and he is royally pissed that, at least during this moment, Clinton wasn’t giving the troops’ fate his, er, full attention. They didn’t go (though some of the troops later went in), but “had American soldiers been killed because of their ill-considered commitment to action, President Clinton would have been guilty” of committing a high crime or misdemeanor. McDonough writes with fury about Clinton’s “callous indifference, sophomoric arrogance, and reckless disregard of the sanctity of U.S. soldiers’ lives.”

It’s rather unusual for a subordinate to write this way about his boss. McDonough told Chatterbox he wished he didn’t have to write the piece, but he did. He said he’s heard about it today from a couple of people in the hallways, but not from any higher-ups: no phone calls, no meetings, no nothing.

The piece puts the White House in an interesting pickle. Ordinarily, of course, it would be unthinkable to tolerate such disloyalty. But the White House is not eager to draw attention to friendly fire from White House aides at a time when congressional Democrats (most notably today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein) are easing back into the Clinton camp in response to the Republicans’ increasingly insane partisan behavior. And also there’s the matter of Mr. McDonough being a retired Army colonel and Vietnam veteran. Mr. McDonough has written a well-known memoir of his Vietnam experience, Platoon Leader, which was made into a movie. (No, not Oliver Stone’s Platoon. Another movie.) He is not the sort of person that Bill Clinton, who spent those years pursuing…other interests, wants to be seen persecuting.

Timothy Noah