Bill Clinton Invokes the “Bad Dreams” of a Former P.O.W.

Jul 6, 2008 11:36am

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival where, in a conversation about global issues and philanthropy with Aspen Institute vice president Jane Wales, he made one comment that at least one attendee — The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg — took as a shot at presumptive GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

In a conversation about former South African president Nelson Mandela, Clinton talked about Mandela’s ability to forgive his captors.

"Didn’t you hate them?" Clinton recalled asking Mandela privately, referring to Mandela’s final steps as a prisoner walking to freedom.

"’Sure I did,’" Mandela said, per Clinton. "’I felt anger and hatred and fear. And I realized if I kept hating them, once I got in that car and got through the gate I would still be in prison. So I let it go because I wanted to be free.’"

Continued Clinton: "Every living soul on the planet has some often highly justified anger. Everybody… If you know anybody who was a P.O.W. for any length of time, you will see, you go along for months or maybe even years and then something will happen and it will trigger all those bad dreams, and it will come back, it may not last 30 seconds…"

But Mandela has avoided that, Clinton said, because he has "disciplined himself and his mind and his heart and his spirit."

Watch HERE. The P.O.W. reference comes at about 4:28 into the clip.

Writes Goldberg: "Not too subtle. Astonishingly, his interviewer, former Clinton Administration official Jane Wales, didn’t follow-up. One subject Clinton didn’t talk about at all: Barack Obama. He seemed to go out of his way, in fact, not to mention Obama’s name. Which, when you think about, calls into question whether the P.O.W. shot was actually an intentional shot at all. On the other hand, I believe that Bill Clinton doesn’t say things by accident."

What do you think? Was Clinton referring to McCain, who was a Vietnam P.O.W. for 5 1/2 years? Or is Goldberg reading too much into it?

- jpt

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