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Aspin Says Military Will Accept Clinton

March 14, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Les Aspin said Sunday the military was an ″eminently winnable constituency″ for President Clinton, and denied there was an undercurrent of mockery when Clinton visited an aircraft carrier on Friday.

Aspin, speaking on NBC’s ″Meet the Press,″ acknowledged a ″let’s wait and see″ attitude among some in the military about Clinton, who was attacked during the presidential campaign for his opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to avoid being drafted.

Aspin said that while there ″obviously is″ some concern about Clinton’s lack of a military record, ″I think this is an eminently winnable constituency for Bill Clinton. I think that in a couple of years, you will see a really strong support for the president from the men and women in uniform.″

The secretary said Clinton received a ″bum rap″ from a news report that said sailors and Marines were disparaging toward the president when he and Aspin visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The Washington Post on Saturday said that while Clinton was treated with official politeness while on board the carrier, sailors and Marines privately told jokes about the president and his family. It quoted five officers by name who were critical of him and his policies and said Capt. Stanley W. Bryant entreated the crew before the visit to support the president ″whether you voted for him or not.″

″The reaction was very warm,″ Aspin said. ″As he moved around, people came forward to shake hands, to ask for his autograph.... I’ve been in politics a long time. I can tell a friendly crowd from an unfriendly crowd. That was not an unfriendly crowd.″

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