North Idaho’s all-Republican Congressional delegation gave President Clinton’s Bosnia plan a chilly reception Monday night.
“The president failed once again to show why Bosnia is worth one drop of American blood,” Rep. Helen Chenoweth said in a statement.
“Peace will come to Bosnia when the warring factions find a way to live together. And that is not something America can deliver on the barrel of a gun.”
Sen. Larry Craig said he remains skeptical.
“While I am very willing to listen to and understand the details of the plan, I remain extremely concerned that he puts us in the middle of a civil war now being fought off and on for over 200 years,” Craig said in a telephone interview.
Craig has been critical of Clinton for not consulting with Congress earlier.
“Up until tonight, the president was asking for our support with no plan,” he said.
But in Clinton’s speech, Craig said “the president began to expose the American people to a plan that is being developed by our military in cooperation with our NATO allies.”
Craig added: “What I think now is extremely important for people like myself to hear is what the people of Idaho think. Because the deployment of U.S. men and women in uniform into harm’s way is something that no elected official in my capacity can take lightly.”
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne said, “I see no American interest that merits putting American lives at risk.”
Kempthorne said he’s not convinced the plan would work. “The parties in Bosnia have to want peace,” he said.
Washington state lawmakers also were balking at Clinton’s plan.
“I was not persuaded,” Rep. George Nethercutt, a Spokane Republican, said shortly after the speech.”It’s a fragile peace. It just makes me feel that the president is rushing to judgment on this.”
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said Clinton made “a compelling case” for America to act as an international leader. But she wants to hear more details of the plan in debates later this week and monitor the reaction in Bosnia before agreeing to support Clinton.
“Their leaders sat at a table last week and said they wanted peace,” she said. “Now will their people back home go along?”
Members of Congress conceded that Clinton, as the military commander-in-chief, can commit the troops if he chooses. Congress can exercise its objection by refusing long-term funding for the military action.
Republican Sen. Slade Gorton said Clinton has yet to make the case that settling the war in Bosnia is vital to American interests.
“The peace the president praises is a peace of exhaustion and injustice, that simply ratifies the aggression and ethnic cleansing that has taken place for the last four years,” Gorton said in a prepared statement.