Retired Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson, who served as a senior military aide to President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 1998, delivered his indictment of Democratic leaders’ policies on military issues on Wednesday, December 3, to a crowd of UCSB students - among whom were several Iraq war veterans. One of his major responsibilities in the White House was to carry the nuclear “football” the 45-pound satchel that contains the codes for nuclear weapons and accompanies the president at all times - and this proximity gave him a unique perspective on the president’s leadership, he claims.
Invoking mostly anecdotal evidence, Patterson described how he lost faith in the Democratic Party. He entered the Clinton White House a registered Democrat and, after two years of close interaction with the Clintons, became disillusioned about the president’s ability to serve as the highest military authority. “I saw things that really troubled me about our Commander in Chief,” he said.
Among the most illustrative occurrences was when Clinton allegedly misplaced the credit card-sized document that contained the nuclear codes, a claim he wrote about in a memoir of his time in the White House. “What troubled me more than anything else was not so much that he had lost the codes,” but that he was more concerned about his mistake making the press, Patterson said. The codes were never found, he said, and the Pentagon had to recreate them.
He lays much of the responsibility for the U.S.’s current national security problems on the Clinton administration. He claimed that the president’s reduction of the military and hesitancy to strike militarily against terrorist organizations and take out Osama bin Laden “emboldened” organizations such as al Qaeda. “I think 9/11 falls on his doorstep as well,” he said.
But, rather than exclusively blaming Clinton, he also decried Democrats who he says have undermined the U.S. military and the fight against terrorism. He said he prays that President-elect Obama will be a strong leader but fears “that he will follow along the lines of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and not be a great Commander in Chief”; however, he applauded the decision to keep Robert Gates as secretary of defense.
Patterson also embedded himself among U.S. troops in Iraq in 2006 in order to visit friends in the service and observe the situation in the region. He said what he saw - including the attitude and morale of U.S. soldiers - was “night and day from what we’re being told in the States.”
Patterson is the author of several books, including Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How President Bill Clinton Endangered America’s Long-Term National Security and War Crimes: The Left’s Campaign to Destroy the Military and Lose the War on Terror.