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The Tuzla Tarmac Girl Has Her Say

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton kisses Emina Bicakcic, 8, from Sarajevo who dedicated a poem to her shortly after her arrival at the Tuzla Air Base in this March, 2006, file photo. (AP.)

By Keith B. Richburg
NEW YORK -- For Sen. Hillary Clinton, that 1996 corkscrew landing into the sniper-infested Tuzla airport must seem like the tall tale that simply won't go away.

Today, the New York Post, which never seems to miss a chance to rip the home state senator, ran an interview with the young woman seen in photographs greeting and shaking hands with Clinton at the Bosnia airport. The tabloid teased the story on its front page under the large type headline "INSULT" and the smaller head, "Bosnians rip Hillary for her 'horrible lie.'"

Emina Bicakcic, now 20, was 8 years old at the time, and she told the New York Post "I was surprised when I heard this," about Clinton's now-discredited claim of having to don a flak jacket and dodge sniper fire as she skipped the arrival ceremony to run for her armored vehicle.

Instead, Bicakcic said, she read Clinton a poem she had written called "Peace." She recalled Clinton "was drinking in every word of my poem," which includes the lines, "Peace has come knocking at the door, and there will be no shooting anymore."

Of course there would not have been any shooting anymore during Clinton visit, since the Dayton Accords actually ended the Bosnia war in 1995, before Clinton's March 1996 trip. The Dayton Accords were a major foreign policy achievement of President Clinton's first term, and Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said her time as first lady gave her an expertise in foreign affairs.

Bicakcic, who is studying to be a doctor, said she still keeps the autographed copy of the photo of her and Hillary shaking hands. But Bicakcic said she is remaining "neutral" in the contest between Clinton and Barack Obama, saying, "It's a difficult situation for me."

This is the second time Clinton has had problems with a little girl-turned-young adult. Before the Ohio primary, Clinton ran the now-infamous "red phone" ad, showing a little girl sleeping peacefully knowing Hillary was up at the White House solving the world's crises at 3 a.m. But the ad was stock footage from nine years ago, and it turned out that the little girl is now a 17-year-old named Casey Knowles of Bonney Lake, Wash., who is supporting Obama.

The Bosnia flap has provided more grist for the anti-Hillary mill of the New York Post, which has been giving it prominent play for a week now, including getting retired generals to slam her and nicknaming Clinton "Bunko Hill" in a headline.

The New York Post, part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, endorsed Obama just before the Super Tuesday primary in New York, saying the junior senator from New York represented "a return to the opportunistic, scandal-scarred, morally muddled years of the almost infinitely self-indulgent Clinton co-presidency." That was a marked turnaround from 2006, when the New York Post endorsed Clinton's Senate reelection bid.

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 31, 2008; 5:43 PM ET
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