Lawmaker Wants Clinton Held to the Military Code

Article excerpt

A senior House member is moving to require President Clinton, as commander in chief, to abide by the same standards of virtuous conduct as the troops he directs.

With both the military and the president dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct, Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, has inserted language in a pending defense bill to end what he sees as a double standard.

"There is a double standard because the commander in chief has allegedly conducted himself in a manner that would be a court-martial offense for military personnel," Mr. Buyer said yesterday on the House floor.

The amendment would require the president and the secretary of defense "to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor and patriotism and to subordinate themselves to those ideals. . . ." Such language already covers officers and senior enlisted personnel.

A vote is expected tomorrow when the panel Mr. Buyer heads, the House National Security subcommittee on military personnel, writes its version of the fiscal 1999 defense authorization act. Since Mr. Buyer's version of the bill is the panel's starting point, it would take a majority vote of its 16 members to remove the presidential amendment.

"I don't think the minority on the committee want to touch it," Mr. Buyer said. "I think they will just let it go."

Mr. Buyer said his bill is prompted by allegations against the president of adultery and unwanted sexual advances - the same types of charges for which military people have been court-martialed, disciplined and, in some cases, jailed.

The Army court-martialed Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney on charges of groping female subordinates. Former White House worker Kathleen Willey has accused the president of doing the same thing in a study off the Oval Office. A jury acquitted Sgt. Maj. McKinney of 18 of 19 charges.

The Constitution empowers the president as commander in chief. He isn't subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the military's criminal code. The UCMJ is unique in that it criminalizes some conduct not normally associated with lawbreaking. …