Clinton avoided discussing the current conflict in Iraq or the growing U.S.-Iran tensions, but he argued that Fulbright's approach to the escalating war in Vietnam is an important lesson for present day politicians. "In this interdependent world, we should still have a preference for peace over war," he said. He also reflected on his own decisions when, as commander in chief, he was urged to launch a military strike somewhere in the world.Last year, Colin L. Powell received the $50,000 cash Fulbright award provided by the Coca-Cola Foundation. Bill Clinton used to work for Senator Fulbright and described him as his mentor in his autobiography My Life. As president Bill Clinton awarded his first Medal of Freedom to Senator Fulbright.
"I always thought of Senator Fulbright and the terrible quagmire in Vietnam and how many times we sent more soldiers and found ourselves in a hole and kept digging because we didn't want to look like we were weak. So anytime somebody said in my presidency, 'If you don't do this people will think you're weak,' I always asked the same question for eight years: "Can we kill 'em tomorrow?"
"If we can kill 'em tomorrow, then we're not weak, and we might be wise enough to try to find an alternative way," said Clinton.
See also our related post on Bill Clinton and Senator Fulbright.
UPDATE: Wash Post Columnist Dana Milbank criticizes Bill Clinton for "gloating" and being late for the award ceremony and other events, but did not connect being late with his "Can we kill 'em tomorrow?" comment.