Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two-fer? Bill Clinton in North Korea, Negotiates Release of Detained U.S. Journalists

When Bill Clinton ran for president, he described his relationship with wife Hillary as a "two-fer," meaning that the two would work closely together as a professional political couple. When Bill's presence in the 2008 Democratic primaries began to harm his wife's campaign, many people believed that he should vanish and let Hillary carve out her own image. In some ways, he became less vocal, but no one could have reasonably expected Bill Clinton -- one of the most energetic and verbose presidents -- to remain on the sidelines.

Today, Bill Clinton has returned to the international political scene with a "private" visit to North Korea. Clinton has traveled to North Korea in order to negotiate the release of United States journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. North Korean officials seized Ling and Lee, who were conducting research regarding North Korean defectors to China. The women have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for allegedly committing "hostile acts" against North Korea.

Although Clinton's visit is billed as a "private" matter, the fact that he is a former president and his wife is presently Secretary of State makes that label a bit more complicated. Many international relations analysts believe that Clinton's mission could lead to a thaw in icy relations between the United States and North Korea. If so, the visit is certainly more than a private transaction.

Question: Is there anything wrong with a two-fer? I have always believed that one of Bill and Hillary's strengths is their working relationship.

Note: The Associated Press reports that Clinton has already met with Kim Jong Il. The article, however, provides no details of the meeting.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutchinson: Yes the Billary Twofer show has always been a strength of the Democratic party. I am astonished at The One's witlessness in trying to get national health care after Hillary's success in ramming it through in 1993, or bothering with Israel/Palestine after Billyboy fixed it in 1999...Obviously some deep game is being played out by sending Billyboy to the Utopia of the North. I fear it has more to do with domestic politics, that show in which The One plays a mongoose to Hillary's cobra. If the consequences weren't so grave, watching this show would be amusing.

To answer your question: Is there anything wrong with a two-fer? Yes, there is. It implies that the regular staff of the State Department is sclerotic enough that The One must put together a scratch team of proven foreign policy charlatans to get the job done. Kennedy did this with his bullyboy brother and the Russians. Result: the Cuban missile crisis. Nixon did it with Kissinger and the Vietnamese. Result: hell you know that result. Now The One is doing it with Billyboy. This is Nobel prize level grotesquerie, a gaudy show. But the price the world will pay for this beggars belief.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Roy Lofquist said...


Politically audacious, and fraught with peril. If the reporters are not released then it will appear that Obama was suckered. If they are released questions will be raised about a quid pro quo. If it involves more than just the release then a howl about the deal, justified or not, will attract a lot of media attention.

I certainly hope it turns out well. Given the history of The Hermit Kindom I am not optimistic.

As always, keep up the good fight. I read everything here.


Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Greg: Are you saying that ANY president who uses a former president in a diplomatic capacity has admitted that his own team is inept? If so, then this would include more Republicans than Nixon.

Roy: Long time no see! Thanks for reading. You analysis is very astute.

Chrystal K. said...

I'm glad the two have been pardoned.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Chrystal: So am I.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutchinson: Yes, I am saying that. What Republican president has used ex-presidents for "serious" diplomatic work? By "serious" I do not mean attending funerals, as when Reagan sent Carter, Nixon, and Ford to Anwar Sadat's funeral. Lots of photos, no results. I also don't count freelance work, as Carter did to Clinton's irritation while Clinton was in office. No doubt Billyboy feels differently these days.

Want another example? Tony Blair has been a special envoy to the Middle East since he packed it in two years ago? How has he helped Gordon Brown's foreign policy? OK, I won't be so harsh: what has Tony Blair done at all in his post?

I am glad for the families, but the what was the price of this result? The Associated Press article is notably vague, claiming on the one hand that Billyboy was freelancing at the request of the families and Gore, the reporters's boss, and yet that the State Department was kept informed. What message does this send the world? That the State Department either a) can't get the job done on its own, and must let ex-Presidents who want the Nobel Peace Prize do it for them or b) don't bother with official channels, find a back channel. I repeat, how well did that work for the Kennedys with Russia, Nixon with Kissinger and Vietnam or for that matter Reagan and Iran-Contra (admittedly the "special envoys" in I-C were remarkably low level, both in rank and in character.) I cannot stress too much the dangers of having freelancers working on foreign affairs, the more so since it is quite clear that foreign affairs bore our Prez. He will learn the truth of Kennedy's remark to Richard Nixon after the Bay of Pigs: "I mean, who gives a shit if the minimum wage is $115 or $125 an hour, compared to this?" Same for health care. He'll learn to his (and our) vast cost.

So: My challenge to you: when did Ford, Reagan, or either Bush use an ex-President as an envoy beyond going to a funeral? I exclude Nixon as there were no GOP ex-prezs after march 1969 while Nixon was Prez.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Where's that list of your publications? It would add value to your blog.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

There's one grave mistake in foreign affairs: assuming that "the world" interprets facts the same way that "we" do. Even we have our differences. Foreign countries have their own domestic priorities that shape their actions, just like we do. They also have different points to gain from a certain version of the "facts."

Someone who opposes the Obama admnistration might want to argue that this makes the State Dept look weak -- just like it did with every Democrat presumably since Truman (come on Greg). To assume that other nations will inevitably read facts the way that we do domestically is a huge jump.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutchinson: Your students must have a tough time. Every time they ask you a question, you dance away from it. You wrote: "Are you saying that ANY president who uses a former president in a diplomatic capacity has admitted that his own team is inept? If so, then this would include more Republicans than Nixon."

Once more: give me an example of a GOP prez using an ex-Prez for something above going to funerals.

Now you write:

"Someone who opposes the Obama admnistration might want to argue that this makes the State Dept look weak -- just like it did with every Democrat presumably since Truman (come on Greg). To assume that other nations will inevitably read facts the way that we do domestically is a huge jump."

This "all nations" bit is one of your finer straw men. Example: I expect the nations of Iceland, Paraguay, and Niger care not a dam what North Korea does. Right there, that sinks your "all nations" formula. Take a nation that DOES care: Japan. North Korea is about 700 miles from Japan, no intercontinental missile needed to bomb Japan with its third nuke. Not surprisingly, the Japanese feel a bit edgy about having such a neighbor. This is why they've been insistent on conducting the Six Power (NK, SK, Japan, China, Russia, and the US) talks, so they will have a seat at the table. NK went along with this for some time, but about three years ago started agitating for bilateral talks with the US. Geo. W. firmly resisted this. I suppose this puzzles "nonpartisan progressives" who can't imagine why that cowboy wasn't "going it alone," as their prejudices against The Chimp told them he would do. Geo. W. was smart enough to know that freezing out the other concerned powers was a swell incentive for Japan and South Korea, rich nations, to develop their own nukes, to be able to strike back. Now our Prez has apparently sent an ex-Prez out to release some hostages. Did Billyboy make a deal with NK? Set up a private meeting for later? What do you think the Japanese Did this mission increase trust between Japan and the US about North Korean nukes? Are the Japanese getting nervous about an American President who is visibly irked by foreign affairs as a distraction from his creation of Utopia in these States, cutting a private deal with NK behind Japanese backs?

Telepathy and looking into souls aren't necessary; an estimate of what NK's capabilities are, and what they might do is. It is in NK's interest to break apart Japan, SK, and the US. Stalling for time while the centrifuges spin and spin is also in NK's interest. This escapade has advanced both these interests.

You've implied that I think all Democrats since Truman are weak ("come on, Greg") "Weak" isn't an adjective I would apply to three presidents who sent American troops abroad by the hundreds of thousands, with thousands of deaths. I would apply it to Jimmy Bumpkin, whose record on Iran, the response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and inability to advance his stated foreign policy goals (ratifying the SALT II treaty he signed) seem to me ample justification? Obama? He alarms me, but I'm prejudiced, and it is quite early yet. Still my bet is on all sorts of disasters abroad, with more effort expended on showing that it's all Geo. W's/the GOP/the Right's fault, because they are racists than trying to correct, let alone forestall, said disasters. North Korea is only one simmering pot. Watch India. The One can't stiff arm them forever, as the jockeying about H-1B visas is starting to show. Watch Mexico, which is getting tired of being the battleground for the American habit of ingesting illegal drugs by the ton. Watch the globe...

Where's that list of your publications?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Decidere said...

Clinton sanctioned Carter's work under his presidency, even though he was worried about Carter being a loose cannon and a bit of a surprise in waiting.

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