With N. Korea Trip, Bill Clinton's Role Evolves
Updated 10:05 a.m.
By Ben Pershing
Remember when Bill Clinton was seen as a potential liability for the Obama administration? In the weeks after President Obama was elected, the New York Times called the former president and his complex web of financial dealings "the most important stumbling block" Hillary Clinton had to overcome in order to be Secretary of State. Would he travel the world on speaking engagements to questionable groups? Hobnob with controversial donors? Would his outsize personality overshadow or interfere with his wife's work?
So far, the answer to all of those questions seems to be "no." If it's possible for one of the most famous men on the planet to fade into the background, Clinton has largely done so. Even during a recent spate of stories on how Hillary Clinton was working to figure out her role within the administration, Bill Clinton hardly got a mention. And that New York Times piece from last November did include this line: "Obama advisers also said that Mr. Clinton would bring enormous assets as a popular figure around the world who would effectively serve as an unpaid ambassador for Obama policies."
Those advisers were prophetic. At this moment, Clinton is on a delicate mission abroad, traveling to North Korea attempting to negotiate the release of two imprisoned American journalists. (How will conservatives react to footage of Clinton arriving at the airport in Pyongyang and "smiling as a young girl presented him with a large bouquet of flowers"?) Robert Gibbs said this morning the administration would have no comment on this "solely private mission" while it's underway. This story links nearly every recent Democratic occupant of the White House, as the two reporters are employed by Current TV, which is chaired by Al Gore. And during the Clinton administration, former president Jimmy Carter took his own, somewhat controversial diplomatic trip to North Korea.
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Posted at 8:22 AM ET on Aug 4, 2009
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