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Bill Clinton on world leaders -- and Genghis Khan

Peter Baker, White House correspondent for the New York Times, and Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy's executive editor, interviewed former president Bill Clinton at the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on topics as diverse as identity, virtue, and riding the steppes with Genghis Khan. For the edited excerpts, click here. Some highlights:

FP: Top three leaders that people should pay attention to, other than Obama.

BC: The prime minister of Australia, Kevin Michael Rudd -- he is really smart. He has a thirst to know and figure out how to do things.

I think people should study what Paul Kagame did in Rwanda. It is the only country in the world that has more women than men in Parliament (obviously part of the demographic is from the genocide). It may not be perfect, but Rwanda has the greatest capacity of any developing country I have seen to accept outside help and make use of it. It's hard to accept help. They've done that. And how in God's name does he get every adult in the country to spend one Saturday every month cleaning the streets? And what has the psychological impact of that been? The identity impact? The president says it's not embarrassing, it's not menial work, it's a way of expressing your loyalty to and your pride in your country. How do you change your attitudes about something that you think you know what it means? How did he pull that off?

There are lots of fascinating leaders in Latin America worth studying. But I think it's worth looking at Colombia. How has Medellín been given back to the people of Colombia? We all know President Uribe has faced criticism in the U.S., but how did Medellín go from being the drug capital of the world, one of the most dangerous places on Earth, to the host city of the 50th anniversary of the Inter-American Development Bank? I would look at that.

I would look at another guy, José Ramos-Horta, the president of the first country in the 21st century, East Timor. Is it too small to be a nation? Can you get too small? Can your courageous fight for independence and freedom lead you to an economic unit that is not going to have a population or a geographic base big enough to take care of your folks? How are the Kosovars going to avoid that?

FP: Is there any country you haven't been to yet that you want to go to?

BC: I want to go to Mongolia and ride a horse across the steppes and pretend I am in Genghis Khan's horde -- but I'm not hurting anybody! I want to go to Antarctica. There are places where I have been where I have only been working. I would like to take Hillary to climb Kilimanjaro, while there is still snow up there.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 3, 2009; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Noted  
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I spent time in a working yurt and on the Grasslands of Inner Mongolia this past June; the food was pure Mongolian food. Please tell BC that I am looking for fellow travelers to share a driver and car for a trip to Mongolia in August 2010; there will be opportunity to ride a horse on the Mongolian plains. HC is also invited:-) One needs to bring your own towel and TP.

Posted by: KenWiggers | December 4, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Just curious.... Mayor Bloomberg was re-elected for a third term because the people wanted it....


I'd like to start a petition to RE-ELECT PRESIDENT CLINTON to a third term...

I'll take him (along with Monica) over the sitting president....any day.

Can we do that? IT BEST FOR THE COUNTRY...

Posted by: analgesic33 | December 4, 2009 5:58 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: JakeD | December 3, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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