Friday, August 07, 2009

After North Korean mission, will Bill Clinton take on new role?

As details of Bill Clinton’s mission came out, it was revealed that the North Koreans themselves asked for Clinton, promising amnesty for the women upon delivery of the former president, whose visit eluded them while he was in office. The deal was done even before Clinton stepped on the plane.

So what is next for Bill Clinton? If the mere thought of a meeting with him is enough to move a regime notorious for never moving, can the Obama administration use that star power?

But the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton and President Obama is complex, to say the least. After a bitter-fought battle during the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton supporters were looking for a robust role for her in exchange for her support of Obama, with many even suggesting her as a possible candidate for vice president. That idea was short-lived. The Obama team wanted Hillary far from the West Wing. And they wanted Bill even farther.

When Obama tapped Hillary to be his secretary of state, there was no shortage of critics who asserted that her husband's global foundation and role as a high-paid public speaker would present a conflict of interest. The Clintons agreed to strict rules of the road to avoid such conflicts going forward.

Bill Clinton has largely stayed out of the limelight, quietly continuing his globetrotting on behalf of the world's poor and downtrodden. But with the success of his North Korean mission so quick and easy, it's conceivable that Bill Clinton could add the role of "diplomatic cleaner" to his resume -- a fixer of messy problems. The Obama administration has no shortage of messy foreign policy problems.

[Excerpts of a CNN analysis]

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