In bringing back U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, Bill Clinton may have found his nicheKenneth R. Bazinet and Michael Mcauliff
August 5, 2009
WASHINGTON - Bill Clinton may finally have found his role in the Obama White House after his triumphant trip to North Korea: all-star pinch hitter.
Bubba came off the bench to close the deal on freeing two imprisoned American journalists, and could well be called on in the future for heavy diplomatic lifts that the White House needs to keep officially unofficial.
"He's popular, he's an ex-President, and he's the husband of the secretary of state," said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who helped Clinton broker Northern Ireland's peace deal in the 1990s.
"He can be utilized in a semiofficial or unofficial way, yet he has all the trappings and aura of being a high-ranking government official," King said.
The two reporters worked for Al Gore's Current TV, and the former vice president wanted to be the unofficial emissary himself, insiders told the Daily News.
But in a measure of Clinton's enduring star power, the North Koreans summoned the Big Dog.
"I give him a lot of credit, and this shows he can be used in the future," King said.
A part-time role also allows Clinton to keep up his own business and international doings while he stays off of Secretary of State Clinton's turf.
Hillary Clinton had vowed during the 2008 campaign to use her husband as a high-level diplomat, and so did then-candidate Barack Obama.
While the Obama administration privately sanctioned Clinton's journey, officials took pains to erect an official wall between the White House and Clinton's ride to the rescue, calling it a "private mission."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs allowed Clinton was an asset even though President Obama and Clinton haven't spoken since March.
"President and former President is a pretty small club," Gibbs said. "There aren't many who have done that job, who understand the pressures and the issues that confront a chief executive."