THE PLANK AUGUST 5, 2009
As far as the atmospherics of Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea go, I think it's worth noting that this may be the best day the man has had since Hillary won the New Hampshire primary some 20 months ago. Before the 2008 campaign, thanks to his foundation work on AIDS and malaria and the like, Bill Clinton had a sterling reputation as a global statesman and do-gooder who floated above the fray of common politics. But during the campaign he wrecked that image in a flurry of red-faced outbursts and ill-advised (if sometimes distorted) critiques of Barack Obama.
In reality Clinton's trip didn't require much skill. The prisoner release was pre-cooked by the Obama team well before his arrival. All he had to do was show up and not smile too much. (What value he may have added in terms of sussing out Kim Jong Il's condition and mindset, and perhaps coaxing him towards more reasonable behavior, remains unknown.)
Nevertheless, this was Bill's first big test of the Obama administration--and he passed.
Actually, let me amend that. The first real test was whether Bill could keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble in general, and for six months until now he's passed that one as well. It's a good thing for the Clintons -- but more important, a good thing for America, to see Bill making a positive contribution this way.
Now, why not send him to Kashmir?