Wednesday, 5 August 2009

New role for Bill Clinton?

Former President Bill Clinton's success in gaining the release of two American journalists from North Korea may signal a new role for the 42nd president as an elder statesman -- with relevance -- who can serve as a roving U.S. ambassador.

The rave reviews Mr. Clinton is receiving now are a far cry from the heavy criticism he received during last year's Democratic Presidential primaries, when his efforts to support his wife Hillary Clinton's candidacy at times backfired.

Julian Zelizer is a presidential scholar at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School.

Julian Zelizer, history professor, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, saying:

"What happened during the Democratic primaries was he looked again not like a post President, but a very political and partisan figure. So I think by resolving a very delicate international crisis, doing this without then need for military intervention, I think he elevates his stature both within the United States, but also abroad."

Since serving two terms as president, Bill Clinton has carved a high-profile path in private life-- establishing the Clinton Global Initiative and a charitable foundation -- which seek to combat poverty and climate change and promote health and education programs worldwide.

He's also teamed up with former President George H.W. Bush to establish the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, to help hurricane survivors, and Bush-Clinton Tsunami Fund.

But it is the publicity surrounding his successful 24-hour trip to North Korea that some analysts suggest may provide the former president with a platform to help President Barack Obama in other hot spots around the world.

Julian Zelizer, history professor, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, saying:

"He's a broker and an effective broker, I don't know if he's seen as an honest broker. I think some of Clinton's reputation and memories of him as President lingers both here and abroad, someone who is willing to compromise, someone who's willing to say one thing and do another, that's part of who he was. But that doesn't mean he can't be a very effective negotiator."

The big question is whether and when Obama will call upon the former president again on the larger question of North Korea's nuclear program, or to help him tackle other tough issues around the globe.

Jon Decker, Reuters.