The New York Times in its NEWS report SPECULATED in its FIRST paragraph that Clinton's successful mission opens the door for fruitful negotiations between the two countries over the nuclear weapons issue.
John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Bush administration, charged the Obama administration violated the cardinal rule to never negotiate with terrorists despite the feel-good, short-lived euphoria that the two prisoners were returned home safely.
The North Korean news agency said Clinton apologized to their dear leader Kim Jong-il for the two women's transgressions. In Africa, Bill's wife Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in more diplomatic terms that was total BS.
We won't know what the former president said and observed until he briefs Obama -- even that may be under wraps indefinitely -- or one of the envoys that accompanied him on the trip speaks out of school.
We do know Clinton NEVER would have accepted the invitation from the Koreans and Obama himself had the release of the prisoners not been negotiated as a done deal in advance.
What I find rather amusing is Kim has this "thing" for Bill Clinton. According to the NYT article and another filed by Bill Solomon of the Wall Street Journal, their sources believed Kim was seeking to turn back the clock and resurrect a relationship with Clinton that came close to formally ending the Korean War in late 2000. Writes Solomon:
Former U.S. officials said Clinton was seriously contemplating a trip to Pyongyang during his final weeks in office to explore agreements to end North Korea's missile program and get Washington and Pyongyang off the war footing they had held ever since an armistice ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War. A formal peace accord was never signed and the U.S. has maintained tens of thousands of troops on South Korean soil.
Mr. Clinton's trip would have followed the October 2000 visit to the White House by North Korea's then second-highest military officer, Vice Marshall Jo Myong Rok. The North Korean commander and the Clinton administration signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the official end of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.
As for the NYT story, it did go to great lengths citing mostly unnamed sources of the POSSIBILITY that talks on nuclear sanctions could be opened directly between the two countries.
Which brings us back to Mr. Bolton who, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, never seems to go away. Says he:
The point to be made on the Clinton visit is that the knee-jerk impulse for negotiations above all inevitably brings more costs than its advocates foresee. Negotiating from a position of strength, where the benefits to American interests will exceed the costs, is one thing. Negotiating merely for the sake of it, in the face of palpable recent failures, is something else indeed.
He carries this feel-good diplomacy several steps farther:
With three American hikers freshly in Tehran's captivity, will Clinton be packing his bags again for another act of obeisance? And, looking ahead, what American hostages will not be sufficiently important to merit the presidential treatment? What about Roxana Saberi and other Americans previously held in Tehran? What was it about them that made them unworthy of a presidential visit? These are the consequences of poorly thought-out gesture politics, however well-intentioned or compassionately motivated. Indeed, the release of the two reporters -- welcome news -- doesn't mitigate the future risks entailed.
While Bolton may be an old sourpuss, such is not the case with NYT columnist Maureen Dowd who imagined conversation between the unusually disciplined Clinton and the giddy Kim. Dowd recalled an international incident last month when Hillary said that, as a mother, she understood that the North Koreans were simply unpopular and unruly children misbehaving to get attention. A North Korean spokesman countered that Hillary was “a funny lady” and that “sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.”
You can picture a charming Bill putting matters in perspective: “Pay no mind to that, Kimmie. She’s an amazin’ woman, but she just goes off sometimes. You should hear what she calls me when she gets riled up. An unruly teenager and then some.”
Jeez, my guess was Kim, a notorious drinker of scotch and viewer of porn movies and actresses, envied Clinton for his sordid tryst in the Oval office with an intern. A lot of stories those two could swap.
Just joking. In truth, Clinton always has been more universally popular in foreign countries and it is remarkable he has both mellowed and matured with age, carving out a new legacy as global humanitarian and now fix-it man.
Do I read into this a new, reinvigorated Clinton era with Hillary poised in the wings to seek the presidency in 2016? No.