I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
This time, Bill Richardson didn’t get the call
The diplomatically-engineered release of two American reporters held in a North Korean prison came just in time to momentarily distract most the country from some pretty depressing domestic issues. A string of bad economic reports. A looming Congressional showdown over health care reform. A bloody rampage in Pittsburgh.
But for New Mexicans, Tuesday’s undeniably good news lacked a certain local element — a certain ex-diplomat who, in years past, would have most likely been the go-to-guy for such a daring mission.
Sure, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was all over the television, speaking with knowledge and grace about the women’s release to the many national news outlets who went out of their way to request interviews with him.
But the apparent truth was that it took a former president to fly into North Korea and get those women out of there.
And it wasn’t just any former president, it was Bill Clinton, husband of Secretary of State (and former Richardson presidential rival) Hillary Clinton.
The highly militaristic government of North Korea had captured the reporters, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, at a very delicate time. In defiance of the rest of the world, North Korea recently fired off its second nuclear device and, by many accounts, was hoping to use the women as some kind of bargaining chip. North Korea charged the journalists with entering the country illegally, found them guilty and sentenced them to 12 years of hard labor in a prison gulag.
Hillary Clinton suggested the names of several people who might be right to go to North Korea, but, according to the New York Times and other sources, peripatetic North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il hinted that he would prefer Bill Clinton to come in person to oversee the women’s release. The Washington Post reports that Bill Clinton agreed to make the humanitarian mission to North Korea two days after a top North Korean official publicly insulted his wife, calling her a “funny lady” who “sometimes looks like a primary school girl.”
Well, that wasn’t very nice. But when it really came down to it, Hillary Clinton — with the blessing of President Obama — kept her cool and okayed the deal that saw her husband swoop in and save the day.
Bill and Hill’s excellent adventure proved that, once again, you don’t ever count the Clintons out. Especially when they tag-team. (It’s an interesting diplomatic dynamic. I wonder if it will work more than once.)
However, the fact that the North Korea mission was privately-funded has some reporters asking questions about Bill Clinton’s “vast business connections” and whether they played or could play an unwanted role in his wife’s very public job. Expect to hear lots more about that in the future.
There are also questions about whether the Obama administration gave the North Koreans exactly what they wanted by sending over such a high-profile figure to deal directly with Kim Jong Il. Expect to hear lots more about that, too.
Richardson did well in his many national network television appearances on CNN, CBS and MSNBC, among others.
But you have to wonder if it rankles the former U.N ambassador and U.S. energy secretary that he wasn’t the guy in North Korea bringing those women home.
After all, Richardson has pulled off some legendary diplomatic moves before, including a few in North Korea.
But that was before Richardson ran for president, dropped out, endorsed Obama over Hillary and got called a “Judas” by the Clinton camp. Obama eventually won and picked Richardson to be commerce secretary, while Hillary Clinton was nominated to be secretary of state.
But then Richardson had to decline the commerce nomination because of a federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations.
So now Hillary Clinton is the nation’s chief diplomat and calling on her husband to help her pull off the kind of missions Richardson used to own.
I guess two Clintons beat one Richardson, at least in this case.
But just like the Clintons, I would never count Bill Richardson out.