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Bill Clinton to the rescue
August 4, 2009 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Bill Clinton makes secret trip to North Korea, wins pardon and apparent release of two captive US journalists. Jailed reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, employees of Al Gore's Current TV, were arrested for spying in March and had recently been sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp. The remarkable development is likely to boost to Clinton's battered image.

The surprisingly swift resolution of the secret mission made a monkey of some prominent Obama administration critics.
posted by CunningLinguist (175 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
OH NOES! CLINTON IS NAGOSHEAYTING WITH OUR ENUMIES! WE R WEAK ON TERRUR.

In all seriousness: Holy crap. This is wonderful, wonderful news, especially since it was starting to feel as if Ling and Lee had been all but forgotten. Nice going, Bill!
posted by shiu mai baby at 1:14 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Short version of the Bolton article: The trial of the journalists was a kangaroo court, thus holding the journalists was terrorism, thus Obama negotiates with Terrorists.

Take with salt, please.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:14 PM on August 4, 2009


Hillary must be fuming. And who could blame her? Arguably the first significant foreign relations coup of the Obama era and it's her husband who gets the credit? Again?
posted by dersins at 1:15 PM on August 4, 2009 [20 favorites]


That's the first time in a good while that a photograph has actually surprised me. They don't look like buddies, for sure, but this is quite significant. Hopefully as Kim gets closer to the end he will be more mellow and open to detente.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:15 PM on August 4, 2009


Well played, Bill. Well played.
posted by cazoo at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


A whole FPP on this with no sex jokes? Come on. At least toss in a "Clinton picks up two asian chicks" or something.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2009 [26 favorites]


Normally, these sort of things seem to be the domain of Jesse Jackson.
posted by deanc at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


(I mean take the Bolton article with salt, obviously. Hooray for Bill Clinton. And I sincerely doubt Hillary was out-of-the-loop on this or anything.)
posted by Navelgazer at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been trying to avoid this sort of insulting hyperbole, but Bolton can seriously eat a bowl of frosted assholes.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2009 [19 favorites]


In the final editorial you link, Bolton doesn't argue that the journalists wouldn't be released, but that it is bad politics to have a former president meet with foreign leaders in these matters. He may be wrong about that, but nothing about the resolution of Clinton's visit changes his point. I don't see how he was "made a monkey of." That policy disagreement will continue.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Notwithstanding his sexual escapades, Bill is also a cunning linguist.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


A whole FPP on this with no sex jokes? Come on. At least toss in a "Clinton picks up two asian chicks" or something.

It practically killed me, believe me.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm assuming Clinton payed the little guy off in waterslides.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


A whole FPP on this with no sex jokes? Come on. At least toss in a "Clinton picks up two asian chicks" or something.

If you thought they could keep two hotties who haven't seen a man in months away from Bill? You don't know Bill.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:19 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't see how he was "made a monkey of."

Well, I see your point, but that's the kind of argument to make a few days after the elation of the release has dissipated. You can't but look sour saying so now.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:20 PM on August 4, 2009


Poor Bill Clinton. He thought 'captive girls' meant the Pleasure Squad.
posted by grounded at 1:20 PM on August 4, 2009


Obama would have been excoriated if Hillary had negotiated directly with N. Korea. Bill's involvement greased the wheels for all involved. Kim gets to claim he brought the USians to the negotiating table, Obama keeps his foreign relations tough-guy street cred, Bill gets a boost in his legacy, and we get our journalists back. Full 'o win.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 1:21 PM on August 4, 2009 [32 favorites]


I've been thinking about this situation today, and it seems to me that while securing their release was indeed a great thing, that Bill Clinton shouldn't have gotten involved.

Hear me out here.

The spouse of the Secretary of State getting involved in diplomatic matters is a conflict of interest. Even if they are not formal talks. It serves to undermine his or her spouse's work and make the Secretary appear neutered.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:21 PM on August 4, 2009


Good news.

What a photo.
posted by beingresourceful at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2009


It serves to undermine his or her spouse's work and make the Secretary appear neutered.

Come on, despite jokes to the contrary, we all know that Hilary doesn't have testicles.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


The surprisingly swift resolution of the secret mission made a monkey of some prominent Obama administration critics.

The mission's success or failure doesn't alter the accusations Bolton is making. His underlying assumptions are incorrect. The reporters were not being held hostage by a terrorist nation. President Bush removed North Korea from the terrorist blacklist in 2008.
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


The spouse of the Secretary of State getting involved in diplomatic matters is a conflict of interest. Even if they are not formal talks. It serves to undermine his or her spouse's work and make the Secretary appear neutered.

You must be smoking something. This just shows Hillary's strength. You think Condoleeza could've sent her former President husband to negotiate a hostage release? She's an incredibly powerful SoS, no less because of who her husband is.
posted by billysumday at 1:27 PM on August 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


Bill Clinton shouldn't have gotten involved.

by your reasoning, then, Bill Clinton should not ever get involved in anything, for as long as Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State, because it would undermine her.

That completely overlooks the fact that Bill Clinton, as a former President, brings an enormous amount to the table in international negotiations, and we should just cheerfully forgo that because some less evolved folks would see it as dismissive of our Secretary of State.

I think Hillary Clinton is not so easily 'neutered', and people who see this as undermining her probably don't give her much credit to begin with.

I don't care who negotiated their release, I am very happy for Laura Ling and Euna Lee and their families.
posted by ambrosia at 1:29 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


From the freepers:
Now Bill gets to pick up two woman and take them home on his plane....

These “journalists” work for Al Gore. Better to let them rot in North Korea....
but surprisingly other than wondering what was given in trade the freepers seem pretty civil about this, alt least so far.
posted by caddis at 1:30 PM on August 4, 2009


This just shows Hillary's strength.

Au contraire. She was just recently insluted by North Korea and then it's her husband who steps in.

It makes it seem like a woman in power in our highest diplomatic office can't do anything when a man can just waltz right in and secure the release.

It makes the Secretary of State look toothless.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:32 PM on August 4, 2009


You go, Bill Clinton. I'm so happy that Lee and Ling are coming home!!!!!!!!
posted by spec80 at 1:32 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


President Bush removed North Korea from the terrorist blacklist in 2008.

Yes, they are now known for their great justice and rule of law.

She's an incredibly powerful SoS, no less because of who her husband is.

An incredibly powerful SoS would have been able to negotiate the release without sending a new set of envoys while setting a lofty precedent for negotiations in the process.
posted by uaudio at 1:34 PM on August 4, 2009


Do you not understand at all how this is a conflict of interest?

Not snarky: I don't. Are not Bill and Hillary and Obama on the same page: ie, the national interest?
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:38 PM on August 4, 2009


And in other news… North Korea gets unexpected propaganda windfall as former American President, Bill Clinton, begs “Dear Leader” for custody of two naive ladies.
posted by LakesideOrion at 1:38 PM on August 4, 2009


You say tomato, I say tomato. You see this as an example of Hillary's weakness, I see this as an example of Hillary's strength. You don't think was all orchestrated? Hillary plays bad cop, then Bill goes in and makes peace, secures the release of the prisoners? I think that the fact that we differ in how we see this has more to say about our opinions of Hillary Clinton than anything else.
posted by billysumday at 1:39 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Bill isn't just Hillary's husband, he's a former president from the current president's party acting as a special envoy. Carter and Bush I both did the same thing at one time or another. There's nothing about this that undermines Hillary at all. This is just how this sort of thing is traditionally done. Despite the attempts to spin this away, this is a diplomatic win for Obama and both Clintons.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:40 PM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


It makes the Secretary of State look toothless.

Well, aren't they?

This was all a set-up and BillC didn't have to do anything but put in the appearance. The bargaining was all about who would make the flight, that's all.

Plus whatever quid-pro-quo went on secretly. If it were up to me, I'd say you can keep our prisoners or we level Pyongyang, pick one, but whatevs.
posted by @troy at 1:41 PM on August 4, 2009


Granted, DPRK has tons of military equipment and is seeking to develop ICBMs, but why advocate a staunch hard line when negotiating with them? Any one with a bit of compassion can see that the entire country is kind of like a mentally disabled child and needs to be engaged in a much different fashion than say Iran or just about any other nation that isn't so absolutely totemic in structure. Do what is needed to establish more dialogue and then make inroads. Just because this release wasn't done with the strictest amount of diplomatic formalism doesn't mean it was wrongly played.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:41 PM on August 4, 2009


Was Jimmy Carter busy?
Well, right after the last time Jimmy Carter visited North Korea, the leader of the country dropped dead. I'm not sure the US wanted to come across as that threatening.

Sending over Bill Clinton says, "We're going to buy you some flowers, take you out to nice dinner, and make sweet, sweet love to you by the fire." Kim Jong-Il just wanted to be romanced and feel loved.
posted by deanc at 1:42 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bill doing it saves the Norks some face. They didn't officially deal with the US govt and can pretend that they released them out of the goodness of their hearts.
posted by PenDevil at 1:42 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, diplomacy win. No official administration goons needed to go in and beg, Clinton shows up, shake some hands and says "Yes, we're very sorry" and the girls go home. Obama gets to say he played hardball, the girls come back to the states and Clinton got another notch on his belt. What's the problem here?
posted by GilloD at 1:44 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


And in other news… North Korea gets unexpected propaganda windfall as former American President, Bill Clinton, begs “Dear Leader” for custody of two naive ladies.

Spin it however you want. Our people are coming home. I know there's a party that doesn't think it's real important for our people to come home, but there's a reason it's getting smaller every day and no one wants to vote for them.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:44 PM on August 4, 2009 [25 favorites]


Indeed, I doubt they really sorted it out this afternoon over a beer...
posted by A189Nut at 1:45 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It makes the Secretary of State look toothless.

The Secretary of State is toothless. Look at the last two before this one. It's going to take some time before that gets repaired, and what happened today helped.

The international relations between the U.S. and North Korea already deep in the shitter, Obama sending a cabinet secretary to directly negotiate on behalf of the President would have looked exactly like what conservative hawks would have attacked it as. Instead, Obama sent a non-cabinet envoy who also has stronger international clout than anyone else alive right now.

Bill Richardson, not exactly a novice on negotiation issues, was just on CNN trying to explain what North Korea "got" out of this. His honest and realistic answer? The photo op. That honestly is it. Kim Jong Il got to feel like big man talking to former President Bill Clinton. He wasn't going to get that with any Obama official, especially not the woman currently in charge of the State Department.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:48 PM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


How was it secret when I found out about it yesterday? They even announced that he got flowers from a little North Korean kid as he got off the plane.
posted by delmoi at 1:48 PM on August 4, 2009


Indeed, I doubt they really sorted it out this afternoon over a beer...

Actually, this exchange may well have involved some sort of shipment of expensive alcohol in a back channel around the UN sanctions on the DPRK against importing luxury goods.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:49 PM on August 4, 2009



And in other news… North Korea gets unexpected propaganda windfall as former American President, Bill Clinton, begs “Dear Leader” for custody of two naive ladies.


Who cares about a propaganda victory for them? No one outside the country buys their bullshit and the country itself is already as brainwashed as a country can be.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:50 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kim Jong-Il just wanted to be romanced and feel loved.

I believe he even wrote a song about it.
posted by chillmost at 1:50 PM on August 4, 2009


Hillary's not fuming. Hillary set it up. US Presidents do not talk to North Korea. But Bill Clinton is a private citizen, plus he's freakin' Bill Clinton, so HE can talk to anyone he wants. Hillary gets the okay and greases the diplomatic wheels, Kim Jong Il gets to talk and do a photo op with a U.S. "President" gaining HUGE face, two cold war pawns get released from a horrible fate, Bill Clinton polishes his image a bit. What's not to love. This is how it's supposed to work.
posted by nax at 1:50 PM on August 4, 2009 [28 favorites]


North Korea gets unexpected propaganda windfall as former American President, Bill Clinton, begs “Dear Leader” for custody of two naive ladies.
The Bush administration was an era in which the biggest fear was that any form of negotiations would result in... "OMG the other side might feel better about themselves!!1!11111!!!" as if face-to-face contacts were some sort of "reward" to be doled out.

This kind of reasoning was silly. What, exactly, is the worth of this supposed "propaganda windfall"? it seems that it results in no material benefit for Kim Jong-Il (is his country richer? does it make him closer to getting nuclear weapons?). It does, however, make people like John Bolton and the other people behind the Bush foreign policy team feel worse. Which I suppose could be considered a "loss" for the US if you're a Bushite. For the rest of us, it doesn't matter, as we are not a nation that becomes more powerful by feeding our feelings of "spite."
posted by deanc at 1:52 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


[Cut it out with the personal insults.]
posted by cortex at 1:52 PM on August 4, 2009


Isn't Kim Jong Il basically nuts? It seems fairly risky to send a former president into an essentially hostile country. I don't really think he is crazy enough to start a huge international incident with the US, but he might be. I suppose Bill Clinton is in a better position than I to know the risks.
posted by graventy at 1:54 PM on August 4, 2009


We send special envoys all the time for various negotiations, without this being seen as undermining the Secretary of State. They can provide gravitas without formal government commitment:
“While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment,” Mr. Gibbs said in a statement. “We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton’s mission.”

(emphasis mine)
Do you not understand at all how this is a conflict of interest?

No, I don't see that at all. Bill Clinton went with the permission and blessing of the Obama administration, if not at their direct request. He was accompanied by John Podesta, an "informal Obama advisor." It's clear who both he and Hillary are working for, here.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:54 PM on August 4, 2009


John Bolton accomplishes the near-impossible: being an even worse human being than Michael Bolton.
posted by the_bone at 1:54 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kim Jong Il is nuts, I don't think he's suicidal. Even China would flinch if they kidnapped a former American president.
posted by GilloD at 1:56 PM on August 4, 2009


Not snarky: I don't. Are not Bill and Hillary and Obama on the same page: ie, the national interest?

Yes, but let's illustrate this another way.

Let's say I am the head of company X, looking to make a deal with company Y. My husband used to work for company Z in a similar, but slightly higher level position as mine, but he retired and is now an independent consultant.

I've been working to make this deal for a while and company Y's CEO and I have butted heads a little.

Suddenly one morning, my husband visits Y's CEO, they have a beer and by lunch time, they make the deal between X & Y that I've been trying to negotiate and seal for a while.

Stolen thunder, etc.

Even if it's for the same ultimate goal, in this scenario my husband has undermined my authority, made me look weak in my ability to do my job, and basically cost me respect in front of the shareholders.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:58 PM on August 4, 2009


I fail to see this as anything but (as the kids used to say) "full of win." I'm confused by the arguments of those who would prefer the SoS make the trip herself for the very reasons as to why this would be unwise (cited by others, above).
posted by joe lisboa at 1:58 PM on August 4, 2009


The relationship between the US and North Korea is totally like that example about different companies.
posted by billysumday at 1:59 PM on August 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


Even if it's for the same ultimate goal, in this scenario my husband has undermined my authority, made me look weak in my ability to do my job, and basically cost me respect in front of the shareholders.

Even if this characterization is correct, there's certainly no "conflict of interest" as you originally claimed. All actors have clear and unconflicted interests.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:01 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


in this scenario my husband has undermined my authority, made me look weak in my ability to do my job, and basically cost me respect in front of the shareholders.

I would argue, rather, that your shareholders are grateful that you enlisted your husband to get them the deal they wanted.
I mean, do you really think Hillary wasn't aware and involved? If the trip had failed, she would have tried to claim some distance, but that would have been roundly shouted down as utterly implausible.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's say I am the head of company X...

No, that's a fallacy right there. Corporate negotiations are not international diplomacy. The dynamic is completely different. A former President of the United States is much different thing than a former CEO.
posted by JeffK at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you thought they could keep two hotties who haven't seen a man in months away from Bill? You don't know Bill.
Poor Bill Clinton. He thought 'captive girls' meant the Pleasure Squad.
We don't know how the girls' were treated in North Korea. They may have been treated well, given their high profile. But given the hellish conditions in North Korean forced labor camps ( We had an FPP about them month ago) I find these jokes in pretty poor taste.

Also the comments about how this is somehow a slight to Hillary, or that bill went on his own or whatever are pretty strange. I'm sure she was aware of what was going on.
Was Jimmy Carter busy? Bill Clinton is not merely the former president but the spouse of the Secretary of State, our top diplomat. -- cmgonzalez
Bill Clinton has a far bigger international celebrity then carter these days.
Do you not understand at all how this is a conflict of interest? -- cmgonzalez
Uh, no. Also, the idea you seem to have that we would be better off letting these two innocent women rot in a North Korean prison rather then somehow "undermine" the authority of the Secretary of State in some sense (if you think about it a certain way) is downright bizarre.
posted by delmoi at 2:05 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]




Let's say I'm the head of company A and company B just kidnapped my workers. If I piss off company B they will blow up company C and I will be forced to use my workers to protect company C and try and blow up company B.

At this point should I be concerned about my PR or about getting my workers back and not having any companies blow up?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:05 PM on August 4, 2009


Here's a better analogy. Let's say I'm the head of company X. Company Y, which is based in a different country, just FUCKING KIDNAPPED two of my employees! Holy shit, what the fuck! Maybe I should get the Federal government involved. Hopefully they have some heavy hitters who can work in coordination with each other, and secure my employees' release.
posted by billysumday at 2:05 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


And I think cortex has a special organ in his neck which allows him to detect impending flamewars from a great distance.
posted by JeffK at 2:07 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Suddenly one morning, my husband visits Y's CEO, they have a beer and by lunch time, they make the deal between X & Y that I've been trying to negotiate and seal for a while.

Except for that bit where Bill Clinton's visit assuredly was not "sudden," did not occur without Hillary Clinton's knowledge and consent, and all the other things other posters have pointed out already.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:07 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]



The LAT:
"The goal was a specific deal: If the United States showed respect by dispatching a high-level emissary to Pyongyang, the North would release journalists Laura Ling and Eun Lee, who were arrested along the border with China on March 17...

...A large number of respected figures volunteered to be the envoy, including Clinton; former Vice President Al Gore, who is co-founder of the media company that employs the two women; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.); New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald P. Gregg.
But it became clear that Clinton was the best choice. He presided over a long thaw in relations between the U.S. and North Korea as president in the 1990s and is one of the most important American visitors to the North since his secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, traveled there in 2000."
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:07 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let's say I am the head of company X, looking to make a deal with company Y. My husband used to work for company Z in a similar, but slightly higher level position as mine, but he retired and is now an independent consultant.

I've been working to make this deal for a while and company Y's CEO and I have butted heads a little.

Suddenly one morning, my husband visits Y's CEO, they have a beer and by lunch time, they make the deal between X & Y that I've been trying to negotiate and seal for a while.

Stolen thunder, etc.

Even if it's for the same ultimate goal, in this scenario my husband has undermined my authority, made me look weak in my ability to do my job, and basically cost me respect in front of the shareholders.
That entire scenario is absurd. First of all, if I'm a shareholder in X, and I want the deal with Y done, I don't give a damn how it happens. If the CEO can call in her husband to negotiate, that makes her a better CEO in my mind because she can call in her husband to make these deals go through. If on the other hand, I knew that the CEO refused to do the deal because they preferred working with her husband and thus undermined her perceived authority, I would be pissed. It would mean I was losing money because the CEO was valuing her ego and sense of authority over shareholder value.

But in this case, it wasn't money it was two people's lives.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


The spouse of the Secretary of State getting involved in diplomatic matters is a conflict of interest. Even if they are not formal talks. It serves to undermine his or her spouse's work and make the Secretary appear neutered.

In other words, this is great news for John McCain!
posted by fleacircus at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


as if face-to-face contacts were some sort of "reward" to be doled out.

With North Korea, that's basically it. Witness the months-long haggling that is done to ensure that the US is not the only one at a negotiation with them. NK would have preferred that, as would some politicians in the other countries.

Look, guys, people have gotten snagged by NK for doing this before. There are always warnings by travel guides and locals who say to not get to close to the border, lest you're kidnapped for trespassing. The locals who told me this were afraid of it happening to themselves. The secretary of state is not always there for them. Some people have spent years in NK prisons because of this.

I think it's a great thing that they were released, but is everyone here truly blinded about the incentives here? Are you okay with another visit by Clinton the next time someone get nabbed? What if they're not as well-connected as these two, will he not be as swift?

I don't know how I feel about this. I'm glad very that it was Bill instead of an Hillary. But those who think that speaking to North Korea unconditionally is a good idea needs to read up on the past 20 years of dealing with them.
posted by FuManchu at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2009


Wow. Bill went all out for Obama's birthday.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:12 PM on August 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


If it were up to me, I'd say you can keep our prisoners or we level Pyongyang, pick one, but whatevs.

Seoul, DPRK Artillery and the "Sea of Fire"
Seoul sits within range of the vast majority of North Korea’s 50-year long artillery and rocket force buildup...U.S. military estimates in 1994 were that those artillery pieces could bombard Seoul with 5,000 rounds in the first 24 hours of any attack. Such an attack could mean tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties and billions of dollars of damage in Seoul.
Whatevs indeed.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:13 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, the real corporate world is absolutly rife with conflicts of interests. The CEO of AIG held Goldman Sachs shares, for example. Google's CEO hired his mistress to run the New York advertising sales office, etc.
posted by delmoi at 2:14 PM on August 4, 2009


I'd call a phot-op for the release of 2 prisoners a pretty sweet deal. Idiots like Bolton wouldn't be happy unless some Delta Force/SEAL Team members were gunned down in a botched prison break.
posted by PenDevil at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2009



A whole FPP on this with no sex jokes? Come on. At least toss in a "Clinton picks up two asian chicks" or something.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:16 PM on August 4 [4 favorites +] Favorite removed! [!]


either someone stole this joke and put it on fark... or this joke was stolen from fark... or it's just that obvious a joke
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2009


No doubt this was all sorted weeks ago. Of course it perpetuates the celebrity politics of the Dear Leader in the fact that Bill had to visit and it couldn't just be announced. In fact it perpetuates the celebrity politics of Bill and every other leader. I wonder if it was a surprise to the MSM or whether they too were expectant participants in the shadow play.
posted by A189Nut at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2009


Good work Mr Clinton. Makes all that speculation about Kim's health earlier in the year look entirely off-base.
posted by Abiezer at 2:17 PM on August 4, 2009


and Clinton got another notch on his belt.

Probably two.
posted by snofoam at 2:17 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


When Hillary went to N. Korea in July, they called her "funny lady, by no means intelligent." I wonder if that made it awkward.
posted by masterburst at 2:19 PM on August 4, 2009



either someone stole this joke and put it on fark... or this joke was stolen from fark... or it's just that obvious a joke


I saw it on TotalFark, was expecting them to greenlight a slightly less obvious sex joke.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:21 PM on August 4, 2009


It serves to undermine Kim Jong-il and make him appear neutered.

FTFY.

Sending the Secretary of State to NK makes it a formal diplomatic visit, it grants the host country political legitimacy. Sending her husband makes the hostage situation seem like something her and the President can't be bothered with. Sure Bill gets all the credit for this, but it was a shrewd move for the Secretary and President to stick to working behind the scenes.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:22 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


cmgonzalez: lives were at stake and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sent someone whom they could trust - and realistically maybe the only person who could've done the job in an unofficial capacity - to reach the best possible result. Seriously, no one was undermined here, and no one went behind Hillary's back.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:24 PM on August 4, 2009


Best part of the story is here.
posted by fixedgear at 2:25 PM on August 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


Uh, no. Also, the idea you seem to have that we would be better off letting these two innocent women rot in a North Korean prison rather then somehow "undermine" the authority of the Secretary of State in some sense (if you think about it a certain way) is downright bizarre.

First of all, stop putting words in my mouth. I said that securing this release was a great thing. My thoughts afterward as posted here are merely about the process involved.

This is not something that I believe is specific to the Clintons, but that any Secretary of State's spouse should not get involved with diplomatic relations while his or her spouse is in office.

The conflict of interest is there, but it is in how you define the stakes. It does not look good to other countries if our Secretary of State appears weak and ineffective (and unable to secure a release in such a high-profile case). It also undermines her authority to those who lack respect for her as a female in a position of power.

That isn't to say that special envoys are not a valuable resource, but one so intimately involved with the Secretary should stay out.

As for the corporate example, it is necessarily flawed because as someone stated, international relations are not corporate relations. But it is a valuable enough example to show the problem. I consider this situation as it looks to others from the outside and going forward.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:26 PM on August 4, 2009


This is a retarded argument, frankly. The SoS uses the tools in his/her arsenal to get things done. There is no standard procedure for dealing with the DPRK.

cmgonzalez, frankly, it seems like you're just grasping here and arguing from some sort of idealized notion of How Things Should Work when in reality this is about Getting Things Done.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:29 PM on August 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


Using John Bolton's preferred "negotiation" strategy, the Bush administration saw North Korea develop nuclear weapons.

Using Obama's strategy, North Korea got a picture with an ex-President and an half-assed apology, which I apparently is "propaganda victory."
posted by dirigibleman at 2:31 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I never indicated anywhere that I believe anyone went behind Hillary's back.

When Hillary went to N. Korea in July, they called her "funny lady, by no means intelligent." I wonder if that made it awkward.

To me, these insults are another reason why she should have gone herself.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:31 PM on August 4, 2009


cmgonzalez, you're engaging in word salad here.

"It also undermines her authority"

WHAT AUTHORITY?
posted by @troy at 2:32 PM on August 4, 2009


I wonder if these journalists will try to infiltrate North Korea again - or do we think they learned their lesson this time? How about the "hikers" in Iran or the guy who thought it would be a good idea to go visit Aung San Suu Kyi?

Kim Jung Il is in failing health and some reports say he's been challenged by rival factions in his military over the past few years. He agreed to (proposed?) the terms of today's dog-and-pony show... so he obviously finds value in Clinton coming to his country posing for the obligatory trophy photo / kow-tow session.

Its sad that we need to continually expend our political capital (as negotiations with NK are based entirely on perceived positions of strength and weakness) to free these vigilante "foreign policy experts" all around the world.

For the record, I'm glad their home. Also for the record, they never should have risked their lives for a news piece called "Yup, North Korea is Still Bad" for a channel that nobody watches.
posted by LakesideOrion at 2:32 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kim sure looks like shit, doesn't he? He's emaciated.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:33 PM on August 4, 2009


Best part of the story is here.

Oh, that's hilarious. :D
"Fuck you, Kim Jong-il, you evil commie bastard! This shit has THREE KINDS OF HAM ON IT!"
LOL
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


To me, these insults are another reason why she should have gone herself

There was no "going" to negotiate. With our spiffy 21st century communications we can conduct diplomacy through the post, or what have you.

This was a pick-up mission. It doesn't matter who was sent.
posted by @troy at 2:34 PM on August 4, 2009


Lakesideorion, what do you mean by the quotes around "hikers"?
posted by josher71 at 2:35 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if these journalists will try to infiltrate North Korea again - or do we think they learned their lesson this time?

They were AFAIK kidnapped in China. The NKs do that sort of shit.
posted by @troy at 2:35 PM on August 4, 2009


Using John Bolton's preferred "negotiation" strategy, the Bush administration saw North Korea develop nuclear weapons.

Um, using Bill Clinton's preferred strategy, they got extra aid while doing the same thing.
posted by FuManchu at 2:36 PM on August 4, 2009


expend our political capital

Christ, I hate this expression. You don't "expend" capital; you use it as a means of production until it's fully depreciated!!! Seriously, it's like saying "fly our bicycles" or something.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:36 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I am happy that this has happened, and from a partisan view point I think it is good that B. Clinton was the one to put the final touches to the negotiations. A few related points though: 1. I would have been content if Bush Sr. had been the one to go and do this as well, not as partisan happy, but content for the outcome.
2. Have read elsewhere that Gore, Kerry and Richardson where also on the short list to go do this, there was some negotiation with N. Korea and they ultimately wanted Clinton, so he went.
3. Anyone who thinks this was something that happened independent of the State dept, read H. Clinton, is fooling themselves. Family members in power sometimes send other family members to do diplomatic work.
4. This is indeed a feather in B. Clinton's cap, but is also the culmination of plenty of work by the Obama administration, big kudos to Clinton and a respectful acknowledgment to Obama. A good job done, and hopefully Bill is shedding some of the ill-will he held from the tough primary.
posted by edgeways at 2:36 PM on August 4, 2009


Nothing...

But do many folks go hiking in Iraq (right on the Iranian boarder) for fun these days? Just guessing, but there is probably more to this story. I've got a dollar that says they are freelance journalists (spooks?).

I hope they come home safely too, but now we have to go begging to Iran.
posted by LakesideOrion at 2:39 PM on August 4, 2009


You know, I just don't understand the right-wingers in this country.

A civilian makes a sudden trip to a nuclear-armed adversary nation, holds talks with its dangerous, reclusive leader, frees captives, escapes with his life.

That's not called negotiating with terrorists. That's called BALLS.

Like to see GWB try that.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:39 PM on August 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


This was a pick-up mission. It doesn't matter who was sent.

Ah, well. Have to say, glad you're not in charge of diplomatic relations.
posted by edgeways at 2:39 PM on August 4, 2009


I am engaging in discussion . And it is obviously her authority and reputation/image as America's head diplomat and representative of the US on the international relations stage, which you might have realized had you not been too busy trying to insult me instead of thinking.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:39 PM on August 4, 2009


Also for the record, they never should have risked their lives for a news piece called "Yup, North Korea is Still Bad" for a channel that nobody watches.

Juuuust in case you were still wondering if this person's comments were maybe-just-maybe driven by Al Gore Derangement Syndrome, you have your answer. It's funny how some of the loudest braying voices whenever FREEDOM!11! comes up are attached to people who, when the chips are down, are authoritarian to the core.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:40 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've got a dollar that says they are freelance journalists (spooks?).

Uh, why would they be hiking there? You can be sure there are US spooks in Iran, but they're not posing as hikers in remote border areas.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:41 PM on August 4, 2009


I happen to be acquaintances with the one guy who stayed behind and I'm pretty sure that none of these people are spies unless they are recruiting anarchists. Journalists? Maybe. But I don't think so.
posted by josher71 at 2:42 PM on August 4, 2009


But do many folks go hiking in Iraq (right on the Iranian boarder) for fun these days? Just guessing, but there is probably more to this story. I've got a dollar that says they are freelance journalists (spooks?).

Yes they go hiking for fun, in Kurdistan. It's very stable and very pro-American and yes I learned that on NPR this morning like probably 30-40% of you.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:47 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


"...Al Gore Derangement Syndrome... Nice ad hominem attack, Joe. How about debating what I said?

(Also, I can't be dismissed that easily, I voted for Al Gore.)

You got stats that show people are watching Current TV in any great numbers? Worth risking your life over?
posted by LakesideOrion at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2009


We are so used to either bad news or "good news but..." stories that some of us are overthinking these diplomatic beans as a purely reflex reaction. What this is is Absolutely, Positively, Undeniably, a BIG WIN. Kim wasn't going to give his hostages up without some saving of face, and a non-official delegate who also is an Ex-President who was also the last U.S. President to, in his eyes, be nice to him is a big save to him and and almost nobody else who isn't taking every opportunity to try to undermine the current Administration.

And the incredibly easy joke-ability is a bonus (one even Conan can get a couple good monologue lines from).

One terrible thought: no way they could've sent Al Gore in; since he owns the media entity the women worked for, Kim might have felt a total loss of 'face' if he didn't arrest Al for conspiring with the 'spies'.
posted by wendell at 2:57 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, it sure is comforting to know that there are people out there who value their own artificial values of what proper diplomatic procedure is over bringing real human beings home. By "comforting", I mean kind of depressing.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:59 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like to see GWB try that.

Former presidents do seem to like remaining involved in international affairs, so seeing GWB take a stab at it at some point in the future wouldn't set any precedents.

It will, however, be undoubtedly hilarious.
posted by quin at 2:59 PM on August 4, 2009


Fair enough. You voted for Al Gore. I still remain baffled by your crassly utilitarian analysis. By your logic, nobody should ever cover a story if it doesn't line the pockets of shareholders? I apologize for the ad hominem (implied), but I'm honestly confused by your take. Is this just contrarian armchair diplomacy, because that's the only charitable reading I can give it at this point. And I mean no offense. Not this time, at any rate.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:01 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


This wendelled.
posted by PenDevil at 3:02 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am engaging in discussion . And it is obviously her authority and reputation/image as America's head diplomat and representative of the US on the international relations stage, which you might have realized had you not been too busy trying to insult me instead of thinking.
Obama was never going to legitimize North Korea's actions in holding the journalists prisoner by sending his actual Secretary of State to negotiate with North Korea in good faith. You don't do that sort of thing when you're the most powerful country in the world. You especially don't give away that sort of major diplomatic coup to a small-time lunatic, which is what Kim Jong-Il is.

In terms of international relations, this only reinforces Hillary Clinton's standing. Keep in mind we're talking about the real world here, and not some cloud-cuckoo abstraction where hypotheticals rule the day. Hillary Clinton just sent a very clear message that she has more important things to do than fuck around with some syphilitic shoe-thrower, and that, even thought this is ZOMG NORTH KOREA, this kind of thing can be effectively delegated.

Even better, Hillary Clinton is such a galactically giant badass that the person she can delegate this to is one of the most popular former Presidents of the United States. The Bush Administration was amateur ball. This is the major leagues, where you let North Korea blow off steam for a while making impotent threats, and then you quietly and instantly solve the goddamned problem while fifteen million largely clueless pundits try to tell you how to fix it.

While we're in the real world, let's take a look at the clear and unambiguous message this sends to anyone else who was considering fucking around with the United States by proxy:The only place that this looks like an abrogation of Hillary Clinton's power and authority is in the minds of people who, for whatever reason, never took Hillary Clinton's power and authority seriously in the first place. Maybe because she's a woman, maybe because she's a Clinton, or maybe because they have no actual experience in international relations or diplomacy.

This was one of the smoothest asskickings the United States has ever laid on an adversary in years, and it didn't happen by accident.
posted by scrump at 3:04 PM on August 4, 2009 [91 favorites]


Huh, so this was actually not that different from another American arrested for entering North Korea, save for the fame of the negotiator.
posted by FuManchu at 3:08 PM on August 4, 2009


Using John Bolton's preferred "negotiation" strategy, the Bush administration saw North Korea develop nuclear weapons.
Um, using Bill Clinton's preferred strategy, they got extra aid while doing the same thing.


The Bush/Bolton North Korea strategy didn't slow their nuclear weapons development but it did cost some Korean lives to starvation (none of whom were important to the nuke program). If you think that's a superior strategy, then Kim Jung-Il wishes you were on his side (and frankly, so do I).
posted by wendell at 3:08 PM on August 4, 2009


Wikipedia is your friend, especially for matters you're not familiar with.
posted by FuManchu at 3:12 PM on August 4, 2009


So you expect the two reporters to commit suicide a month after their release, Fu? Because that's what it would take to make this case similar in any way.
posted by wendell at 3:14 PM on August 4, 2009


LakesideOrion
So are you making the argument that only journalists at major networks should try to risk their necks to get stories? They were reporting on the trafficking of women, which [I don't know] seems like a pretty important story to me - no matter who is doing the reporting or how many people might watch their report. I don't think journalists are expected to pack it in and give up reporting important stories because they don't have a million viewers a minute.

Let's just be thankful that Bill Clinton was able to secure their release and leave it at that.
posted by Rashomon at 3:15 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even if it's for the same ultimate goal, in this scenario my husband has undermined my authority, made me look weak in my ability to do my job, and basically cost me respect in front of the shareholders.

I understand that you seem to think that any woman who wishes to have any position of power must have a weak, ineffectual husband. Sounds like a pretty sucky deal to me.
posted by rodgerd at 3:18 PM on August 4, 2009


So you expect the two reporters to commit suicide a month after their release, Fu? Because that's what it would take to make this case similar in any way.

Not quite. I see that they were both near a border river. Were both detained by NK border police/soldiers. Were both pretty clearly not spies. Were both threatened with espionage charges. Both had government-related people visit, as private citizens, to negotiate their release. Both were resolved and returned within a few months of their detention.
posted by FuManchu at 3:22 PM on August 4, 2009


It serves to undermine his or her spouse's work and make the Secretary appear neutered.

It also makes it harder to predict what the US will do from now on. Always a good thing with international diplomacy, I'd guess.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:28 PM on August 4, 2009


All the speculation in the world about how this 'makes her look' is a plate of beans compared to how we actually view her. Do you think she looks neutered, weak, ineffective? Is this your oblique way of stating your views on what these events make you think about her? Or are you preemptively worried about what other people might think? Both?

I'm not saying perception doesn't matter, it does. But we shouldn't be so preoccupied about her image as a result of this if the people whose assessment we care about don't actually see it that way. That said, I'm curious how this whole event is being perceived by others. Anybody have links to share?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:42 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone asked above why are they calling it a secret: it's because there weren't press releases or statements or days of reports before Clinton's arrival speculating what might happen. CunningLinguist is correct in her wording. The mission itself was not secret, but the trip to go to Korea was.
posted by spec80 at 3:47 PM on August 4, 2009


This whole foreign policy that doesn't involve a rush to arms is very confusing to me.
posted by zzazazz at 3:54 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


There are surely few things that make a government official look weaker than the ability to send a former Commander-in-Chief to the other side of the world as a glorified errand boy, yessir. When was the last time Bill did... well, almost anything on the world stage? It's pretty obvious that he has no real ability to pursue his own agenda; he's basically a very big gun that can only be aimed and fired by some combination of his wife and her boss.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:03 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is not something that I believe is specific to the Clintons, but that any Secretary of State's spouse should not get involved with diplomatic relations while his or her spouse is in office.

The conflict of interest is there, but it is in how you define the stakes.


Yeah... I don't think you understand what "conflict of interest" actually means. Here you say the Secretary of state's status is diminished, but the girls were released. You could argue that those are two competing facts, but they aren't really interests. Both Hillary and Bill were doing what they thought was best for the country, their interests were aligned. Whatever you say this says about Hillary, it makes Obama look pretty good. He got these people released. I don't think the Women's families are particularly care how it was done.

A conflict of interest would be a situation where two opposing goals would both benefit a person, particularly where one benefit for an individual vastly outweighs the benefit for his or her employer. So for example, if Bill were sent to Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal, and he was also a major stockholder in an a Chinese Oil company that profited from the status quo.
posted by delmoi at 4:05 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think in this instance Hillary Clinton gives more a shit about getting 2 innocent people home to their families than how she looks.
posted by spec80 at 4:18 PM on August 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


I think in this instance Hillary Clinton gives more a shit about getting 2 innocent people home to their families than how she looks.

She never seemed to worried about the ones in Gitmo.
posted by delmoi at 4:31 PM on August 4, 2009


The real goal was obviously to get the giant alien cockroach that controls Kim Yong-Il's mind into Bill Clinton's body.

The giant alien caterpillar that masquerades as John Bolton's moustache is also trying to leap hosts, but nobody will get near the damn thing.
posted by benzenedream at 4:43 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


She never seemed to worried about the ones in Gitmo.
It is vastly politically easier to do something about the Americans being held by foreign powers than it is to do something about the Americans being held by our own government.

Note that I neither endorsed this political calculation nor stated that I believe the Americans held in Gitmo deserve their fate: I'm just stating political fact.
posted by scrump at 4:45 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


LakesideOrion:
But do many folks go hiking in Iraq (right on the Iranian boarder) for fun these days? Just guessing, but there is probably more to this story. I've got a dollar that says they are freelance journalists (spooks?).

drjimmy11:
Yes they go hiking for fun, in Kurdistan. It's very stable and very pro-American and yes I learned that on NPR this morning like probably 30-40% of you.


For anyone who didn't catch it, here is the link to the NPR interview mentioned by drjimmy11. The guest is Cesar Soriano from Lonely Planet. He made it sound like quite a heavenly place to visit; plenty of waterfalls, dancing, and friendly local family picnics to interest the adventurous backpacker. Since the border is not clearly marked with a fence, it's easy to inadvertently cross.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:48 PM on August 4, 2009


The New York Times reporting on this has been simply excellent. I read an earlier version of this article last night, before the release of the two reporters was official. This really struck me:

It was widely assumed that Mr. Clinton would not have undertaken the mission without specific assurances that Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee would be released.

In other words, the release was predetermined, and Mr. Clinton's presence in N. Korea was both a reward for promised good behavior and possibly the start of serious negotiations through effective back channels. The article more than hints at that here:

Mr. Clinton is the first former American president to travel to North Korea since 1994, when Jimmy Carter went to Pyongyang — with Mr. Clinton’s half-hearted blessing — to try to strike a deal to suspend the North’s nuclear work in return for concessions from the United States. Ultimately that led to a 1994 nuclear accord, which froze North Korea’s production of plutonium until the deal fell apart in 2002.

Note that Clinton and his team met not only with Kim Jong Il, but with other very high-level officials.

To my mind, this is has Hillary Clinton's very capable fingerprints all over it. Her conduct in the Senate and her diplomacy so far show that she is willing to sacrifice personal glory for an effective outcome.

Also, I don't believe that Bill Clinton would depart for North Korea -- accompanied by John Podesta at that -- without the full blessing of both the President and the Secretary of State.

Again the article says as much:

The visit by Mr. Clinton, even if officially a private effort, was clearly undertaken with the blessings of the White House, and marked his first diplomatic mission abroad on behalf of the administration. Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been deeply involved in the journalists’ case.

I could be proven wrong, but . . . . so far, a masterful move from the administration and a nuanced report for the N.Y. Times.
posted by ferdydurke at 4:50 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I should add that though the quotes above come from the current NY Times article, I remember reading them in essentially the same form last night, before the two journalists were released.
posted by ferdydurke at 4:53 PM on August 4, 2009


Well played, Bill. Well played.

Well played, Bill Hillary. Well played.
posted by cazoo at 5:25 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wonderful news.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:45 PM on August 4, 2009


Nice work, Bill, really. but you're not president wanymore. Here's a bucket of wings, relax.

(Did anybody else watch when Bill was a gues on racel ray's talk show? Anyone else figure that during the commercials he was saying "Hey, how about abfter the show you and me duck out for a donut, honey?"

Just me? OK.)
posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on August 4, 2009


That's awesome. Now how about some political figures for negotiating some justice for Melissa Roxas?

Oh wait, that's right, allied countries get Freedom Passes(TM)!
posted by yeloson at 5:58 PM on August 4, 2009


North Korea gets unexpected propaganda windfall

What windfall would that be? Like, how in the fuck could North Korea use this so-called propaganda in any meaningful way? A former president negotiated the release of hostages, among other things. You mean, my god, we actually talked to a crazy dictator instead of ignoring him. So. Do tell me about this windfall. Are they suddenly gonna be given a table at the G10? Let in the WTO? Is Kim Jong Il gonna host the Grammy's this year? What? Please explain what this nets the DPRK that is a minus for the US and the world?

The only PR windfall will be for mouth breathers and Fox News who have no idea what the fuck they are talking about.
posted by tkchrist at 6:01 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


The only PR windfall will be for mouth breathers and Fox News who have no idea what the fuck they are talking about.

Well, them and the people in the State Department who have to go through Kabuki rituals regularly with the Norks, who are like goddamn ctenacious children when it comes to negotiating.

Please explain what this nets the DPRK that is a minus for the US and the world?

Well, not in any meaningful sense to most people. But it's going to add to their list of comebacks and honors that they get to cite when they next demand something. In business and political negotiations the person with the most chits in their pocket comes out slightly ahead.

It's an official grievance that US citizens have now encroached on NK, as admitted by the well respected Bill Clinton. The US asking for X is absolutely ridiculous in light of this. Yadda yadda yadda.

So while it won't really mean anything to you, it will now add time to any negotiation that the US tries to go through.
posted by FuManchu at 6:13 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ save me from people who suck. Every day I wake up and read the news. Even if the news is good, people suck. They suck when it's raining, they suck when it's nice outside, they even suck when hostages are released, goddammit!
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 6:23 PM on August 4, 2009


I think we can all agree that it is better if Oliver North handles all activities vis-a-vis captured Americans in hostile territory.
posted by drowsy at 6:27 PM on August 4, 2009


...In business and political negotiations the person with the most chits in their pocket comes out slightly ahead.

So while it won't really mean anything to you, it will now add time to any negotiation that the US tries to go through.


FuManchu, respectfully, that is bullshit. Slighty ahead? Huh? Ahead of what? Who? How? What the hell does that even mean? It means nothing.

The only thing that matters is the DPRK has hostages and dangerous weapons. In every other meaningful category they are ahead of nobody. They have no resources. No money. Abject poverty. But. The ruling elite actually has a great deal to lose—status. Talking to them is literally the only thing we can do that will effect any kind of change in their external behaviors.

And even it did "add time", which it won't, so f-ing what? Time is all on our side.
posted by tkchrist at 6:28 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love Bill Clinton. The man is a rock star.

Glad to see he's using his powers for awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:28 PM on August 4, 2009


Is Kim Jong Il gonna host the Grammy's this year?

My understanding is he is going to be in the next Big Brother, where we get to see him gel up the ol' Kim Don King Great Wall of Hair. And, in the infra-red, watch him put the lifts in his loafers when he thinks no one is watvhing.
posted by y2karl at 6:36 PM on August 4, 2009


BTW Bush not only saw the DPRK go nuclear he gave DPRK their promised aid (and then some) for quid pro quo the Bush Administration knew damn well would never happen. posted by tkchrist at 6:39 PM on August 4, 2009


Isn't Kim Jong Il basically nuts?

Most assuredly not. He's a drunk (or was) and a reprobate, he's canny and cagey, he's downright evil, as near as we can come in these relativist days, he cares about nothing so much as staying in power and to hell with the people under his rule suffering and dying, but he's neither stupid nor crazy.

He's been playing the the last three American and ROK administrations (though it remains to be seen what happens with the latest one in America) like a fiddle, merely by refusing to play by the generally accepted rules of international relations, and, you know, generally being an unrepentant dick. But he knows that once American forces get drawn down out of Iraq, he'd better pull his goddamn head in.

Then again, if the rumours of pancreatic cancer are true, he'll be dead within a year or two at the outside, and all bets are off. When Baby Leader (his reportedly even-more-dissipated 26-year-old son Kim Jong-un) is installed after he karks it, things are going to get very weird and possibly scary indeed.

BTW Bush not only saw the DPRK go nuclear he gave DPRK their promised aid (and then some) for quid pro quo the Bush Administration knew damn well would never happen.

tkchrist, the DPRK's been playing that game well (by their lights) for a long, long time now. It is as predictable as clockwork; you'd think the Americans would have learned by now that they never, ever (thus far, at least) negotiate in good faith.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:43 PM on August 4, 2009


Okay, tkchrist, I guess you know best when it comes to high-level negotiations.

And you're talking about Banco Delta Asia, a Macau bank with some NK assets. What was released was already owned by NK, and nowhere neara the level of aid that had been stopped. The amount that NK had in there was only like US$ 25m.
posted by FuManchu at 6:50 PM on August 4, 2009


Nice to see you, y2karl.
posted by Kwine at 8:16 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems like this argument may be fairly well-settled by now, but just in case there is any doubt left over:

The Clintons are a power couple. They work together, and phenomenally well. What one accomplishes increases not just him or herself, but the other as well. Hillary did many things both for Bill and for her own agenda with Bill's support while First Lady. If Hillary were President, it'd be going the other way right now.

There is literally zero conflict of interest here.

Onto Fu Manchu, I've gotta disagree with your assessment. Maybe stavros is right an Kim's not crazy. I think he is, but that he's very well controlled by the generals that actually hold real power in the DPRK. What happened here was that this notoriously cagey government gave up two highly valuable hostages for a negotiated photo-op that the entire rest of the world* understands to be meaningless.

Who does this help them with? At what point can Kim Jong-Il pull out this photo and gain the slightest advantage in any negotiation with anyone, anywhere? If they even try to remind us about it we can tell them to blow it out their ass with no real repurcusions, because the DPRK has no chips at the table, and every country on earth has already seen that they have no hand. And the worst-case-scenario is that maybe North Korea actually can pose the slightest of risks if Kim or his son goes completely off-the-rails, at which point we've used back-channels to open up discussions with them.

This is a win at the highest level.

*"The entire world" in this case excludes only those at Fox News and similar outlets whose job depends on disingenuously pretending otherwise.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:39 PM on August 4, 2009


The Logan Act:
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
He was not authorized: "While this solely private mission to secure the release of the two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment," said a statement by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

At least Bill can share a jail cell with other notable alleged Logan Act violators.
posted by jewzilla at 9:01 PM on August 4, 2009


"It serves to undermine his or her spouse's work"
Yeah, whatever babe.
The old way of doing things hasn't turned out so well, unless you're in the business of slaughtering people.
So when we score a win with intelligence and skill instead of bombing the shit out of somebody, the haters can have a nice hot mug of shut the fuck up.
Of course the freepers will be shitting blood when it turns out that the release of the journalists was a precondition to sitting down and talking nukes.
posted by 2sheets at 9:20 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


jewzilla: "Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

But he did NOT have intercourse with that man!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:36 PM on August 4, 2009


But he did NOT have intercourse with that man!

This is Bill Clinton we're talking about...I wouldn't be so sure.
posted by jewzilla at 9:45 PM on August 4, 2009


At what point can Kim Jong-Il pull out this photo and gain the slightest advantage in any negotiation with anyone, anywhere?

With other potential challengers to rule North Korea, of course. Many analysts think that the sabre-rattling and general belligerency over the past few months has been a way for Kim Jong-Il to solidify his position as ruler to ensure a smooth transition to his son, Kim Jong-un. This incident had the misfortune of being spectacularly badly timed in the midst of this power struggle, but Kim was able to use it to his advantage. If you ever watch the broadcasts from the North's state-run television (and I highly recommend it, if only to see something so completely militaristic and jingoistic it makes Fox News look like Indymedia), they spin these events the way Kim wants to present them to the people, and make sure there are no ruptures in the party.

In short, it's not just about what Kim can gain with the outside world, it's what he can gain within the North's power structure. Since he knows that he may not be long for this world, his goal is to make sure his son continues the rule that his own father, Kim Il-Sung, started.
posted by armage at 10:02 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I should clarify that when I refer to Kim Jong-Il, I'm referring to him as well as the generals most loyal to him (which is most of them, I'd imagine). Depending on how severe his alleged stroke was, he may be more under their control than I suspect -- but in spite of that they are supporting him and by extension, his son. (How long that will last after he dies is an open question.)
posted by armage at 10:04 PM on August 4, 2009


He was not authorized

I'm pretty sure he was authorized.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:17 PM on August 4, 2009


"Private" does not mean "unauthorized".
posted by mr_roboto at 10:17 PM on August 4, 2009


Kim doesn't need any stinking generals to prop up his regime. His power derives exclusively from his massive Juche, and don't you forget it. You may touch his Juche if you ask politely, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 PM on August 4, 2009


Good grief, of course Hillary could not have done this herself. It would have provided the DPRK with an enormous opportunity for humiliation.

This was Track II diplomacy at its finest. It's no accident that these types of hostage situations -- which resemble the old Roman-Greek hostage tradition more than they do terrorist or bank-robber hostage-taking -- are typically solved using Track II. Clinton himself sent Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang to achieve the first breakthrough and the agreement that was later undercut by the bully hawks led by Cheney. Hostages were released in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria due to intervention by Jesse Jackson. There is so much at stake that putting an official official in the mix can only worsen it: in the finest Admiral Ackbar tradition, it's a trap.
posted by dhartung at 10:54 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's a little late to point this out, as it seems cmgonzales might have abandoned this thread, but I don't get the weird flip-out earlier on about "the spouse of the Secretary of State getting involved in diplomatic matters."

This wasn't Joe Albright or Alma Powell going, dude. It was Bill freakin' Clinton, Mr. 42 himself, guy who spent a good deal of his two terms in the Oval Office thawing relations between the DPRK and the United States. He went as an (unofficial) emissary of the U.S., as former presidents have done for the last two centuries. The fact that he also happens to be married to the current SOS is arguably inconsequential; as pointed out upthread, he was by far the best candidate (who's also not an official representative of the Obama administration) to make this deal happen.
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:51 AM on August 5, 2009


wow!

watching it live, i can't help but think gore was orchestrating it all behind the scenes :P
posted by kliuless at 6:33 AM on August 5, 2009


I feel I should add that it's not as though North Korea refrained from kidnapping people before they had high-level contacts with the US government. They did it all the time... North Korea murdered US soldiers, harbored US defectors, and kidnapped lots of South Koreans and Japanese, and did this for decades. For various reasons, the US didn't get involved. It's not as though they're going to think now, "Oooo... if we capture more Americans we'll get those sweet, sweet visits from Bill Clinton." Because they kidnapped people whenever they wanted when the US didn't intervene at all.

You can't argue with success on this one. Just because it disappoints the haters who were hoping for an escalation of rhetoric and hostility for NK or privately didn't like the idea of intervening to help a couple of journalists who worked for Gore doesn't mean that this was some big diplomatic failure for the US.

Sure, maybe NK's economy has devolved to the point where pictures of you with a famous American are the most valuable kind of currency in the land, and this has resulted in a "big win" for Kim Jong Il within his inner circle, but that's really thin gruel for explaining that this successful effort to free two Americans was a bad idea.
posted by deanc at 7:09 AM on August 5, 2009


Well, not in any meaningful sense to most people. But it's going to add to their list of comebacks and honors that they get to cite when they next demand something.

Well, Clinton's success has raised North Korea's prestige among right-wingers immensely.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2009


How it should have gone down. (via)
posted by nax at 8:17 AM on August 5, 2009


Has anyone pointed to the fascinating coverage of this by KCNA, North Korea's official news agency? It's available on their english-language website. This article is probably the most pertinent.

I'm trying to find a complete set of photos taken by North Korea's media. Here's a particularly interesting one, which actually appears to come from TV. There are a few on the NYT's website, too. Those pictures (especially the group shot appearing on several newspaper covers today) makes me think there was a reminder to all members of the U.S. group not to smile for pictures.
posted by Xalf at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2009


Watching Bill and Al getting the band back together in these videos is really remarkable.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:37 AM on August 5, 2009


Hillary must be fuming. And who could blame her? Arguably the first significant foreign relations coup of the Obama era and it's her husband who gets the credit? Again?

OK, not sure if this has been mentioned, but it's not a good idea to send the Sec. of State to deal with a situation like this nor the sitting president. Kim Jong Il always wanted a US president to visit, and so Bill Clinton becomes the bargaining chip. This is why it happened this way.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:45 AM on August 5, 2009


"There was a reminder to all members of the U.S. group not to smile for pictures..."

Because they didn't want a photographic outcome like the Madeleine Albright visit (Cheers to your dictatorship! & You are my BFF!)...
posted by LakesideOrion at 9:47 AM on August 5, 2009


Laura Ling's statement to the press.
posted by delmoi at 11:19 AM on August 5, 2009


Lovely pix
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


"You can call me Bill. May I call you Kim Jong?"
posted by sour cream at 11:57 AM on August 5, 2009


Shouldn't that be, "You can call me Bill. May I call you Jong Il"? (/overthinking a plate of Korean nomenclature beans)
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:13 PM on August 5, 2009


Valleywag: It's time for current TV to talk about what happened. Contains some interesting background info about their producer (who apparently managed to escape?)
posted by delmoi at 12:35 PM on August 5, 2009


"You can call me Bill. May I call you Kim Jong?"

His family name is Kim, his given name Jong Il† Or perhaps that's the joke -- that Clinton would be foolish enough not to know that.

† It's actually Jeong Il (정일), in the current romanization, despite the fact that the western media persists in spelling it 'Jong'. Given that most people don't even know which syllable is the all-important family name, though, I suppose that's pretty minor.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on August 5, 2009


Given that most people don't even know which syllable is the all-important family name

I learned that from a X-Men comic. Wolverine was explaining it to Kitty Pryde, I think (this would have been mid-80's X-men.)
posted by Cyrano at 8:58 PM on August 5, 2009


How topical!
posted by rigby51 at 9:37 PM on August 5, 2009


In short, it's not just about what Kim can gain with the outside world, it's what he can gain within the North's power structure. Since he knows that he may not be long for this world, his goal is to make sure his son continues the rule that his own father, Kim Il-Sung, started.

He's already an unchallenged supreme leader inside his own country. What happens after he dies is up for grabs no matter what. There are only so many spots at the ever shrinking trough in that shit hole of a country. When Kim dies there will be a power vacuum no matter what. And even if The Dig Dawg, by virtue of some miraculous celebrity magic, up's Kim's prestige inside the NPRK power structure, who cares. It's not like there is a nascent democratic movement in the NPRK struggling against Kim that loses out by The Big Dawgs visit. In fact it would be a good thing if the next Supreme Leader owes his street cred to The Big Dawg.
posted by tkchrist at 10:08 AM on August 6, 2009


He's already an unchallenged supreme leader inside his own country.

At this moment, sure. But what about tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Regardless of the united front they show to the outside, North Korea is a very Hobbesian place, where might makes right and those who can accumulate enough power and support can take over. Up until now, the Kims have been manipulating their rivals and holding on to power rather effectively. However, as you note, that is not guaranteed, especially once Kim Jong Il dies and authority is transferred to his son.

It's not like there is a nascent democratic movement in the NPRK struggling against Kim

In North Korea, it's not about the people vs. the elite. It's about the elite vs. the elite -- generals of various parts of the military, internal security chiefs, and the Kims. At this point any change to North Korea will come as a result of their internal disputes, not a revolution from the ground-up.
posted by armage at 10:10 PM on August 6, 2009


Journalists' Arrests Hamper Aid Groups
Christian aid groups say the high-profile arrest in March of two American journalists for illegally crossing into North Korea from China has made it more difficult to help the people the women went to report about: North Koreans who have escaped to China.

The Durihana Association, which helped arrange a guide in China for Current TV reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling, said that after the women were captured, one of its missionaries was expelled from China and its program caring for children of North Korean refugees was shut down. ...
posted by FuManchu at 4:33 AM on August 24, 2009


- Ask a Korean's translation of Joo Seong-Ha's* articles on North Korea's internal spin on the Clinton intervention and Lee's and Ling's 'martyr' image.

- NYT article similar to the WSJ article, about compromising defectors.

* If you don't know, the proprietor Joo Seong-Ha of Nambukstory is a graduate of Kim Il-Sung University and was on track to be an elite officer in North Korea, until he defected the country.
posted by ignignokt at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2009


Laura Ling and Euna Lee make first statement regarding events leading to capture
posted by homunculus at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2009


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