greeted by a chorus of cheers and tears. Anxious family members wrapped their arms around
them, and the joy could be felt from Burbank to Pyongyang. Among the crowd was former
Vice President Al Gore; and eventually descending the airplane staircase, former President
Bill Clinton. Gore eventually addressed those gathered with Clinton standing next to him,
and I couldn't help but think of the famous line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,
"Who are these guys?"
Clinton and Gore standing next to each other immediately made me think of the
image of Bush and Cheney and the picture of them on inauguration day. In Clinton and Gore
you felt a sense of adults in charge. The image of Bush standing next to Cheney made one
wonder who was in charge (remember Cheney and the CIA).
Ask yourself what the response would have been if North Korea had seized these
journalists on Bush's watch. Imagine the conversation in the Oval Office between Bush and
Cheney. (Time magazine reports that Cheney would often arrange to be the last person
Bush would talk to when decisions had to be made, particularly about policy standards.)
Now imagine President Clinton and Vice President Gore or President Obama and Vice
President Biden discussing the plight of the journalists. If you were a member of their
families, which duo would you prefer?
In the eight years of the Clinton administration, this nation prospered both
domestically and internationally. Clinton passed a tax increase on the richest 1% of
Americans (without a single Republican vote and with Gore breaking the tie in the Senate),
which set the stage for eight years of prosperity. Internationally, Clinton was very much
an integral part of the diplomatic effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland, re-start talks
between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the ending of the slaughter in Bosnia/
Herzegovina without losing one American life in the peacekeeping effort. Clinton used
American troops to restore Jean Betrand Aristide back into office in Haiti as he tried to
shore up a fragile democratic process; and even when his effort failed in Somalia, the
Secretary of Defense who presided over that fiasco, Les Aspin, was summarily sacked.
Watching Clinton and Gore standing next to the joyous families of the freed
journalists was a stark moment of contrast between them and the two men who succeeded
them. There is no need to re-hash the disastrous Bush/Cheney years. There was a two
trillion dollars tax cut for the rich, an illegal and immoral war, and an economic disaster;
and internationally, the destruction of the American brand in the eyes of the world.
Back to the Oval Office and Bush/Cheney on the captured journalists. Can you
imagine the rhetoric that would have emanated from them? You would have been able
to hear the "sabre-rattling" from here to Beijing. The North Korean "axis of evil" would
have been warned, threatened, and attacked if they did not release the Americans. A
carrier battle group would have been sent to the area. There would be rumors of a special
ops rescue mission or a possible military response. We all could write the speeches that
they would give.
For five months the Obama Administration worked a quiet diplomacy. Hillary
Clinton let it be known that the U.S. would push for U.N. sanctions against North Korea,
while at the same time pushing for six party talks to resume. North Korea was not
presented with ultimatums; rather, Clinton sought international support to put pressure
on them including pressure from China. In the end, North Korea indicated that it would
release the journalists if Bill Clinton would come and get them. Obama didn't hesitate
to ask, and Clinton agreed in like manner. The United States got two freed citizens; and
our image is further enhanced in the international community as a country that puts
diplomacy first. Clinton spent three hours with North Korean President Kim Il Sung;
and he will provide vital intelligence about Kim Jong Il's health, mental state, and
willingness to talk further. Pyongyang is a little less isolated today than it was yesterday.
Once again I ask you to contrast this with what would have been the result if Bush/Cheney
were still in charge.
One could not help to be moved by the tears and hugs and smiles in that hanger
in Burbank. You couldn't help but smile and feel good as Lucy Ling addressed the reporters
with Clinton and Gore standing behind her. As the Congress moves to it's summer recess,
the Obama Administration gets a big boost with the freeing of the Americans, and will get
another shot of momentum when Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed by the Senate. Obama
promised a new day when he ran for office. He promised that he would talk to anyone
interested in a dialogue, and he appointed his chief rival and critic to oversee that diplomatic
effort. What a contrast to the previous years. President George Bush could stand under a
"Mission Accomplished" banner on an aircraft carrier, while Clinton and Gore stand behind
joyous families of the two freed Americans that were so glad to be home. The contrast is
both dramatic and illustrative, and is what led me to exclaim "Who are these guys?"
What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to