Is Hillary Jealous of Bill? Or was it sexism?

Jealousy probably is the wrong word to use, but that’s exactly what a lot of media watchers concluded after the Secretary of State got testy in answering a question thought to be about her husband. Bill Clinton, you see, casts a long shadow. His work in freeing those two journalists from North Korea sent speculation abuzz.

What new role might he play in an Obama Administration? Did he freelance? How much did Hillary know about the mission in advance? There were even jokes about his being on the plane with two women.

For a lot of people, this meant the Big Dog was back.

For his wife, it meant having to share the spotlight on a situation that’s normally handled by her office. And remember, this is a woman who came close to being President of the United States, and now handles foreign policy for the most powerful nation in the world. So how is this made manifest?

A university student in Kinshasa, Congo asks her what was translated as “Mr. Clinton” would think about a World Bank concern regarding a Chinese loan offer to the Congolese government. Clinton fired back, “My husband is not Secretary of State. I am”. If you look at the video of her response, her exasperation is clear.

And you know what? She’s got a point.

Reverse the people involved here, and ask yourself if Bill Clinton would have been asked a similar question in an identical situation. Maybe, maybe not, but could Mrs. Clinton have been reacting to what she felt was a sexist inference? To add an ironic twist to the saga, ABC News says the translator got the question wrong, and that the student was actually asking what President Obama, not former President Clinton thought of that loan offer.

So now we’ll go through at least one news cycle with snarky talking heads, male and female, cocking their eyebrows and asking “What’s wrong with Hillary”? And the substantive work she’s been doing since her appointment will mean nothing. Is she getting enough rest? Will Bill be ordered to fade into the shadows? How are they really getting along?

And once again, we’ll see one unintended consequence of cable news without end. I’ve talked about it far too many times on this blog, but only the demands of the 24 hour news machine can take a possibly misunderstood question and run with it like this. And that’s because we as news/political junkies need our fix.

Too bad. But what do you think?


Two Journalists Get 12 Years- For What?

We may never know what “grave crime” journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee committed that got them sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean gulag.

koje-do_prison_camp_mess hall_distance

We do know they were detained at the border with China back in March, and there are those who think the North Korean government will use the pair as some sort of bargaining chip with the US.

If that’s the case, President Barack Obama will find himself in the same box he does when it comes to the country’s nuclear program. North Korea’s government is secretive, and the motive for its actions aren’t always clear.

In this case, those motives are clear as mud. Lee and Ling are reporters for Al Gore’s Current TV, a network, by the way, worth watching.

al-gore_current-tvThere are conflicting reports about the story they were covering. Suffice to say it may not have been flattering to the North Koreans, but how would they know that in advance? The answer is, it doesn’t matter. This government is low enough to use the lives of two reporters as a means to gain a political end. They certainly won’t be the first, but they ought to be the last.

Is the North looking to avoid sanctions the UN is considering for their nuclear weapons testing? Many in the US diplomatic community think so. Those sanctions are being pushed by the US. Secretary of State Clinton says the two issues are “separate and apart” from each other. Does that mean the US isn’t prepared to offer any concessions to North Korea in order to free Ling and Lee?

There’s talk of a high level diplomatic mission to the North. Two prominent names mentioned are New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Vice President Al Gore himself. The latter has maintained a low profile so as not to be perceived as politicizing the effort to free the pair. Richardson says there’s much diplomatic groundwork to be laid before any such effort would have a chance of success. Despite such daunting talk, however, there is some hope. Richardson himself helped arrange the release of US prisoners back in the 1990s. And he also points to the fact that neither reporter was charged with espionage as another hopeful sign.

Yet this entire ugly affair points out a critical vulnerability in US foreign policy. How do you deal with nations that are willing to  jeopardize the lives of our citizens by locking them away in prisons where large numbers of people die of malnutrition and neglect? Do you try diplomacy, or do you take a hard line and simply condemn the action while pushing ahead for sanctions?

There is no easy answer, is there? You tell me.