Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bill Clinton is Still a Star

Watching Bill Clinton work his magic at Davos

His rock-star status among world leaders, at a time when America's reputation is in tatters, shows the former president is a major asset to Barack Obama.

By Joe Conason  -  February 1, 2009

Putin greeted Clinton cordially as "our good friend" as they raised glasses of vodka and then listened to a few musical selections by a pianist and a violinist. But after the entertainment ended, the two former presidents moved to a table in a separate room, with their interpreter, behind a phalanx of Secret Service and Russian security agents. They talked intensely for nearly 90 minutes before rising and walking out together for a few pictures with partygoers.

Neither would comment on the substance of their discussion. But it was obvious that Clinton would not have participated in such a public encounter, witnessed by scores of people at the Putin party, unless the White House and the State Department had approved in advance. Perhaps encouraged by Putin's keynote address, in which he signaled a desire for better ties with the West, the Obama administration hopes to obtain greater Russian cooperation on issues such as the Iranian nuclear program.

For his part, Clinton will ignore the critics who denigrate him and continue to exercise his diplomatic skills on behalf of his country -- as he has done informally ever since he left the Oval Office. The warm reception in Davos suggested that he can help a new and popular president rebuild the prestige squandered so recklessly by his predecessor...

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