Once again the future of Bill Clinton has become a hot topic that rivals — or perhaps supplements — "Plan Hillary," which now is being massaged by New York's junior senator. Keeping his plans as secret as the flight plan of a stealth bomber, Bill has been scheming to prepare his next leap into the spotlight.
Quite often when a bad situation is allowed to continue in the hope that it will go away, it just gets worse; and what he now is planning is beyond worse — it is outrageous. With war in Iraq, weapons inspectors, meetings of the U.N. Security Council, conflicts between one-time allies and a new emergency every day or two, most of us are concentrated on the events of the day or even the hour.
Yet there is a need to lift our eyes from the clock and look at the
calendar. Early in the fall, some seven months from now, the U.N.
General Assembly may select a new secretary-general. Kofi Annan is
under pressure to resign before the end of his second term in 2006.
If he does, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the U.N.
Security Council, will approve a replacement.
Over the years, there have been secretaries-general from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, but never from North America. Add to that fact the interesting detail that the U.N.'s towering Secretariat Building on Turtle Bay (First Avenue and 42nd Street to New Yorkers) is more than 50 years old, crumbling and is overdue for rebuilding. That takes money — the kind of money only the long-suffering U.S. taxpayer can give, plus a cash-grabbing fund-raiser.
Add one more fascinating fact: a well-known (notorious to most of us) American is looking for the secretary-general's job — William Jefferson Clinton.
While it is still early, there is a major international move under way to make Bill Clinton the chief executive of the United Nations. Unbelievable? You had only to watch Clinton's performance on a recent "Larry King Live" program. There, Bill, with his new haircut and coiffure blued to a snowy-white perfection, made repeated adulatory references to the United Nations.
If Bill had planned this career move years ago, some actions during his presidency — inexplicable to most of us at the time — begin to make sense, at least as the ploy of a man maneuvering for a lucrative job in the international limelight that requires no heavy lifting.
Now, here is the truly frightening aspect — the fix is in. There are reports that Bill Clinton already has lined up support for his candidacy from Germany, France, England, Ireland and New Zealand. A handful of African states, led by Nigeria, are rooting for Bill. And Hillary has brought in Morocco and Egypt. The Russians have let it be known that they would not object to Clinton as the next secretary-general, and the Chinese love Bill almost as much as Monica did.
In Latin America, Ecuador and Brazil's new labor-loving, rabble-rousing populist presidents are Bill's type of politician, and in Asia, many Indian leaders think warm and fuzzy thoughts about the former U.S. president.
Bill recently told the Democratic Leadership Council, "We don't have to be more liberal, but we do have to be more relevant in a progressive way." To that statement, he added his new doctrine: "When we look weak in a time where people feel insecure, we lose. When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody who's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right."
Those little statements galvanized the Clintonistas who have embedded themselves in the National Security Council and the State Department. They now see the benefits of being wrong so often, and they are busily enlightening one another about their future prospects as tax-exempt international civil servants when Bill Clinton leads the United Nations.
Think back to Clinton's many overseas visits (here, there and everywhere) while he was in the White House and during the past two years. If those visits had a policy thrust for the United States, it was hidden. But, as a trailer for becoming the next secretary-general, we now can see why the travel costs were so high.
Obviously, the tactic of "roping the dopes" that has served Bill and Hillary so well for 10 long years still applies.
Many have forgotten that Bill chose to ignore the fact that Saddam Hussein tried hard to assassinate his immediate predecessor, George Bush the elder. All Bill did was fire off some million-dollar missiles at empty $20 tents and ignore offers of some rulers to hand over Osama bin Laden to U.S. custody.
He decided to lavish aid on the dictator of North Korea in the sad belief that he might — just might — give up his nuclear weapons program. Then, good old Bill ignored the evidence that Pyongyang was cheating and continued with the gifts. In the course of his global wanderings, he disregarded the facts of life as they apply to Latin America. In Haiti he allowed our military to retreat because some rock-throwing thugs on the docks got noisy. With that as an example, he proceeded to destroy some democratic governments previously supported by the United States.
Today, Bill keeps busy pilfering (ideas not furniture) from the Bush administration. Democrats are urged by Bill not to "wilt" on security issues. He supports President Bush's plans for Iraq but believes that Saddam Hussein "will come to his senses and disarm." He wants George Bush to have the support of the United Nations, then adds he does not believe any new resolution is needed.
In his bid to keep before the public, he is making a new version of the classic children's musical tale "Peter and the Wolf." His fellow performers in Prokofiev's tale are former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Italian actress Sophia Loren. Typically, Clintonesque, the story has been changed.
Now it's called "The Wolf and Peter," told from the point of view of the wolf whose home is being spoiled by developers.
It's all just one more illustration of the Clintons playing "Goldilocks politics" — not too big and not too small, but just right for the countries great and small of the United Nations.
Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist
and political observer.
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