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Welcome Home, Journalists

Natalia J. Garland

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Welcome home, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Thank you, President Bill Clinton. Although others were intricately involved in the return of the two journalists who were held as prisoners in North Korea, their release could not have been negotiated without Clinton's presidential history and current political repute. Clinton did something that President Obama probably could not have managed solely within the arena of his (Obama's) own presidency. Perhaps this event will help to deflate the public's idolatry of Obama: he is not a messiah but a mere man who had to rely on the expertise and goodwill of another man whom he probably dislikes and who owes him nothing.

There is a lot of talk--which will continue throughout the week as more details become available--about the secret negotiations with North Korea. What did the North Koreans gain? What did the Americans lose? Right now, there is only speculation. The speculation ranges from harshly critical (even before the facts are known) to well-reasoned possibilities. Some people are quickly looking for fault when they could be celebrating America's freedom and humanitarian values. Let us give credit where credit is due.

Clinton, ultimately, risked his life. Things could have gone wrong. The unexpected or the miscalculated could have happened. No matter what the negotiations, verifications, or guarantees of a successful mission, Clinton and his co-rescuers entered the dangerous territory of the extremely closed governmental system of North Korea. In addition, on a political and psychological level, Clinton had to use adroit diplomacy as he spoke with and shared a meal with one of the world's worst tyrants, Kim Jong-il.

Did Clinton have ulterior political motives? For himself and/or for his wife? Perhaps. However, I suspect there was something unselfish and redemptive in Clinton's actions. Perhaps he cared. He performed his duty as former President: a status that, in this instance, propelled him to fulfill further responsibilities toward the people. I imagine also that Clinton could have been on a personal mission as well as a rescue mission. Perhaps the safe return of the two young women will serve to override his past scandalous relationships with certain other young women.

This morning, I turned on the T.V. news to try to get more information about a local fire that occurred last night. I did not expect to get live coverage of Clinton and the journalists landing at the Burbank, California, airport. After everyone deborded the jet, I was struck by the manner in which Clinton remained in the background. He did not give a speech. Others (including Al Gore) were at the center of attention. Humility? Personal satisfaction in a job well done? Trepidation? Pre-agreement? It was reported that Clinton will issue a written statement. As I finish writing today's essay at 8:30 a.m. (M.T.), I look forward to reading that statement. (Written 08/05/09)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2009 Natalia J. Garland