April 14, 2005
Clinton-Annan minuet now playing at the United NationsBy Ed Lasky
The last few months have seen a range of news stories regarding the United Nations, the oil—for—food scandal, and the role that the Annan family has played in the decline of the United Nations. Flying under the radar screen has been the extent to which Bill Clinton and his allies have worked their wiles and contacts to burrow in to the leadership of the United Nations.
This has taken the form of a series of deals — Clinton is the maestro of dealmaking — by which the Clinton forces have rallied to the defense of the beleaguered Kofi Annan and have come to occupy key positions of influence within that organization.
This conduct is a shameful abdication of the traditional role that former Presidents have always played in American history, and is a raw display of the Machiavellian ways that the Clinton family will continue to engage in, as Hillary approaches her coronation as the Democratic candidate for President in 2008.
The recent public revelations alone are cause for suspicion, let alone what might well lie below the surface, in private meetings, tacit understandings, the wink of an eye, and a knowing grin or two.
The Democrats will continue to claim that George Bush and his Republican supporters wage war and that the Democrats (symbolized by Bill Clinton) are the party which offers relief to the downtrodden and victimized. This will go down well overseas and will be reflected domestically, as foreign leaders continue to attempt to influence American politics.
Furthermore, Hillary may benefit from Bill's newest post. The ability to handle international affairs is one of the prime requisites that voters look for in their presidential candidates and the opportunity to prove such skills is difficult for most contestants. Perhaps some of the glow from Bill's position, and some of the overseas photo ops with Hillary in tow will rub off on Hillary as she seeks the presidential nomination.
Clinton has already lent Annan the skills and connections of some of his former aides and officials. For example, Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke have had a semi—secret meeting with Annan in order to give him pointers on deflecting American pressure. Albright is the former Secretary of State under Clinton and Holbrooke was the US Ambassador to the UN, Assistant Secretary of State, Special Envoy to Bosnia and Kosovo, and is a Washington power broker of the first rank.
There is more: a lawyer for a key witness who cooperated with the committee investigating the Oil—for—Food scandal charges that Clinton's consigliore has manipulated the panel to discredit his client and presumably help the Annan family.
In a nutshell, Clinton provides Annan with high—powered diplomatic and legal talent (who may have bent or broken the rules to manipulate the investigation) free of charge, to defeat efforts by Congress to discover the truth behind the Oil—for Food scandal. Most recently, Clinton has had his former Chief of Staff, Erskine Bowles, join him at the UN at the similar salary of $1 a year. He has been sharing an office at the United Nations with Bill Clinton for the past month, so in essence the Oval Office has been duplicated at the United Nations .
When questioned about this arrangement, Clinton rises to Annan's defense,
"I support the secretary—general we have. I like him, I admire him, I think he is doing a good job"
and goes on further to state,
"I am his employee...it would be unseemly for me to be anything else right now."
Right now? Does Mr. Clinton have higher aspirations?
How harsh will the already obedient Democratic Party be during its investigations when its elder statesman and key political player (and husband of a powerful Senator and future Presidential candidate) goes to bat for the UN and the Annan family? Perhaps this is why Annan's public relations flak, Mark Malloch Brown, can confidently tell the Financial Times (as he did yesterday),
"As someone who takes the pulse of Washington pretty continuosly, I do think there's been a peaking of the visceral right—wing 'destroy the U.N. mode' ".
Most ex—Presidents are willing to give others a chance to rise to positions of prominence. They can serve as honorary chairmen of this or that chairty group, write memoirs, serve on boards of directors, and preside over presidential libraries. They don't need to interject themselves into international affairs (particularly accepting positions in international bodies undergoing Congressional oversight) in order to promote a spouse's political career.