Yesterday, super-hawk John Bolton was upset that President Clinton, along with a group that included Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, went over to North Korea to negotiate the release of two imprisoned American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. “It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists,” Bolton said. Even after news of their release, Bolton still called the move a mistake. “[T]his is a classic case of rewarding bad behavior,” he complained.
Many right-wing commentators later piled on. “John Bolton is right,” declared the Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes. “This is a lifeline to a regime that is a terrorist regime that has proliferated nuclear technology,” he said. Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino even blamed Vice President Al Gore for the journalists’ imprisonment because he is a co-founder of the company (Current TV) that employs them. “Al Gore is responsible if he made the order, but ultimately, he’s responsible, and I think we need to hear a little bit more about that,” she said last night on Fox News. Some other lowlights:
– Fox News’ Dick Morris called Clinton’s trip “awful” and “ridiculous” and suggested that Ling and Lee should “live with the consequences of their decision to go” to North Korea.
– Charles Krauthammer complained that North Korea “got a lot” out of the deal and that “it does help the North Koreans in their legitimacy.”
But some conservatives did see the utility of Clinton’s trip. “I think it’s wonderful, obviously, that he secured their release,” Laura Ingraham conceded. Shortly after landing in Los Angeles, Ling expressed her “deepest gratitude” for the rescue:
LING: Thirty hours ago Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp and then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton. We were shocked but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now, we stand here, home and free. Euna and I would just like to express our deepest gratitude to President Clinton and his wonderful, amazing, not to mention, super-cool team.
But what many conservatives don’t understand is that, as nonproliferation expert and Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione noted yesterday, Clinton was “the right man at the right moment.” And the BBC’s John Sudworth noted that now was the time to get the deal done:
And not least, there’s always the fear that North Korea could, by holding on to these two journalists, continue to use them as leverage. So I think in Washington’s wider — and perhaps colder — political interests, it makes good sense to try to clear this up now.
“I am very happy that after this long ordeal, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are now home and reunited with their loved ones,” President Clinton said in a statement. “When their families, Vice President Gore and the White House asked that I undertake this humanitarian mission, I agreed. I share a deep sense of relief with Laura and Euna and their families that they are safely home.”
Ultra right winger John Podhoretz attacks Ling and Lee, calling them “amateurish” and saying that they should “be held accountable” for trying to report from inside North Korea for an “amateurish” network. Podhoretz adds that Ling and Lee made U.S. policy toward the communist state “even more messy.”
,The Center for American Progress has released a statement on the return of Ling and Lee:
We share the sense of excitement and relief expressed by President Obama and many others today upon the successful release of our fellow citizens, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. We are proud of the role Center for American Progress CEO and founder John D. Podesta played in accompanying former President Clinton on the mission to secure their freedom. We hope the North Korean regime decides to build on this successful episode by recommitting to its existing obligations toward the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means.