Joe Conason of Salon gets this one right.
Here was an effort that exemplified the best of America — a society that values the lives of its citizens enough to send a former head of state, with all the power of government behind him, to the aid of two women in distress. Here was a happy reunion, bringing wives home to their husbands and a mother back to her little girl, that surely uplifted the spirit of anyone who actually believes in family values. Here was a moment of pride and joy.
But not for Gordon Liddy, the demented felon and radio bigot who cackled about “Ling Ling and Wee Wee being locked up for nine hours in an airplane with Bill Clinton.” Not for Rush Limbaugh, the obsessive guttersnipe who wondered aloud whether Clinton “hit on those two female journalists on the long flight home.” Not for Andrea Peyser, the curdled tabloid columnist who insisted that “the whole shebang was nakedly scripted and staged as a device to help rehabilitate the image of former President Bill Clinton”(and who neglected to mention that Clinton did not speak to the eagerly waiting press corps and has given not a single interview on the North Korea mission). Not for Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who predictably seized on Clinton’s mission as an opportunity for gratuitous and ugly insults to his wife, weirdly imagining that the prisoner release was “some clever North Korean revenge plot, giving the limelight to Daddy to punish Mommy.” And not for the editors of the Huffington Post, who posted a very strange headline — “Bill Upstages Hillary … Once Again” — on an Associated Press story that didn’t mention her at all.
Of course the visit was scripted-it probably took a lot of negotiation. Such ex-presidential forays into particular situations has precedent for those who negotiate. But crude innuendo at the expense of these two women and their families is wrong. And to be thinking that the visit was done without Department of State input and approval strikes me as stupid. Let it be folks, your ratings are okay.