Clinton in Davos – Bill, that is.

You just have to hand it to Bill Clinton. When it comes to making America look good on the world stage once again, he may very well be the man who gets the job done faster than anyone else could.

America did not send any of its big guns to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. The great and the good from other parts of the world who were gathered there were, it appears, only too ready to lay the blame for the current economic crisis at America’s doorstep. Some, like the Russians and Chinese for example, were gleefully rubbing their hands that this gave them an opportunity to lecture the Americans about their folly.  It was America’s banking fraternity, most had agreed, who had precipitated all the crises the world now faced.


Here Joe Conason of takes up the story:


Into this hostile territory rode Bill Clinton, the lone American to whom anyone at Davos might actually listen as he attempted to uphold the name of his country. (Presumably too busy for international confabs as they try to organize their administration and save the country, the Obama White House sent nobody except presidential aide Valerie Jarrett, who didn’t make much of an impression.)

Featured at a special plenary session with Klaus Schwab, WEF’s slightly menacing supreme impresario, the former president didn’t try to evade the responsibility attributed to the U.S. by speaker after speaker. Referring to sharp words from Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, he admitted: “The Chinese premier was right: It all started in the United States.” But he then went on to insist that China must continue subsidizing the U.S. budget and trade deficits in order to preserve its own vital export industries. “Global interdependence is more important than anything else in the world today,” he said. “We cannot escape each other. Divorce is not an option.”

 He spoke out forcefully in defense of the Obama administration’s economic policies, notably including the economic stimulus package and the proposed “bad bank” to nationalize distressed mortgage assets. He lifted the spirits of the conference at least momentarily when he demanded that world leaders act in the great American tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, although he didn’t mention FDR by name.

 “This is not a time for denial or delay. Do something. Give people confidence by showing confidence,” he urged. “Don’t give up. Don’t bet against yourself. Don’t bet against your country. This is still a good time to be alive.” If that was not sufficient to motivate the Davos audience, he later pointed out at a forum on the “philanthrocrisis” that the responsibilities of the fortunate had in no way been lessened by declining portfolios. “We’re all still doing pretty well or we wouldn’t be here,” he declared. Now is the time, he said, to redouble efforts to provide better healthcare and more robust economic development in poor countries — and to work together to forestall climate change.”

 Clinton wasted not a minute of the day he spent in Davos. There were, by Conason’s account, “ stream of private meetings with foreign dignitaries”, and there was even a neatly engineered “casua”l 90 minute discussion between himself and the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

If Clinton is an unofficial ambassador for the White House, and there is probably little doubt that he is, then, in his first major test, he proved a good choice..


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