When former President Bill Clinton returned this morning from North Korea with newly-freed American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, his arrival in Los Angeles capped a delicate diplomatic ballet that involved the Obama White House, his wife's State Department, several private companies and former Vice-President Al Gore. The deal Clinton brought home was both simple and inexpensive: in exchange for some face time and photo opps, the often unhinged dictatorship of the North's ailing leader, Kim Jong-il, would drop the women's conviction and sentence to 12 years at hard labor. As an added bonus, one of America's smartest policy analysts would get a close-up look at Kim and his strange regime, fueling this country's next move in the two decade stalemate over nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.
Clearly, one of those rare "good all around" stories - with the predictable exception of the neocons, who insanely hew to their no negotiating at any cost rule.
Yet, some in our personality-obsessed punditocracy ignored all the geopolitical implications. They ignored the complicated machinations of the Obama Administration. And they ignored the moving human interest story of two young women returning to their families.
What did they choose to focus on? Oh yeah you got it: the Clinton marriage.
Above is a screen shot of the front page of the Huffington Post (where I occasionally blog) from earlier today. As one of the year's most dramatic stories unfolded, the HuffPo's editors actually rolled with "Bill Upstages Hillary...Once Again."
Not to be outdone, the disgraced right-wing sex columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times got into her patented decade-old Mommy-Daddy analysis again:
Maybe it was some clever North Korean revenge plot, giving the limelight to Daddy to punish Mommy. Just as Hillary muscled her way back into the spotlight, moving past her broken elbow and grabbing the focus from her bevy of peacock envoys, she was blown off the radar screen again by an even more powerful envoy: the one she lives with.
Yeah, that's the really big news - some imagined battle of personalities within the marriage of the most accomplished couple in recent American political history. Stop the presses. As Bob Somerby says: "This has always been Lady Dowd’s function. She helps us see how we humans will reason — if we have the misfortune to live behind some palace’s walls."
That's because dramatic stories like the release of two journalists from the perils of hard labor in North Korea always beg the one, big question for the Washington village types: "what's it mean to me?"