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Is Ireland big enough for Bill Clinton ?
The chatter about what Mr. Clinton might do next has often tended toward the grandiose. In the past, there was talk of making an exception just this once and nominating President Clinton to serve as United Nations secretary-general. (No American has ever served in that post.)
More recently, the former president – who served successfully as unofficial explainer-in-chief in President Obama ’s reelection campaign – has emerged as the darling candidate of some Mideast experts, should Mr. Obama decide to name a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
But now come the Washington rumors that what Clinton may really covet is the US ambassadorship to Ireland.
Absent any confirmation of interest from the former president, the question is whether the globe-trotting Clinton, accustomed to addressing Haiti earthquake recovery one day and the AIDS challenge the next – not to mention the annual summit of his Clinton Global Initiative with world leaders in New York – is ready to retire to the relative backwater of Dublin .
The speculation stems in part from a recent quip from Clinton, who noted while on his third trip this year to the Emerald Isle in November that “I could run for president of Ireland” if only he owned a home there. (Clinton, born William Jefferson Blythe, is of Irish ancestry, though not direct enough to satisfy Irish law.)
Those stoking the rumor fires note that Clinton can probably get just about anything he wants from a grateful Mr. Obama.
Those fires roared with new kindling when Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton , sidestepped an opportunity to douse the rumors while on a stop of her own this week in – where else, Ireland.
“I cannot comment on what President Obama might do in the second term, it’s his decision,” Secretary Clinton said Thursday, while in Dublin to attend a European security conference. “But I would think that my husband will be here many times in the future and doing the work that he has been doing without having the title of ambassador.”
Thus Secretary Clinton, who is practiced in the artful dodge after facing questions about her own future presidential aspirations at virtually every stop she makes (including in Ireland), answered a question by ruling nothing out.
Both Clintons are popular in Ireland. As president, Clinton played an important role in bringing the Northern Ireland conflict to a peace agreement in 1998, and both Clintons have remained active in shepherding the peace process forward. Northern Ireland’s leaders paid tribute to Secretary Clinton and her husband when she visited Belfast Friday. Mr. Clinton was recently named a “Freeman of Limerick,” and a statue of him was erected at a golf course there.
Some political observers point out that Ireland would be the perfect place for Secretary Clinton to get the rest she says she longs for after four years of intense diplomacy and international travel. And what better surroundings than the lush Irish countryside for mulling a 2016 White House run, they add.
But there’s still that issue of the match between a diminutive Ireland and an outsize Bill. Even Arkansas , the last smallish place where Clinton reigned, is nearly twice the size of Ireland.