Local Reaction: Bill Clinton's role in freeing American journalists

Laura Ling and Euna Lee arriving on American soil with their families waiting to greet them.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee arriving on American soil with their families waiting to greet them.

By Dick Berry - email

Posted by Lisa Strawbridge - email

(WTOL) - President Obama thanked former President Bill Clinton for traveling to North Korea to win the freedom of the two journalists.

Two journalists are back home in California after being held hostage in North Korea since March. Their release was negotiated by Bill Clinton with North Korean leader Kim Jung Ill.

Was it appropriate for the former president to get directly involved and not the Obama administration? Area residents weigh in.

"Absolutely. If it's gonna help release prisoners back to our country, whoever gets involved the better," said Pat Paule.

John Reef told us, "I think Obama has a lot on his plate right now. It's good a former President helped out."

Mark Simon is a professor of political science at Bowling Green State University. He specializes in conflict resolution and believes that's what the Clinton trip was all about. "Any chance you have to get inside the head of Kim to understand the point of view of the North Korean government is probably a good thing if you want to solve the bigger problem, which is the nuclear program."

Then there was the political cost. The Obama administration didn't want to appear it was in formal talks with North Korea.

"This was all set up through back channel negotiations. He wouldn't go over there with any doubt that he would come back with these two hostages. It was going to be a success," said Simon.

Professor Simon points out it's not unusual for former presidents to get involved in international issues. Case in point: Jimmy Carter. In 1994, he negotiated an agreement with North Korea to scrap it's nuclear program in exchange for foreign aid and oil.