The Atlantic Monthly | March 2003
What sort of role does Bill Clinton play with world leaders who are still in office—and what weight do his public statements and his private counsel carry—now that he himself has left the presidency?
An E-mail Exchange With Tony Blair About Bill Clinton
by James Fallows
President Clinton has a wealth of experience to offer as any modern President would do after eight years in the White House. So, of course, what he says—whether in public or private—carries weight with other leaders.
He also, of course, has remarkable energy. What's good is that he is using this experience and enthusiasm to continue pushing forward those issues he cares so passionately about such as education, peace, and the problems of Africa.
People listen because they know that he knows what he is talking about. And his intervention not only draws attention to these issues but can also help prompt action.
What is the current state of "Third Way" thinking internationally? With Bill Clinton out of office and with Al Gore not succeeding him, and with the current emphasis on post September 11 policies and politics, how much is left of the "Third Way" movement?
We recently held an international seminar here on the Third Way which drew political figures and policy makers from all over the world including, I'm delighted to say, President Clinton. I'm giving no secrets away by saying his contribution was, for many people, the highlight of the weekend.
I think anyone who attended would know that there is plenty of life left in the Third Way and that it is influencing policy strongly across the world. No one should be surprised about this. There has never been a time when it has been more important that we have thinking and policies which combine the need for addressing global security and global poverty, or for tackling social injustice and promoting business. What the Third Way is showing is that these goals are not in conflict, as some have suggested in the past, but must be achieved together.
What sort of ongoing personal relationship exists between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blair? How often do they talk? Is the prime minister's job in England noticeably different, with the change in U.S. partners to work with?
I'm lucky to count President Clinton as a friend. We try to see each other when he is in Britain, with Cherie and Hillary too, who are also friends. And we catch up on the phone as well from time to time. We speak, of course, about politics and world affairs but I suspect we also spend more time talking about our families and other things, like friends do, than many people might expect.
But this friendship doesn't interfere with the strong relationship Britain has with the United States or I personally have with President Bush. I know President Clinton would want to make sure that's the case because he, above all people, realises how important this relationship is.
President Bush may only have been in office a couple of years but, because of the appalling attacks of 9/11, Iraq, and other world events, we have worked together very closely indeed. I have a great deal of admiration for him. We get on well but more importantly, I think the relationship between our two countries has rarely, if ever, been closer. That's not just good news for Britain and the U.S. but for the whole world.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic.
Copyright © 2003 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
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