Barack Obama

Clinton fails to silence talk husband Bill craves job of envoy to Ireland

Hillary fails to douse speculation her husband may desire a US ambassadorship to Ireland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 4:12am

Is Ireland big enough for Bill Clinton?

The chatter about what Mr. Clinton might do next has often tended towards the grandiose. In the past, there was talk of making an exception just this once and nominating the former United States president to serve as United Nations secretary general. (No American has ever served in that post.)

More recently, Clinton - who served successfully as unofficial explainer-in-chief in President Barack Obama's re-election campaign - has emerged as the darling candidate of some Middle East experts, should Obama decide to name a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But now come the Washington rumours that what Clinton may really covet is the US ambassadorship to Ireland.

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.) Those stoking the rumour fires note that Clinton can probably get just about anything he wants from a grateful Obama.

Those fires roared with new kindling when Clinton's wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, sidestepped an opportunity to douse the rumours while on a stop of her own last week in - where else, Ireland.

"I cannot comment on what President Obama might do in the second term, it's his decision," Hillary Clinton said on 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."

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 Hillary Clinton and her husband when she visited Belfast on Friday. Bill Clinton was recently named a "Freeman of Limerick," and a statue of him was erected at a golf course in the city.

Some political observers point out that Ireland would be the perfect place for Hillary 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.