Bill Clinton Eyes U.N. Post

Speaking of Bill Clinton . . .

Analysis: Clinton eyes U.N. post (Roland Flamini, UPI Chief International Correspondent)

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has set his sights on becoming U.N. secretary-general. A Clinton insider and a senior U.N. source have told United Press International the 56-year-old former president would like to be named leader of the world body when Kofi Annan’s term ends early in 2006.

“He definitely wants to do it,” the Clinton insider said this week.

A Clinton candidacy is likely to receive overwhelming support from U.N. member states, particularly the Third World. Diplomats in Washington say Clinton would galvanize the United Nations and give an enormous boost to its prestige. But the former president’s hopes hang on a crucial question that will not be addressed until after the presidential elections: can he get the support of the U.S. government — a prerequisite for nomination?

The political wisdom is that a second George W. Bush presidency would cut him off at the pass. The notion of Clinton looming large in the international arena from “the glass tower” in New York would be intolerable to the Bush White House. If Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., wins on Nov. 2 the prospect of Clinton as secretary-general won’t exactly be welcome either, but Kerry would find it much harder — if not impossible — to go against it.

Clinton would be well suited to the job, although giving him a huge platform from which to grab the spotlight would have its drawbacks. Still, he’s a competent administrator who needs something to do. And he couldn’t be any more corrupt than the current crowd. I’d much rather have U.N. leaders chasing interns than pocketing millions in bribes from despots.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MichaelW says:

    Clinton would be FANTASTIC as the UN leader! I think even GWBush would go for it — he would be in his second term after all and not as concerned with the political machinations that consume a first-termer. Plus, Clinton is certainly more hawkish than just about anyone else at the UN, which could be a great asset in the War on Terror. At worst he’ll piss of a bunch of bureacrats and their wives (daughters?). I for one think this would be wonderful post for Slick Willy.

  2. BigFire says:

    Re: MichaelW

    It’s not like W have much of a say in this as president of USA. We still have one vote, and there are folks who’ve worked the backroom deal of UN longer and harder than Bill ever had.

  3. Unfortunately, Bill is encumbered (like John Kerry) with an unsuitable spouse. Promoting Bill is promoting Hillary and that is not a good thing.

  4. McGehee says:

    WTF has Hillary got to do with it? Who ever knew anything about the spouses of Trygve Lie, U Thant, or Kurt Waldheim? Is Kofi Annan even married?

  5. Kevin Drum says:

    I have strong recollection that the UN has either a rule or else a very strong tradition that the secretary general is never chosen from among the five veto powers.

    Could be wrong, though…..

  6. David C says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s just custom, though a custom very much resembling a rule in historical practice. Basically, the 5 veto powers need to all not oppose the candidate, and one too closely linked with one of the powers (especially in the Cold War era) wouldn’t get that approval. The U.S. would never accept a Soviet (or even, say, a Bulgarian or Czech) just as the USSR or China wouldn’t likely accept an American or Brit (or even an Italian or Japanese), etc.

    Plus, the UN “popular vote” strongly favors a third world candidate, thus the SG tends to come rom a “non-aligned” nation.

    It would certainly be interesting to see how much things have changed. Up to now, the UN has still pretty much followed the Cold War way of doing things.

  7. KipEsquire says:

    I also seem to recall something from my youth that candidates for UN S-G must be fluent in both English and French.

  8. Attila Girl says:

    Well, we know Clinton understands French; we just don’t know if he speaks it.

  9. Silicon Valley JIm says:

    If the UPI story is correct, Clinton has one absolutely amazing qualification: he’s two years younger than anybody else born in 1946. That’s reason enough to make him Secretary General.

  10. Dusty says:

    I would want to think on that long and hard before endorsing Clinton as UNSG. We already have too many battles there in which we barely hold our own in public perception – Kyoto, ICC, gun control, abortion/contraception. Then there are a host of issues, i.e. death penalty, health care, aids efforts from where controversy can spring.

    With a foreign SG, areas where issues do not dovetail with our interests, we can thumb our noses at the UN without too much consequence and without having to do battle with an American MSM playing it up as a semi-domestic argument as well.

    With Clinton there, the volume would be much higher (which I can agree might sometimes be good) and both Clinton and the MSM could play games in a heavy handed political way with them, sometimes in crucial Congressional votes or worse, during elections. Prime examples would be Kyoto and ICC.

    And another situation, a hypothetical: Clinton having been SG during Anan’s tenure. On major issues and wrt major scandals/embarassments, would things have been different? (Particularly if through no fault of Clinton’s) If not, would there have been any consequences for the US?

    I would want to think very hard on this and I would say that with Clinton or any American UNSG proposal.

  11. Chris says:

    To piggy-back on Kevin Drum and Dave C’s comments.

    Read Chapter XV, Article 97 of the UN Charter. “The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.”

    Procedurally, Clinton would need at least 9 of the 15 SC to say yes, with none of the P5 vetoing. And then a majority of the General Assembly (which is actually the easy part, as they are often just glad that the SC is able to get an agreed upon candidate and has essentially served as a rubber stamp).

    By custom, the SG always comes from a non-major power, and usually a Third World country, at least since U Thant, minus the Kurt Waldheim abberation. I have a very tough time seeing China supporting Clinton. I doubt the US would even support him.

    Having a Third Worlder serve as SG, while very difficult for the US at times, at least offers a solid facade of independence of the organization. Having Clinton, or any American, as SG would just confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt the UN is an American puppet, which is a quite commonly held belief outside of the US, especially in the devloping world.

    Next read Chapter XV, Article 100. Very, very problematic for an American, personally and procedurally, especially a former POTUS and one who has a spouse with desires for that office, whose term, if elected, would overlap with his SG term.

  12. Anjin-San says:

    President Clinton could restore some of the credibility and respect we have lost under Bush. Sounds like a plan to me.

  13. Scott Harris says:

    Clinton may have been a cad, and I did not agree with him on many issues, but an American of his stature at the head of the UN would be vastly superior to the latest third world apparatchik. On the other hand, giving Clinton an official platform on which to launch attacks at Republicans is ploblematic. Would Clinton use his post to try to help his wife become President?

  14. Evian says:

    WTF does everything have to be a conspiracy theory? The man’s looked up to JFK and Carter for so long… He probably just feels like he too can help more in stabilizing the world. It would be pathetic and deplorable to use such an honorable post as a US domestic political tool, and I don’t think that’s his game. I personally do not see Anan using his post to bend policy is a much more maliable Ghana, nor do I recall hearing it happen anywhere before…
    Give it a rest.

  15. Nick Stark says:

    Being the UNSG is probably the closest thing to becomeing president again for him. With Democratic leadership crumbling, Bill Clinton would revitalize the entire party and then some perhaps. Him being secretary general would make like for the Bush Administration hell. I guess your support for Clinton depends on how you feel about Bush. How bad would it look though if Bush vetoed Clinton as UNSG, how unpatriotic that might seem to refuse your own countrymen one of the most important possitions in the world. There is no doubt though that the UN would serve American interests alot better if Clinton where in charge.