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June 16, 2009

Meeting with Bill Clinton: Paul Farmer to USAID?

Former president Bill Clinton invited about 20 progressive bloggers to his Harlem office for an informal discussion about the work of the Clinton Foundation...and whatever else we wanted to talk about. I was one of the bloggers who attended the on-the-record chat.

As president, Clinton was known for corralling aides and guests impromptu seminars, often at odd hours. Though pre-scheduled, our meeting had a similar feel. Officially, we were there to talk about the environmental and humanitarian projects of the Clinton Foundation, but Clinton's handlers warned us to expect digressions from the nominal agenda. The Big Dog was true to form.

The discussion ranged from the Clinton Foundation's campaign to provide AIDS drugs in the developing world, to reimporting drugs from Canada (he thinks the drug companies are raising spurious objections), to the prospects for health care reform this year (he's optimistic), to the basis of personal identity.

My question for Clinton was whether legendary humanitarian and global health activist Paul Farmer would be tapped to head United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Rumors have been circulating for weeks that Farmer is in line for the job--but so far, nothing has been announced.

Farmer is best-known for his years of work in Haiti as the founder of the NGO Partners in Health. Clinton is the newly-minted  UN Special Envoy to Haiti. Between that and his marriage to the Secretary of State, I figured there was a good chance he'd have the inside scoop on the likelihood of a Farmer appointment.

So, I asked him. Clinton laughed and said that that wasn't his announcement to make. Was he implying that someone else would be making that announcement, I asked. Clinton said he didn't know whether Farmer was in line for the job, but he praised Farmer lavishly calling him a "magnificent man" and holding up his work as an example to NGOs worldwide. Clinton argues that partnerships between the government and NGOs like Farmer's are a model for transforming US foreign aid.

Clinton joked that if Farmer does take the job, it would make Clinton's "life difficult" because Farmer is working with the Clinton Foundation to deliver health care to Rwanda.

The dean of Harvard Medical School recently tapped Farmer to chair the school's department of Global Health and Social Medicine, effective June 1--which might be a sign that he's not planning to join the Obama administration after all.


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Did anyone throw hardballs about Clinton's behavior in the primary, or what people in Harlem think about him now?

I have had a Bill Clinton blog since late Feb. I helped Hillary with grassroots and raising small donor money. There are tons of blogs and forums for Hillary NONE for Bill. So, I decided to start one to promote his work. I told him about it and gave him my link last month while I was in DC.
here it is

It's about time Haiti is back on the international radar and PRes Clinton is just the man to do it.

I don't know much about Paul Farmer, but that sounds exactly like the sort of question I'd want somebody to ask.

Oh, I'm excited! We ought to start a petition.

Paul Farmer to head USAID? Farmer is a competent, dedicated development expert but is hardly equipped to run a major bureaucracy in dire need of reform. What USAID needs is a manager who understands the business of development--procurement, implementation, and impact. USAID is at the center of a competitive industry populated by agressive implementing partners, technical guns for hire, and understaffed often lackluster bureaucrats. State should turn to a true management executive from one of the many corporate and nonprofits that live off of USAID.

I'm thinking they should get William Easterly to run USAID.

Bill Clinton's personal email was read by an NSA employee:


He said he and other analysts were trained to use a secret database, code-named Pinwale, in 2005 that archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages. He said Pinwale allowed N.S.A. analysts to read large volumes of e-mail messages to and from Americans as long as they fell within certain limits — no more than 30 percent of any database search, he recalled being told — and Americans were not explicitly singled out in the searches.

The former analyst added that his instructors had warned against committing any abuses, telling his class that another analyst had been investigated because he had improperly accessed the personal e-mail of former President Bill Clinton.

>>but Clinton's handlers warned us to expect digressions from the nominal agenda. The Big Dog was true to form.

Handlers? What other ex-president has "handlers"?

You're feeding his pathologies.

On to more important questions about the meeting:

- Were there any nonwhite bloggers in attendance?
- Were the bloggers' clothes vetted by Ann Althouse?

All former U.S. presidents have handlers, or assistants, or whatever you want to call them.

I would have asked about recent events, particularly the protests over the minimum wage, in Haiti. Nobody asked him about that at the press conference on Monday.

My view of Bill Clinton has gone up since the election ended. That's cool Lindsay was invited.

Well all this substance and foregin policy talk is fine, but I want to know if anyone was wearing a tight sweater while having the temerity to possess breasts.

Peter, of course Clinton looks more sympathetic now that he and his wife no longer have anything to gain from using racist language. By the same token, McCain hasn't used the phrase "real America" since the election.

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