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Clintons aim to keep their worlds from colliding, avoid conflicts of interest

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton lead separate professional lives, but their work still intersects.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton lead separate professional lives, but their work still intersects. (Peter Morrison/associated Press Ramon Espinosa/associated Press)
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Hillary Clinton has assigned the Haiti portfolio to her chief of staff and plugged the country at an international donors' conference -- where her husband also spoke -- in April. His foundation has supported development projects in Haiti and steered more than $100 million in aid from other groups there.

When Bill Clinton was named a U.N. envoy there in June, he agreed not to lobby the State Department for money for Haiti. "But since the secretary of state has been going to Haiti as long as I have, I would presume that I don't need to say much," he said.

Haitian Ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph said the Clinton double-whammy is powerful. "I think Haiti is just more than lucky at this time to have this great couple in various capacities poring over it and looking at it, helping it," he said.

'He's been so careful'

Friends say Bill Clinton has been eager to avoid saying or doing anything that could cause problems for his wife and has given up some speaking opportunities. "So far, it's worked because he's been so careful," said one longtime friend, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Clinton was particularly cautious about the one diplomatic mission he has carried out for the administration: winning the release of two American journalists jailed in North Korea. The former president has portrayed his August trip as a humanitarian mission, made at the request of North Korea's leader.

But, with no publicity, he tried to boost his wife's diplomatic efforts, according to John D. Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, who accompanied Clinton.

Podesta told "The Charlie Rose Show" that the delegation urged the North Koreans to return to six-nation disarmament talks and to free detained South Korean businessmen and fishermen. North Korea has released them and plans to meet next month with a U.S. envoy to discuss rejoining the nuclear talks.

If Bill Clinton has influenced his wife's foreign policy interests, she also has guided his, friends say. The recent Clinton Global Initiative charitable event featured programs on international women's issues, a longtime cause of Hillary Clinton's. She used that meeting to present the administration's multibillion-dollar plan to help Third World farmers, an area where her husband is also active. And she praised Bill Clinton's efforts to link government, business and philanthropic groups.

"I have to acknowledge that much of what we are attempting to do is derived from what I have seen happen here," Hillary Clinton said.


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