Bill Clinton redux

I note that Bill Clinton, whom I warned last year was in danger of tarnishing his Davos brand by being nasty about Barack Obama on the US campaign trial, seems to have bounced back.

The absence of any senior figures from the US administration at the World Economic Forum this year has left Mr Clinton to re-occupy his place as the well-loved philanthropist and former president who represents the acceptable – even loveable – face of the US in Europe.

He is also on fine form. I was standing in the Hotel Belvedere lobby earlier this week when Mr Clinton passed through and provoked a scream of excitement from some women officials. He turned and waved cheerily at them, as if pleased that his natural place in the world order had been re-established.

Mr Clinton also received a respectful session to himself in the main Congress Centre, and played the diplomat, agreeing with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, that the US was the place where the financial crisis had started and “the house in on fire and we need to put it out as fast as we can”.

Not only that, but an invite to the Clinton Global Initiative’s party at the Kirchner Museum was sought after, as Gideon Rachman noted ruefully this morning, and Mr Clinton was the most impressive speaker at the philanthropy lunch that I attended yesterday.

It is an interesting question as to whether he would have regained his stature quite as fast if his negative campaigning in the Democratic primary last year had actually had the intended effect, and brought down Mr Obama. But the fact that he was ineffective has allowed him to return to the status quo ante.

John Gapper is the FT’s chief business commentator

Davos blog 2009

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