CLINTON SECURES PARDONS IN NORTH KOREA…. Sending Bill Clinton to North Korea to negotiate the release of two American television journalists was a very smart move. It also proved to be effective.

The former president, joined by the Center for American Progress’ John Podesta, arrived in Pyongyang early Tuesday morning local time, and was able to secure pardons for Laura Ling and Euna Lee this afternoon.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, pardoned two jailed American journalists, the official KCNA news agency has reported, according to Reuters. The report came after former President Bill Clinton met with the reclusive and ailing Mr. Kim in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

Mr. Kim granted “a special pardon,” KCNA said in a statement. It was not clear how rapidly the two journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, might be allowed to leave the country. They were being held near Pyongyang after having been sentenced to 12 years at hard labor for entering North Korea illegally.

The pardon added to speculation among analysts in Seoul that North Korea, after months of raising tensions and hostile rhetoric towards Washington, may be ready to return to dialogue with Washington.

After North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator helped greet Clinton at the airport, there was some speculation that the talks might extend beyond the detention of Ling and Lee. Administration officials said that was not the case — Roberts Gibbs told reporters that the detained journalists should not be “linked to other issues” — and whether today’s developments will lead to additional talks remains to be seen.

Broader negotiations aside, today’s news is encouraging, and rescuing Laura Ling and Euna Lee from a North Korean hard-labor camp is unquestionably good news. Unless, of course, you’re John Bolton, who’s arguing that Clinton’s successful mission is terrible. Indeed, the lead story on Yahoo News for most of the afternoon was this report, noting Bolton’s complaint that the Obama administration is “rewarding North Korea for its bad behavior.”

Bolton, one assumes, would have preferred a military confrontation to free Ling and Lee — maybe with some of those lasers Newt Gingrich is so fond of.

I haven’t seen any of the broadcast coverage of this today, but dday said the media is “turning this into Bill Clinton ‘upstaging’ the White House.”


Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.