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Bill Clinton, Al Gore reunited as freed journalists set foot on U.S. soil

August 5, 2009 |  7:18 am

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The photo of Euna Lee's 4-year-old daughter clinging to her mother was riveting.

Former Vice President Al Gore was crying as Laura Ling described how the two journalists "feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp." Told yesterday that they were going to a meeting, they walked through a door and saw former President Bill Clinton. "We were shocked but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end," she said. "Now we stand here home and free."

It was a scene that will stand as an emotional triumph in diplomatic history. It also marks the public reunion of the Clinton-Gore team.

Ever since the disputed 2000 election, which Gore lost by a whisker, the two have not been exactly tight.

Gore blamed Clinton's impeachment trial over an affair with White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, which haunted the last years of his presidency, for souring voters on the Democrats. Clinton blamed Gore for not dispatching him to campaign in Arkansas and Tennessee, two states that went for George W. Bush.

But today, on a tarmac in California, the two re-bonded.

Triumphant in his whirlwind diplomatic mission to free the two U.S. journalists from North Korea, Clinton walked down the steps of the jet while Euna Lee and Laura Ling were embracing their families. The two journalists had been working on a documentary about human trafficking along the Chinese-North Korean border for Gore's Current TV when they either wandered or were lured into North Korean territory. Quickly tried, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, which few survive.

At the bottom of the plane steps, Gore gave him a bear hug.

Thanking Clinton for "performing so skillfully," Gore called him "my partner and friend."

As the homecoming played out in California, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to use her husband's successful breakthrough to coax the North Koreans back to negotiations over their nuclear program. In Washington, President Obama thanked his predecessors -- the 1990s successful political act of Clinton-Gore -- and especially Gore, for working "tirelessly in order to achieve a positive outcome."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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