If Washington issued air miles for flying on government aeroplanes, Hillary Clinton would be inundated. But after becoming the most-travelled US Secretary of State in history yesterday upon returning to Andrews Air Force Base from a 13-day jaunt spanning 27,000 miles, more flying is the last thing she needs.
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If not everyone is ready to give President Barack Obama and his team five stars on foreign policy one thing is for sure: as his top diplomat for the last three and half years, Ms Clinton has toiled spectacularly. That she wins a two thirds approval rating in poll after poll is in part due to that image of tirelessness.
Since the start of 2009, Ms Clinton has travelled no fewer than 351 days – almost a year – and has flown 843,839 miles. That was the number on the clock when she touched down here early yesterday morning after a skip around the globe that included France, Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel. It was "especially absurd even for us", one staffer with her said.
While it may be that some previous secretaries had more miles on their odometers because of shuttling to and from the Middle East, Ms Clinton is unbeaten when it comes to numbers of nations visited – 102 – four more than the previous record-holder, Madeleine Albright, who served under Bill Clinton.
Ms Clinton was the first US Secretary of State to visit Laos in 57 years and the first to visit Burma since the 1950s.
For any 64-year-old it would be gruelling. And some of the welcomes are less than warm. In Egypt earlier this week, her motorcade was pelted with tomatoes and onlookers yelled "Monica, Monica", a taunt meant to take her back to the humiliation suffered when her then president husband misbehaved with a certain intern.
It has also been a schedule that has caused her to say as plainly as possible that she will not be returning to the job if Mr Obama is returned to office after November. Rather, she says she wants a break from public service and politics. In May Ms Clinton said she was looking forward "to some time to collect myself and spend it doing just ordinary things…like taking a walk without a lot of company". No one has any reason not to take her seriously.
What they may not take so seriously is that doing "ordinary things" is what Ms Clinton will do over the longer term. Those Democrats in America – and there are not so few of them – who have wistfully wondered how things might have been if she and not Mr Obama had won the party nomination four years ago – are now fully anticipating her throwing her hat in the ring in 2016. One thing voters would have no troubling accepting is that she is a hard worker.
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