Charting Sec State Hillary Clinton’s global trekking (see thisUSAToday interactive for the map) conveys only one aspect of her diplomatic legacy. Hard to say what history will say about her record, but one thing is certain–she has been a popular and seemingly effective diplomat-in-chief.
The Economist suggests her contribution to the creation of State’s first quadrennial strategy review, a larger focus on talking to civil society, “economic statecraft”, renewed emphasis on women’s wellbeing, as well as a bunch of items in the “unresolved” category–North Korea, Af/Pak, Iraq, and Iran, to name a few, as well as the Arab Spring aftermath. And the NYT Magazine’s recent article starts off by addressing the unliklihood of it all (including her high approval ratings):
What has been most striking about Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state is at once how suited for the job she has proved to be and how improbable it once seemed, even to her. “Not in a million years,” she replied by e-mail in November 2008 when her political aide Philippe Reines first told her that President-elect Barack Obama was considering her appointment, despite having derided her experience in foreign affairs as first lady during the campaign. His experience, Obama said during the primaries, was “grounded in understanding how the world sees America, from living overseas and traveling overseas, and having family beyond our shores” and “not just of what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador’s house, who I had tea with.”
It’s true that Clinton lacked the foreign-policy experience of recent secretaries like Condoleezza Rice, Colin L. Powell or Madeleine K. Albright. Nor was she personally close to Obama in the way James A. Baker III was to President George H. W. Bush. What she possessed was energy, the dogged loyalty she displayed campaigning for Obama after she lost and, not insignificant, her fame. Clinton vacillated for days, at one point deciding to decline. (Her aides say Obama would not take no for an answer; he avoided at least one phone call from her, the story goes, by having an aide explain he was in the bathroom.)
Ultimately, as the chief of protocol of the United States, Capricia Penavic Marshall, who has worked with Clinton since she was first lady, told me: “When asked to serve, she does. And her president asked.”