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Hillary Clinton Reflects On Challenges Of Office

Jan 30, 2013
Originally published on January 30, 2013 10:44 am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves her position Friday after four years on the job, handing over duties to her successor, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

As secretary, Clinton is credited with restoring alliances that were frayed during the Bush years. She put women and girls' issues at the forefront of international policy and oversaw a new U.S. focus on Asia. But she also faced fast-breaking revolutions in the Arab world, and consequent instability that would later claim the lives of four American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Clinton discusses her time in office as well as future U.S. challenges with NPR's Michele Kelemen. (You can read a full transcript of the interview here.)

Interview Highlights

On the lessons to be learned from Benghazi

Ultimately, I think we all have to do a better job. The threats have evolved. We've seen different kinds of threats affect our military, affect our intelligence community and affect our diplomats. So I think we'll do our part here in the State Department to try to implement all of the recommendations, and we'll work with our partners in the government to just make sure that we're not missing anything going forward.

On the rising threat of militancy in North Africa

I think that it's going to take some time to sort out what these governments are able to do to secure their own borders and protect their own people. The Arab revolutions and the new efforts to build democracies are not well established yet. So we have a multitude of challenges that we're meeting simultaneously.

On the violence in Syria

I think there is a lot of concern, not just by the United States but by other countries as well. I mean, we are certainly not alone in being cautious about what more we can do without causing more death and more destruction, and the unintended consequences of helping to foment an even more deadly civil war. No one is in any way satisfied with what the United States or the entire world community has done, which is why we keep pressing for U.N. action and keep being disappointed and blocked by the Russians.

On possible plans for a White House run in 2016

I'm not even posing those questions. I am really looking forward to stepping off the fast track that I've been on. I've been out of politics as secretary of state. I don't see myself getting back into politics. I want to be involved in philanthropy, advocacy, working on issues like women and girls that I care deeply about. I want to write and speak. I want to work with my husband and my daughter on our mutual foundation interests. So I'm going to have my hands full. I don't quite know how I'm going to adjust to not having a schedule and a lot of work that is in front of me that is expecting me to respond to minute by minute. But I'm looking forward to that and I have no other plans besides that.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. One thing Hillary Clinton will be remembered for is the record number of countries she visited as secretary of state.

INSKEEP: That globetrotting will officially end this Friday when Clinton hands over her duties to her successor, John Kerry. Now, as secretary, Clinton is credited with restoring international alliances that were frayed during the Bush years.

MONTAGNE: She also faced fast-breaking revolutions in the Arab world and the instability that followed, including one violent night in Benghazi, Libya, that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead. That's where NPR's diplomatic correspondent, Michele Kelemen, picks up in her interview with the departing secretary.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Clinton describes the September attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya as one of her lasting regrets, and says the U.S. needs to get a better handle on security threats there and across North Africa.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: I think that it's going to take some time to sort out what these governments are able to do to secure their own borders and protect their own people. The Arab revolutions and the new efforts to build democracies are not well established yet. So we have a multitude of challenges that we're meeting simultaneously.

KELEMEN: I'd like to turn to Syria, because your critics describe Syria as this administration's Rwanda. And I wonder how it weighs on you and what more the U.S. could have done to prevent the deaths of, now, 60,000 people.

CLINTON: Well, it's not a historically accurate analogy. Rwanda was particularly dreadful because it was largely unarmed people being slaughtered in huge numbers in a very short period of time, despite the presence of a U.N. mission in Rwanda. Syria is much more complex. You have a well-equipped military going after what started out to be largely unarmed, peaceful protestors, now pockets of armed resistance all over the country.

No one is in any way satisfied with what the United States or the entire world community has done, which is why we keep pressing for U.N. action and keep being disappointed and blocked by the Russians.

KELEMEN: You spent a lot of your time trying to reset that relationship with Russia. There were some early successes, but now we're at the point where the Russians won't even let American families adopt Russian children. What do you say to John Kerry, your successor, about how to deal with this Russian government and how to deal with this anti-American mood in Moscow?

CLINTON: Well, I think we just have to wait and see what the real objectives of the new Russian leadership are. We thought it was self-defeating for them to take the actions they did, throwing out USAID. That really hurts the Russian people. I thought it was tragic that they stopped adoptions, especially those that were already in train.

So there are issues we will keep working on, but we'll also draw lines where we disagree and speak out when we must.

KELEMEN: Now, you say you're not retiring. You say you need to catch up on 20 years of sleep deprivation...

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: That's true.

KELEMEN: ...before you make any decisions on your future. But I wonder, what questions do you need to answer for yourself as you decide whether or not to run again for president?

CLINTON: I'm not even posing those questions. I am really looking forward to stepping off the fast track that I've been on. You know, I've been out of politics as secretary of state. I don't see myself getting back into politics. I want to be involved in philanthropy, advocacy, working on issues like women and girls that I care deeply about.

I want to write and speak. I want to work with my husband and my daughter on our mutual foundation interests. So I'm going to have my hands full. And I have no other plans besides that.

KELEMEN: And you look great. How's your health?

CLINTON: It's terrific. I mean, I'm getting better, and I'm recovering. It was quite a surprise to me. I've been so healthy my entire life. But, you know, falling on your head is not something that I hope ever happens to any of your listeners.

KELEMEN: Well, thank you so much for your time.

CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk with you, Michele.

MONTAGNE: And that's NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen speaking to departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.