Hillary Clinton takes bow as top US diplomat in virtual forum

Clinton gives exit interview as top US diplomat via web, but dodges questions about future

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 6:20am


Despite being grounded on doctor's orders after a bout of ill health, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a virtual round-the-world trip to say a final farewell.

Using satellites and the internet, she hooked into some of the world's major television networks on Tuesday to answer questions from local anchors and audiences in what was billed as a Global Townterview by the US State Department.

Clinton, who has travelled almost 1.6 million kilometres, apparently held 1,700 meetings with world leaders and suffered some 570 aircraft meals, never moved from her seat in the Washington-based Newseum during the hour-long interview.

It was one of her last public events before she steps down tomorrow after four years as the top US diplomat and hands over to Senator John Kerry.

Clinton took questions from every continent and cities from Beirut to Tokyo, London to New Delhi, and on to Bogota via Lagos.

With the threat of Islamic extremism topping the headlines, Clinton agreed with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's anchor Leigh Sales that "historically", not enough focus had been given to North Africa.

She said one of her biggest regrets was the death of four Americans in an attack on the US mission in Benghazi in September.

Later, as she did the rounds of the US television networks with back-to-back interviews, she told CNN that despite being aware of the threat in the Libyan city, "no one - not the ambassador, security professionals, the intelligence community - ever recommended closing that mission".

But in both the town hall event and the later interviews, the questions kept coming back - what is she planning to do next?

There is definitely another memoir in the works, and she promised at the town hall that she would keep working for women's rights. "This has been the cause of my life and will continue to be as I leave the secretary of state's office, because we are hurting ourselves," she said.

But as usual, she deftly sidestepped the question of running for president in the 2016 elections. "I have absolutely no plans to run," she told CNN, but admitted that suddenly waking up with no job to go to would be a shock.

"It's been my whole life. I mean, I've had a job ever since I was 13 years old. When I wasn't in school, I was working. When I wake up, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, to have the luxury of nowhere to go, nothing to do, no frantic call about calling some leader about some impending crisis, I'm actually interested to see how that goes," she told CNN.

She insisted on NBC News that her recent health scare, when she suffered a concussion and a blood clot, would not "factor in at all" in any decision-making about whether to make another bid for the White House.