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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clinton to Remain as Secretary of State? \'Unlikely\'

WASHINGTON â€" Those who play the perennial Washington parlor game about Hillary Rodham Clinton's future got a fresh tingle on Thursday after the Wall Street Journal published an interview in which Mrs. Clinton suggested she might stay on longer as secretary of state, even if she termed that “unlikely.”

Mrs. Clinton's longtime spokesman, Philippe Reines, sent along the following response when asked what her remarks mean:



1) not likely to be or occur; improbable; marked by doubt.

2) holding little prospect of success; unpromising; likely to fail.

“She's been honored to serve as President Obama's secretary of state, and has loved every minute of leading this department and being part of the State family,” Mr. Reines said. “But she's also been clear about her intention to leave after the first term. She merely meant that at such an important time she wants to ensure continuity, and realizes the confirmation of her successor might not exactly line up with Jan. 22, 2013.”

“Until her final day,” he added, “she's full speed ahead.”

Mr. Reines, who has spent the last four years parrying questions about whether Mrs. Clinton plans to run for president again or was going to replace Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on the Democratic ticket, declined to comment further.

But one possible explanation for Mrs. Clinton's hedge is that one of the leading candidates to succeed her, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, may face a more difficult confirmation hearing after the dispute over her characterization of the attacks on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya.

On “The Tonight Show” on Wednesday, the president told Jay Leno that Mrs. Clinton had done a “wonderful job” and “I would love for her to stay.” Despite his “begging,” he said, Mrs. Clinton seemed determined to return to private life.

On Thursday, the press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters on Air Force One that Mr. Obama was still under the impression that Mrs. Clinton planned to leave, though he said, “He would certainly welcome having her stay.”

Mrs. Clinton, who turns 65 on Friday and has logged 907,661 miles and visited 110 countries in her tenure, seems genuinely eager to get some rest. Recent secretaries of state have typically served four-year terms. The last one who served longer was George P. Shultz, who took over from Alexander M. Haig during the Reagan administration. And the last to serve two full terms was Dean Rusk, who served John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.