While everyone was expecting exactly what would be her parting words, if it were to be a goodbye or see you later, Hillary Clinton on Friday left her post as Secretary of State of the United States with a simple “thank you and God bless” — leaving in the air therefore the question of whether she was leaving behind politics forever, or if she plans to be a candidate for president in 2016.
In the last act of Clinton, the most popular politician in the country, the head of American diplomacy was devoted to its 70,000 employees. On days when you wake up so suspicious of politicians worldwide, it’s notable to see the admirable harmony between Hillary Clinton and her associates, who cheered, chanted her name and even released a few tears at her departure.
“America is what it is,” she said, “for this, because we are united and committed to our government.” Excited and satisfied. “We left a stronger, safer, fairer and better,” she said, in a brief review.
She predicted “difficult days ahead” because “we live in a very complex and dangerous world, as we remember today’s attack on our embassy in Ankara.” But she said also we walk in a better world, “not only because of what the U.S. does, but many countries, and because people, especially young people, they deserve it.”
Hillary Clinton leaves the bar high for her successor, John Kerry, who was sworn in later Friday before Justice Elena Kagan. Though you cannot write down any particular success particularly important to Clinton, her work and her personality have been crucial to change the U.S. image in the world and create a new model of involvement in international affairs.
Her tour of Egypt’s Tahir Square in 2011, for example, stressed U.S. support for democracy movements in the Arab world. With her many visits to Asia, she stressed the priority that Africa has achieved in the U.S. strategy. Her visit to Morocco in 2009, where she attended with King Mohammed the the ceremony of presenting Morocco’s solar energy project worth about nine billion dollars, and which is a national and ambitious project seeks to achieve a 2,000 megawatt capacity by 2020, was highly appreciated.
Clinton has been able to speak up to denounce human rights abuses, which has earned her the enmity of China. Under her leadership, new issues have become top among the concerns of U.S. foreign policy, such as the situation of children, underdevelopment and, particularly the marginalization of women.
She wisely knew how to stay away from the difficult crisis such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear program, and was always a strong voice in defense of democracy and against terrorism. She was a strong secretary of state without being authoritarian.
Probably her worst moment in office was the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in the attack on U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the audiences she had to go through in the Congress. Among the best is, perhaps, her encounter with the Nobel Peace Prize Aung Suu Chi Yang. And among the most memorable, that image of horror as she watched live the operation against Osama Bin Laden.
Despite her famous duel during the 2008 primaries, she always appeared as a loyal servant of Barack Obama, not causing a single problem over four years. Instead, she has filled much of the “international” void so that the President could focus on domestic issues.
Kerry lacks the popular recognition enjoyed by Hillary Clinton. However, he has experience and knowledge to do a good job. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, until recent days, he had the opportunity to monitor the major global issues.
In his appearance in the Senate, where he obtained confirmation with only three votes against, he promised essentially to continue the work begun by Clinton, but expected more involvement in the fight against climate change, a priority for President Obama.
A Vietnam veteran and former and prominent activist against the war, Kerry has a worldview perhaps more pacifist than Clinton.
As the international agenda is something that can hardly be expected, the value of Kerry as Secretary of State will be shown on the various crisis that threaten the world scene: the Irann uclear program, civil war in Syria, the Egyptian crisis, the spread of terrorism in North Africa and a climate of growing tension in the Far East.
About the author: Said Temsamani
Said Temsamani is a Moroccan political observer and consultant, who follows events in his country and across North Africa. He is a Senior Fellow, Merdian International Center Washington DC, Founder and CEO "Public Initiatives" Consulting firm and Former Senior Political Advisor, US Embassy Rabat, Morocco.