STATE DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON —
Hillary Clinton has released a memoir of her time as President Barack Obama's first-term secretary of state. It's an opportunity to put her stamp on her record as America's top diplomat ahead of a possible run for the presidency in 2016.
Clinton said she had a team of researchers to help with the diplomatic biography Hard Choices, but the final story is hers alone.
"I had to take responsibility for every word. I had to be the one who decided how I wanted to describe a situation, how I thought it fit in to my overall view about where America is in the 21st century," she said.
As secretary, she carried abroad Obama's message of change from the diplomacy of former President George W. Bush.
U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann said, "I think she certainly succeeded in communicating to both publics and governments around the world that the Obama administration, when it comes to matters of foreign policy, is the anti-Bush, that there is a commitment to consultation, that there is a commitment to working through international institutions."
That made her Washington's most-traveled secretary of state, but limited individual diplomatic gains, according to American Enterprise Institute analyst Michael Auslin.
"The general rap on Clinton is that she really accomplished very little in her time as secretary of state, despite all of the frenetic, non-stop flying around the world. The one area that they could claim at least a policy break with the Bush administration was in Asia," said Auslin.
Clinton helped direct the Obama administration's so-called Asia Pivot of diplomatic, commercial, and military resources.
But Auslin said that pivot has withered under greater Chinese claims to disputed waters.
"Very little is being done to materially affect what is happening in the region, i.e., the territorial disputes and coercion and the like. So I think that she can make a claim that, 'We had the better idea.'I don't think she can make the claim that, 'We had the better outcome,'" said Auslin.
Clinton said her biggest regret is the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. In her book, she said some "exploit" that attack as a political tool.
Clinton's Senate testimony on Benghazi was the most contentious of her tenure.
Republican Senator John McCain said, "There are many questions that are unanswered. And the answers, frankly, that you have given this morning are not satisfactory to me."
As she does now, Clinton then focused on bringing to justice those responsible.
"The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again," said Clinton.
Popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East were diplomatic opportunities missed, said Heydemann.
"Nothing that Hillary Clinton did while she was in office really changed the perceptions of the U.S. within the Arab world, at least, where our popularity continues to be pretty low," he said.
On the war in Syria, Heydemann said that Clinton pushed for a harder line than the president. "Everything that we know about Secretary Clinton's tenure in office suggests that she was an advocate for more direct engagement by the U.S. in Syria, and that she supported efforts for example to provide weapons to vetted elements of the armed opposition."
Heydemann said the president may have been better served by taking Clinton's advice on Syria, a diplomatic difference she may use to distinguish herself from the president if she runs for the White House herself in 2016.