Kerry in, Clinton out as US secretary of state
APWASHINGTON -- John Kerry was sworn in to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who ended a four-year tenure as secretary of state that made her one of America's most popular public figures, despite leaving on a bitter note amid a partisan feud over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya.
February 3, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama shortly before she left the State Department for the last time Friday in her official capacity, Clinton thanked her former foe for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination for the opportunity to serve in his administration. Clinton said it had been an honor to be part of his Cabinet.
“I am more convinced than ever in the strength and staying power of America's global leadership and our capacity to be a force for good in the world,” she said in the letter.
Clinton shattered records for the number of countries visited by a U.S. secretary of state. The former First Lady, once considered a divisive figure in American politics, leaves office as one of its most popular. But she remained coy about whether she would run for president in 2016.
“I am making no decisions, but I would never give that advice to someone that I wouldn't take myself,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. “If you believe you can make a difference, not just in politics, in public service, in advocacy around all these important issues, then you have to be prepared to accept that you are not going to get 100 percent approval.”
Her resignation became effective at 4 p.m. Friday, when Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan swore in Kerry as the top U.S. diplomat. The former senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate is the 68th secretary of state.
“I'm just very, very honored to be sworn in and I'm very anxious to get to work,” Kerry told reporters after the private ceremony at the Capitol.
“I'll be reporting Monday morning at nine o'clock to do my part,” he said, but refused to say what global hotspot he would visit first.
Clinton said the attack in Benghazi was the low point of her time as America's top diplomat. But she suggested that the furor over the assault would not affect whether she runs for president in 2016.
Although she insisted that she has not decided what her future holds, she said she “absolutely” still plans to make a difference on issues she cares about in speeches and in a sequel to her 2003 memoir, “Living History,” that will focus largely on her years as secretary of state.
An independent panel she convened to look into the incident was scathing in its criticism of the State Department and singled out four officials for serious management and leadership failures. But it also determined that there was no guarantee that extra personnel could have prevented the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans. Clinton herself was not blamed, although she has said she accepted responsibility for the situation.
“I was so unhappy with the way that some people refused to accept the facts, refused to accept the findings of an independent Accountability Review Board, politicized everything about this terrible attack,” she said. “My job is to admit that we have to make improvements and we're going to.”
Hours later a suicide bomber linked to a domestic terror group exploded a device just outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, killing himself and a guard. Clinton told State Department staff on Friday that the attack showed again how “we live in very complex and dangerous times.”