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Hillary Clinton departs State: What's her legacy as top US diplomat? (+video)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton steps down Friday. Her supporters say she has reenergized America’s working relationships with allies and partners, while some critics ask what her defining accomplishments are.

By Staff writer / February 1, 2013

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks on American leadership at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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Washington

Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down as America’s top diplomat still flying high.

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After four years as President Obama’s secretary of State and America’s ambassador to the world, Mrs. Clinton is perhaps the globe’s most recognizable woman – one of her few rivals might be the queen of England – and she figures among the most admired.

Clinton’s approval rating among Americans is almost unheard-of in the current climate of over-the-top partisanship: She consistently scores 70 percent or better. And many political pundits assume the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, not to mention the presidency, is hers if she wants it.

Yet despite Mr. Obama’s recent pronouncement of Clinton as “one of our finest” secretaries of State, expert opinions are more divided over the job Clinton did and the impact she’s had on US foreign policy.

Clinton’s last day on the job is Friday, when she’ll culminate a week of valedictory events and goodbyes to an adoring State Department staff. On Thursday she addressed the Council on Foreign Relations on the future of American power, after holding a global town-hall meeting earlier in the week with youths asking questions via satellite.

Also in her last week, Clinton gave a series of sit-down interviews to some of the women journalists assigned to the State Department, underscoring her focus on women’s empowerment.

During the town-hall meeting, Clinton coyly addressed the question of her future political ambitions by saying she is “not inclined” at this point to seek the presidency – though she certainly did not slam any doors shut. If she does eventually decide to make another White House bid, most political analysts say they would expect her to run on a theme of “Hillary can do it all,” in which her tenure as secretary of State would be an important highlight but not the focus.

For her protagonists, Clinton has effectively reestablished and reenergized America’s working relationships with allies and partners that had become estranged from the United States during the George W. Bush administration. Beyond that, she began implementation of Obama’s “pivot” to the Asian Pacific region, they say, by building dialogue and institutional ties with a rising China while at the same time strengthening America’s links with the Asian countries that are feeling the impact of China’s growing weight.

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