Hillary Clinton vs. Condi Rice: Who gets the 'most traveled' crown?

Traveler magazine awards the title to Hillary Clinton, based on the number of countries she has visited (soon to be 111). But in the miles traveled category, Condi Rice is ahead with a million-plus.

Jim Watson/Reuters
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves to the crowd as she departs for China, at Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 4.
David Goldman/AP
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sits down for a television interview on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 29.

So, is Hillary Rodham Clinton the most traveled secretary of state in history, or isn’t she?

Traveler magazine declares on this month’s cover that she is. Condoleezza Rice might beg to differ.

Turns out, it all comes down to whether one measures “most traveled” by miles clocked or countries visited. It’s a distinction that even some less high-profile globe trotters might appreciate, since some big travelers like to measure their exploits by the number and variety of places visited, while others prefer to cite the mile counts provided by their frequent-flyer programs.

Secretary Clinton, currently on an 11-day, six-country Asia-Pacific trip that includes a first-ever stop for a secretary of state in the young country of Timor-Leste, wins the coveted “most traveled secretary of state” title if one goes by the “most countries” criterion.

Clinton has visited 108 countries and counting. The number will jump to 111 once she adds Brunei, the Cook Islands, and Timor-Leste from her current trip.

But use the miles-traveled criterion, and Secretary Rice still wears the crown. She traveled just over 1 million miles – 1,059,247, according to official records – in her time as President George W. Bush’s secretary of state. Clinton, not counting her current trip, has clocked 867,196 miles, according to the State Department website.

The preference for the countries-visited criterion would seem to fit Clinton’s diplomatic style. She doesn’t shy away from the traditional international-relations must-dos like Beijing or London, Moscow or Mexico City. But it’s hardly surprising that a proponent of people power and the “it takes a village” approach to government would make a point of broadening America’s diplomatic horizons.

She’s sought to do that by visiting new countries like Timor-Leste and South Sudan, or by taking up hot global issues with a broad range of local actors – for example, by addressing the impact of rising seas in the Pacific’s Cook Islands, or women’s economic issues in Bangladesh.

In any case, with a few months to go – and a number of additional trips already scheduled – before Clinton winds up her tenure as President Obama’s chief diplomat, it may be that she will end up surpassing Rice’s total miles traveled and can unequivocally claim the “most traveled secretary of state” title.

If not, Clinton and Rice will just have to share the crown, like lesser jet-setters who compare miles traveled against places visited.

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