Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Tuesday that she’s “not inclined” to run for president in 2016 but left the door open for what is widely considered her likely return to politics after she steps down as secretary of state.
“I’m not thinking about anything like that right now,” Clinton smilingly told a questioner. “I am looking forward to finishing up my tenure as secretary of state and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation.”
Clinton, who steps down Friday as one of the best-known secretaries of state, is also among the world’s most admired women and the object of intense speculation about her future.
In a wide-ranging online question-and-answer session with students from around the world at the Newseum in Washington, Clinton said she will write a memoir and work on causes dear to her.
That includes the cause of women in politics, she said, even as she sidestepped a question posed by a young woman in London about whether she will reprise her 2008 run for the Democratic nomination for president.
“I do want to see more women compete for the highest positions in their countries,” Clinton said.
“I will do what I can, whether or not it is up to me to make a decision on my own future — I right now am not inclined to do that — but I will do everything I can to make sure that women compete at the highest levels not only in the United States, but around the world.”
Plenty of people are eager to see her run. A super PAC supporting Clinton for president in 2016, Ready for Hillary, was registered with the Federal Election Commission on Friday.
Clinton has no connection to the PAC, which is chaired by Allida Black, founder of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University and a member of the board of directors of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. Black was also behind a pro-Clinton PAC in the 2008 presidential primary, WomenCount, and she pushed for Clinton’s name to be put into nomination at the Democratic convention that year.
According to the group’s Facebook page, a former aide and a former adviser to Clinton are involved. A Twitter account has more than 50,000 followers.
A Clinton ally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is urging her on. “I would love it if she would run,” Feinstein told CNN on Sunday.
Clinton has repeatedly denied that she is interested in a 2016 campaign. In an interview broadcast Sunday, she joked that as a sitting Cabinet member, she is “forbidden” from entertaining political questions.
Clinton was interviewed via satellite by young people and journalists in Lebanon, Japan, India, Nigeria, Colombia and the United Kingdom. The one-hour event also included questions submitted via social media.
When asked what she considers her “lasting regret” from her time as President Obama’s top diplomat, Clinton pointed immediately to last year’s militant attacks on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
“Certainly the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something I deeply regret,” Clinton said. Clinton has accepted responsibility for the deaths, which represent the largest blot on her record, but she has rejected Republican criticism that she is personally to blame.
“When you do these jobs, you have to understand at the very beginning” that there are limits to what diplomats or nations can do, Clinton said.
“There are terrible situations right now being played out in the Congo, in Syria, where we all wish that there were clear paths that we could follow together in the international community to try to resolve.”
In his harshest comments to date, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday on Fox News that he thinks Clinton “got away with murder” for failing to protect diplomats in danger.
“I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi,” Graham said.