Farewell, Madame Secretary

A million miles after agreeing to take on the duties of secretary of state, Hillary Clinton is stepping down for a well-earned (and much needed) rest. She deserves the thanks of her country and of her fellow New Yorkers. It’s a tough job, and she performed it with admirable determination and extraordinary patience.

Mrs. Clinton was already an internationally known politician when she became the nation’s top diplomat, so it was perhaps inevitable that she would emerge as one of the Obama administration’s stars. But she used her clout judiciously, focusing attention on an array of global issues, from the empowerment of women and girls to equitable economic development in the third world. And she was extraordinarily loyal to President Obama, despite the bitterness of the 2008 primary campaign, when Mr. Obama foiled what many believed to be Mrs. Clinton’s date with history.

She went on to make history in other ways. No secretary of state visited more countries than Mrs. Clinton, who was a guest in more than 100. She helped to refocus American diplomacy on collaboration, rather than the unilateralism of the Bush years. She performed a delicate balancing act in her negotiations with China, not losing sight of human rights and trade issues while continuing to forge an important relationship with Beijing. Under her watch, Myanmar emerged from years of isolation as a fledgling democracy.

America’s best and truest friend in the Middle East, Israel, surely will miss her. Mrs. Clinton’s support for the Jewish state was never a question during her years at the State Department, or, for that matter, while she was in the Senate. That cannot be said of her boss, whose second term is shaping up to be a potential nightmare for Israel-U.S. relations.

Mrs. Clinton certainly was not able to solve every diplomatic problem during her four years at State. Iran and North Korea continue to pose threats to world stability. Pakistan remains a powder keg.

Still, her record of achievement is formidable. Those who focus their attention on her supposed ambitions rather than her achievements miss the point. Mrs. Clinton didn’t travel to all those nations and spend all that time on airplanes to promote herself. She did so because her president asked her to serve. She did so because she is a patriot. Well done, Mrs. Clinton.