There’s Hillary Clinton, gracing the cover of this month’s Conde Nast Traveler, looking ever the glamorous jet-setter in a tweed pantsuit, arms crossed, standing in front of the exotic-looking Humayan’s Tomb in New Delhi.
The glossy cover bears the headline “19,000 MILES WITH THE MOST TRAVELED SECRETARY OF STATE IN HISTORY.”
But wait just a New York minute. Although the State Department spin would have you believe that Clinton has logged the most miles among secretaries of state in the pursuit of global diplomacy, the title “most traveled” could very well go to former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice. As our truth-squadding colleague Glenn Kessler at the Fact Checker blog noted after a recent Loop mention of Clinton’s milestones, the State Department’s claims of Clinton’s travel supremacy might be a little premature (Kessler even gave the Loop a dreaded Pinocchio for buying the agency’s lines).
For starters, Rice traveled 1,059,247 miles total during her tenure in the George Bush administration, while Clinton is still only at 867,196, according to the State Department’s tracker. The agency also boasts that Clinton has traveled 365 days--and that’s where things get dicey in the Clinton-Rice travel war: Clinton’s count includes time in flight, whereas her predecessors only counted days on the ground.
A Conde Nast spokeswoman said they used another metric entirely: number of countries visited. Clinton has been to 108 in her job to date (it was 102 when the issue went to press), while Rice logged diplomatic time in only 85 nations. That’s an odd measurement, since the article seems to focus on Clinton’s mileage (a description of the “behind the scenes” planning of the article said reporter Kevin Doyle “clocked 18,832 miles on his trip, but that’s nothing compared to the mileage of the most-traveled secretary of state in U.S. history.”)
The magazine’s motto, we should note, is “truth in travel.”
Nevertheless, it doesn’t surprise many SecState watchers that Clinton is leading in the most-countries-visited category, since some of her recent goodwill trips have featured five-hour touchdowns in small nations (hello and goodbye, Benin!). Rice racked up miles commuting to a more select handful of countries, mainly in the Middle East.
But if Clinton keeps up the breakneck pace she’s on (she left last week on a trip that will take her to the Cook Islands, Indonesia, China, Timor-Leste, Brunei and Russia — which should boost her stats even more) she might surpass her predecessors in every category. And then the mag’s crowning of Clinton as “most traveled” will be less a cringe-inducing error and more of an early scoop.