Astound your friends, dazzle your enemies! There’s a new interactive graphic on The Washington Post Web site that will tell you instantly more than you ever thought you wanted to know about the travel patterns of secretaries of state going back to James Baker.
Everyone knows that outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to more countries — 112, to be precise — than any of her five predecessors. And we all know that Condoleezza Rice traveled the most miles — 1,059,247.
But a more important measure may be the number of “visits” a secretary makes — which would exclude drop-ins and refueling stops and the like. Most all the secretaries had around 200 visits but Rice, with 240, leads the sextet, edging Madeleine Albright by three visits and Clinton by 20, according to data compiled the State Department historian’s office.
Using that data, the graphic lets you ask your wonky pals things like: What South American countries have not been visited by a secretary of state since 1989?
Answer: Paraguay, Guyana and Suriname.
The graphic, developed by our colleagues Glenn Kessler and graphics editor Emily Chow, also tells you why they went there and what they did on the trips. (And you can find the history of all secretaries’ travel to that country.)
But some caution is needed. For example, we find that Baker, the first secretary of state to visit Mongolia, went there twice. The first visit, in 1990, our colleague Walter Pincus noted at the time, included a trip to the Gobi Desert, allegedly to hunt Argali sheep, but that part was canceled by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. (Baker’s office said he was going to hunt goats and wouldn’t shoot the rare and protected sheep.)
So Baker had to return a year later to go hunting. The historian’s office says Baker “observed wildlife in the Gobi Desert.”
You can perhaps gauge U.S. diplomatic concerns and priorities by travel routes. For example, during the Bill Clinton administration, we can see that Warren Christopher went to Israel 34 times, Jordan 11 times and Syria 29 times. In contrast, neither Rice nor Hillary Clinton visited Syria, and Clinton went to Jordan just once.
Israel earned the most visits by far — 90. The runners-up were: Egypt (61); United Kingdom (56); Belgium, home to NATO, (56); France (55); Germany (49); Syria (48); Russia (47).
Correction: An earlier version of this item incorrectly identified Warren Christopher as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. He held that job during President Bill Clinton’s first term. Christopher’s travels were related to Mideast peace efforts, but not to the Camp David accords.