The Washington Post

So, what did Hillary Clinton accomplish at the State Department?

The first rule about running on your record? Make sure people know what it is.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers her Simmons College Leadership Conference keynote address at the Seaport World Trade Center Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki raised some eyebrows this week, when she was unable to name  a single tangible accomplishment of the first audit of the department, which was a major project initiated under the leadership of former Secretary Hillary Clinton. “I am certain that those who were here at the time, who worked hard on that effort, could point out one,” Psaki said in response to a question from Associated Press reporter Matt Lee.

That’s not exactly the kind of answer the former secretary would appreciate, given the fact that she is preparing to launch a major publicity blitz around the June publication of her memoir about her years at the State Department. And that, if she runs for president, her time as the nation's top diplomat will be prominently featured.

Not surprisingly, the Republican National Committee gleefully posted a video of Psaki’s exchange with Lee.

“It speaks volumes that the State Department is having trouble naming the accomplishments from Secretary Clinton’s tenure," RNC spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement. "Americans are quite familiar with Hillary Clinton’s role regarding Benghazi and the failed Russia Reset initiative, but they’re still scratching their heads on what exactly she accomplished as the secretary of state."

Um, ouch.

(Psaki took a second swing at the question Wednesday, pointing to Clinton accomplishments including: a "stronger emphasis was placed on trade promotion investments and leveling the economic playing field;" "a fuller integration of women and girls into our policy framework planning and budgeting, program monitoring and evaluation and management and training;" and "a reorganization of the undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment.")

This is far from the first time the accomplishments question has bitten a pol.

At a news conference in 1960, then-President Dwight Eisenhower was asked to name a single idea he had gotten from his vice president, Richard Nixon, who was running to succeed him. “If you give me a week, I might think of one,” Eisenhower said. “I don’t remember.”

John F. Kennedy’s campaign, predictably, pounced with an attack ad.

And Nixon himself, when asked about it at a debate, fumbled for an explanation:  “If you know the President, that was probably a facetious remark. Uh - I would also suggest that insofar as his statement is concerned, that I think it would be improper for the President of the United States to disclose uh - the instances in which members of his official family had made recommendations, as I have made them through the years to him, which he has accepted or rejected.”

Given the fact that Hillary Clinton’s book is titled “Hard Choices,” she had better be ready to explain what some of them were.

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

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