The Washington Post

Fact-checking Hillary’s mileage


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 Humayan’s Tomb in New Delhi.

The glossy cover bears the headline “19,000 MILES WITH THE MOST TRAVELED SECRETARY OF STATE IN HISTORY.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

But wait just a New York minute. Though 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” still may go to her predecessor, Condoleezza 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 totals might be off (Kessler even gave the Loop a dreaded Pinocchio for buying the agency’s lines).

For starters, Rice traveled a total of 1,059,247 miles during her tenure in the George W. 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 counted only days on the ground.

A Conde Nast spokeswoman said they used another metric entirely: the 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 odd, 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 — 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.

Running backward

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s unfortunate embellishment of his marathon prowess doubtless will be a focus of this week’s Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Look for the Democrats to feature his Aug. 22 claim to radio host Hugh Hewitt that he ran a marathon — with the unfortunate name “Grandma’s Marathon” — in two hours and 50 minutes as they try to wrap a “liar” label around him.

The marathon claim wasn’t looked into until eight days later, not by a fact-checking operation but by Runner’s World magazine’s Newswire Web site, when its news editor, author Scott Douglas , came across the Hewitt interview. Douglas thought Ryan’s time seemed mighty fast. It didn’t take long to find out Ryan’s real time was a bit over four hours, not under three.

The Aug. 31 debunking propelled the 40-some-year-old niche magazine, circulation around 700,000, out of the world of avid runners and into the political discussion.

“It’s the highest-profile thing we’ve run,” Douglas, who used to live in Bethesda, told In the Loop. The article itself got 230 comments, he said, “which is a lot for us, a whole lot,” and 1,324 comments on its Facebook page.

Runners, it seems, are a bipartisan group. While a small number of comments included the words “cancel my subscription” and others questioned whether the magazine should report on these things, most simply didn’t believe it was possible that a marathoner, any marathoner, would ever forget his or her times.

Many comments joked about it. Our favorite came from “Wheat Farmer,” who wrote: “Paul Ryan ran a sub 3 hour marathon?? He must be Kenyan. Check his birth certificate!”

Well, you could say, as former GOP congressman Henry Hyde (Ill.) said in 1998 of his sexual affair 30 or so years earlier — when he was 41 — that it was a “youthful indiscretion.” Ryan is, after all, only 42.

And the GOP need not worry: The Runner’s World scoop is unlikely ever to run in the magazine — the November issue is already at the printer, Douglas told us.

Is there an app for that?

Contest alert — $10,000 in prizes!

No, not an In the Loop contest.

It’s the State Department’s “Innovation in Arms Control Challenge.” There are, believe it or not, countries that “may be motivated to violate” various “treaties or international agreements on arms control,” an announcement last week explained.

This, the department explains, is “commonly understood as ‘cheating.’ ” Who knew? So, in this age of Twitter and Facebook and other social media, the department wants “creative ideas from the general public to use commonly available devices” — like smartphones, iPads, high-powered binoculars, Nats tickets? — to catch cheaters.

“Cash awards may vary with a guaranteed payout totaling up to $10,000,” the news release says. So be creative. Deadline is Oct. 26.

Remember: See something, tweet something.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Play Video
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.