When Hillary Clinton took the job as secretary of state five years ago, one of her senior 2008 campaign advisers recommended that it could one day lead her to the White House, veteran journalist Bob Woodward says.
“One of her key aides, Mark Penn, told her, ‘Look, if you do this, you will be positioned perfectly to run for president. This will give you four years or eight years of experience as secretary of state. And you couple that with the time in the Senate, the time as first lady – and it – the bottom line is a perfect résumé,’” Woodward told ABC News in a recent interview.
Now that Clinton, 66, is considering a presidential bid in 2016, Penn’s prediction could turn out to be true.
The full interview with Hillary Clinton and ABC News’ Diane Sawyer will air during a one-hour ABC News prime time special Monday, June 9, at 9 p.m. ET. ABC News’ Robin Roberts will follow up the next day on “Good Morning America.”
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Clinton sat for an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, airing Monday night and timed to coincide with the release of her new memoir, “Hard Choices.” ABC News asked four gurus of politics and political history – Woodward, ABC News’ Cokie Roberts, ABC News’ Matthew Dowd and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin – what they make of Clinton, factors that weigh on her potential 2016 White House bid and how history will judge her.
Her legacy as secretary of state is one of “survival,” Woodward said. She managed to keep U.S. diplomacy steady and avoid any open feuds with her former campaign rival, President Obama. “The job is, keep the country safe and avoid unnecessary conflict or war, and that was achieved,” he explained.
The biggest blip on that record, and one of the biggest challenges to her 2016 presidential campaign, the experts agreed, is the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans died. Republicans have demanded answers and accused Clinton’s State Department of mishandling security at the post.
Four State Department officials were reassigned after an internal investigation, but Clinton and other administration officials have denied Republicans’ most aggressive charges of administration negligence and wrongdoing.
“I think Benghazi is an albatross around Hillary Clinton’s neck. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Cokie Roberts said. “I don’t think that anybody’s mind is going to be changed about it, so the people who are going to be against her because of Benghazi are already against her. The people who are willing to give her a pass on it, have already given her a pass.”
Even if she doesn’t run again in 2016, Hillary Clinton has already made her mark on history and raised some parallels with Eleanor Roosevelt.
“I suspect that Hillary had such a heroine feeling for Eleanor Roosevelt, because think of Eleanor Roosevelt in history, too: the first first lady to speak at a national convention, the first to testify before Congress, the first to hold weekly press conferences where only female reporters could come to her press conferences, the first to write columns,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said. “Well, Hillary did a lot of that.”
If she does run, Matthew Dowd said, Clinton will face something she can’t help: fatigue over Bushes and Clintons in the White House, after four years of George H.W. Bush, eight years of Bill Clinton, and eight years of George W. Bush as U.S. presidents dating back to 1989 – and on the ballot before that.
“The last time a Bush or a Clinton didn’t run for president of the United States was 40 years ago,” Dowd said. “Even Hillary Clinton supporters are, like, “Well, she’s great and I think she’d be very good, but, you know, can’t we find somebody that doesn’t have that same last name?’”