New York: Even though she was sitting in the front row next to Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi listening to her boss, the President of the United States, give a landmark speech in Myanmar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually fell asleep.
In the middle of high-stakes negotiations in the US Congress about the “fiscal cliff,” President Barack Obama made history this week by becoming the first American president to visit Myanmar. Despite the big occasion, Clinton just couldn’t keep her jet-lagged eyes open.
Few forget that in April 2011, while Obama droned endlessly about the national debt, his Vice-President Joe Biden dozed off. Now Clinton’s been caught on camera catching forty winks during yet another Obama speech. CNN cameras panned over a clearly jet-lagged Clinton throughout the speech as she sat in the crowd of 1,500 attendees at the University of Yangon.
Obama was offering remarks about the former military dictatorship, and saying: “You’re taking a journey that has the potential to inspire so many people,” when Clinton began counting sheep.
Clinton’s punishing pace over the last four years has made her the most travelled Secretary of State in US history. She has worked hard to transform US diplomacy on the nuts-and-coffee level and has dealt with foreign upheaval not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Her 19-hour journey from Washington to tiny and remote Cook Islands in the middle of the South Pacific brought the number of countries she has visited to a record 110. Since becoming Secretary of State in 2009, America’s rock-star diplomat has logged over 351 days on the road, travelled to more than 110 countries and flown in excess of 843,839 miles in her Boeing 757, according to the State Department.
Now, as Obama begins his second term, bone-weary Clinton is stepping down in the new year from her position as America’s top diplomat. For Obama and Clinton, this week’s trip to Southeast Asia was their last foreign adventure together in office.
“Though not exactly close friends, they developed a working relationship of respect, one in which Mr. Obama gave her the freedom to roam the world while she strategically deferred to him in ways small and large as she carried out his policies and shaped her own,” said The New York Times.
Clinton’s signature initiative as America’s top diplomat is what has become known as the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” America’s Asia pivot, which entails strengthening of strategic, economic and security ties in the Asia-pacific region, comes as China has unsettled its neighbours by renewed tensions over competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and with the expansion of its navy and improvements in missile capabilities.
While the US was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, China had the headroom to expand its influence in the region with allies like North Korea, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Rising China has spurred Clinton to consolidate America’s ties with regional powers like Japan, India, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines in a policy pivot towards Asia.