WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants to step off the "high wire of American politics" after two decades and is again tamping down speculation that she might stay in government if President Barack Obama wins a second term.
Clinton told State Department employees on Thursday that she is ready for a rest and is paying no attention to the Republican presidential candidate debates. She said she wants to find out just how tired she is after working flat out as first lady, senator, aspiring presidential candidate and finally the top U.S. diplomat.
"I have made it clear that I will certainly stay on until the president nominates someone and that transition can occur" if Obama wins re-election, she told a town hall meeting. "But I think after 20 years, and it will be 20 years, of being on the high wire of American politics and all of the challenges that come with that, it would be probably a good idea to just find out how tired I am."
But, she appeared to leave the door open for a possible eventual return, adding to laughter from the crowd that "everyone always says that when they leave these jobs."
As secretary of state, Clinton is barred from partisan politics and she acknowledged that it is unusual not to be participating in this election season. But, she said she is enjoying being away from the fray and hasn't watched any of the GOP debates.
"It is a little odd for me to be totally out of an election season," she said. "But, you know, I didn't watch any of those debates."
Clinton said she expected the campaign for November's election to "suck up a lot of the attention" normally devoted to foreign policy issues but she joked that that might actually help the State Department.
"The good news is maybe we can even get more done if they are not paying attention, so just factor that in."