By Elise Labott
The 2012 presidential election is weighing on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's mind, but it's a human resource issue that is her biggest concern.
Addressing U.S. ambassadors from around the world who are back in Washington for a group conference, Clinton asked those whose terms are expected to end this summer or following the elections to stay in their jobs, amid fears that political infighting might make it difficult to replace them before the election.
"Now I should also note that there will be changes in our ambassadorial corps, both this summer and following the November elections, as is customary at the end of a presidential term," she said Tuesday.
"The foreign policy of the United States, however, does not stop for elections. It requires consistent direction and management, so it is important that our ambassadors work to remain at their posts until either the Senate has confirmed a replacement or specific departure instructions are given," Clinton explained.
The secretary said that she's met U.S. ambassadors in several countries in the past six months who have noted that their terms will be up soon.
"But we don't know if we will get people confirmed in the current political climate. We don't know who will or won't get confirmed in some last-minute deal that might be worked out before the Congress basically goes out for elections. So we very much encourage you, in so far as possible, to stay. We need you, we look to you, and there is no country in the world that can do without you," Clinton said.
Still, she seemed pretty sure that her boss will still have a job after the November elections. While in Tunisia last month, Clinton sounded a confident note on President Barack Obama's re-election prospects, telling a group of Arab students that he would be president for another four years.
"He will be re-elected president," Clinton said. "I think that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are and what our president believes."
Clinton was responding to a question from a student, who asked about the staunch pro-Israel stance nearly every American politician, both Republican and Democrat, espouse when they're running for office. Although secretaries of state are supposed to remain apolitical and not speak about campaign politics abroad, Clinton explained to CNN in an interview that she was merely trying to explain about how rhetoric used in political campaigns gains outsized significance that doesn't actualize when governing.
"I represent America, and I know what happens in campaigns. I've been there, done that. And I know that things are said that are not going to be put into practice or policy. But I did think I needed to point that out to the audience. And probably, my enthusiasm for the president got a little out of hand," Clinton said.