February 1st, 2013
01:48 AM ET

On the road with Hillary Clinton

By Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

We have one confession to make right off the top: we have never seen Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sleeping. Informed sources say she does sleep and in her visits to 112 countries, logging nearly one million miles in the air during her four years in office, presumably she did catch a wink or two.

But travel with Clinton is a time warp where clocks and watches showing 24 hours seem inadequate to capture a full day with America’s top diplomat.

You’re simply on “Clinton time” and if you want to survive, you must forget Eastern Standard Time, local time or any other time. Just stick with eternal present time and you’ll survive. But bring your vitamins along.

When we interviewed Secretary Clinton in her last week in office, she described it as a “flying circus” and that’s a good a description as we’ve heard. When you are “in the bubble,” as it is called, it’s a maelstrom of diplomatic security officers with earpieces, dogs sniffing for explosives, handlers and motorcades. You will be jet lagged and sleep deprived but so is she.

We always have a bag packed to leave at a moment’s notice, complete with travel adapters for every country under the sun. Often, there were those unexpected stops, the “shuttle diplomacy” that zigzagged across the Middle East or parts of Asia. The joke among journalists: always pack a few extra pairs of underwear.

Opinion: Hillary, secretary of empowerment

Our home away from home is a 757 from a fleet of planes that the secretary shares with the vice president and first lady. It’s not fancy like Air Force One. The dozen or so journalists in the back cabin are separated from the front of the plane, where the staff sits, by a bathroom and a cubby hole with a fax machine.

It’s an invisible “line of death” for nosey journalists; beyond it sit senior officials poring over classified documents. The secretary has a small modest private cabin with fold-out couch, a few seats, a desk and a bathroom with no shower.

We board the plane at Andrew’s Air Force base before Clinton arrives. When we hear her booming laugh coming from the front of the plane, we know it’s time for “wheels up.”

Clinton always walks back before we take off to chat informally with the journalists accompanying her. Then she returns to her cabin for the remainder of the flight. Since we often spend the night in the air, Clinton sleeps in her cabin, the staff get business-class seats, and we are crammed in the economy seats in the back. It’s a government plane but our companies pay for our tickets.

Wherever Clinton travels, people line the streets to wave to her motorcade and crowds wait for her at every event to catch a glimpse. During one of our first trips to Mexico in 2009, Clinton toured the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and almost 1,000 people thronged the site to greet her.

Most world leaders, according to protocol, will not meet with a foreign minister, but Clinton is not your run of the mill minister. Many leaders know her from her days as first lady. Even presidents seem in awe. The only time we saw Clinton smitten by someone else’s star power was when she met Ann San Suu Kyi at the home where the human rights fighter had lived under house arrest in Myanmar.

Read more: Clinton defends her diplomatic legacy

Clinton likes to pack in a lot of countries on every trip. On a typical day, you can wake up in Tunis, fly to Algeria for dinner, and end up at midnight in Morocco. At every stop, there’s a parade of presidential palaces, news conferences, town halls and motorcades back to the plane to fly to another continent and do it all again. A “night” at a hotel can be a two-hour pit stop.

When we do arrive in a hotel, it’s like an invasion from another planet. A “secure floor” is set up in every hotel on the tour where the secretary and her staff stay. It’s like a mobile State Department complete with guards, cameras and offices.

On the road, Clinton does more events before lunch than most people do in a week. It’s not uncommon for her to have 10 or more in one day. There is always another cause to advance, another group to meet, another hand to shake in every country. One journalist once joked on a trip to the Middle East that Clinton was going to lift the carpet to see if there was someone under there whose hand she just had to shake.

Clinton doesn’t waste a minute. As we strapped ourselves into seats at the back of a military transport plane, she was sitting in front, alone, wearing glasses, not contacts, poring over a stack of thick briefing books piled on her lap.

She has become known around the world for her town-hall-style interviews on the road, affectionately called “townterviews” by her staff. The audience usually includes a cross section of society, from students and civil society groups. Any questions are fair game, including personal ones. Sometimes, Clinton seems to enjoy them more than the diplomacy.

In every city, Clinton meets with U.S. Embassy and consulate staff to thank them for their service. It's always a big thrill for the diplomats and local staff to meet her and often the employees bring their families to these “meet and greets.”

Exiting State, Clinton looks to writing, speaking

Clinton often joins the traveling press for an off-the-record dinner or drink. Once we put away our notebooks and our tape recorders, we really get to see Clinton’s lighter side. Last year in Greece, for example, we watched the women’s World Cup final with her in her suite, as she was screamed at the TV for the U.S. team as loudly as anyone.

While the “bubble” is well-guarded by a combination of diplomatic security agents and government police, there have been some scary moments. When we visited Libya in October 2011, shortly after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, a band of militia followed our motorcade to the airport, shooting guns in the air and chanting Clinton’s name in support.

Last July in Egypt, demonstrators upset with U.S. support for the President Mohamed Morsy threw tomatoes at us and chanted “Monica, Monica,” a cruel reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

On the flight home, battered and bleary-eyed, we often stop at the airport at Shannon, Ireland, for refueling. After we all stock up on the requisite duty-free items, Clinton can usually be persuaded to join us for a ceremonial Irish coffee. U.S. troops often transit through Shannon and Clinton almost always comes out to talk with them.

Some people ask why Clinton travels so much. She says it's simple: relationship-building is key. Even in the digital age, there are no substitutes for showing up in person and looking someone in the eye.

With more travel, comes more respect and understanding. And that, she says, is good for America.

Read more: Clinton touts 'smart power' in farewell talk

soundoff (129 Responses)
  1. brown

    Clinton served the interests of AIPAC at the expense of America.

    Good riddance!

    February 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  2. Jerry

    Hillary, PLEASE continue going on whatever road YOU and Billy Boy are on.

    Thank you!

    February 2, 2013 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • Commojoe

      As long as it's FAR from the US!! Maybe invite Monica along with them for real fun.

      February 3, 2013 at 2:44 am | Reply
  3. Jannani

    Monica Monica Monica ... Monica Monica Monica ...

    February 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  4. Arizona2072

    Great piece. I find it interesting that for most Americans it is so much easier to point blame then to actually make a difference by Sacrificing their own personal lives, and family for a greater cause. No one posting as any real clue what it takes to do what any high ranking political figure does. ,
    Right or wrong for better or worse they committed themselves when they felt there was need.
    There is not enough money in world that could compensate for their sacrifice of family , privacy and burden of world scrutiny.
    Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Bush haters or Lovers, Clinton haters or lovers they made sacrifices that you couldn't, or wouldn't.

    February 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Reply
    • U.S.M.C. 1371

      Your joking right?

      February 2, 2013 at 12:36 am | Reply
      • Abby

        Now THAT was just plain ugly.

        February 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • U.S.M.C. 1371

      I tell you what. I will trade Hillary my pain That I live with everyday and the scars that go with them. Then she will understand sacrifice when the rounds coming at you are real and not a lie in her head.

      February 2, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Reply
    • Commojoe

      The poor old, chunky woman was there because she thought it would let her be president, but found out it was actually HARD WORK, and people wanted actual RESULTS. The poor, old thing wasn't used to such pressure to perform, certainly not from Bill.

      February 3, 2013 at 2:48 am | Reply
  5. God

    You haters are pathetic and I wish you the worst here on hell. Hillary is simply put, super-human. She is above and beyond all of you envious people. Shame on you all for your negative comments!

    February 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • Nancianne

      hillary is ALWAYS promoting hillary, nothing else. She has a PR staff that works overtime to get her face in the press every day. She is a liar and as William Safire said in the NY Times several years ago."she's a congenital liar". She was then (during White Water investigation) and she is NOW...

      February 2, 2013 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • Jeff

      Hillary is more guilty with Bengazi than Richard Nixon was for his botched attempt at a cover up in Watergate. At least at Watergate, good men did not lose their lives. Hillary is GUILTY.

      February 2, 2013 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • eviltaxpayer

      Hillary is as good as if not better liar than her husband-
      Hope shes haunted by the 4 dead americans that died in libya while she and obama the arrogant LIED about it to this day.
      Hillary and obama belong in hell.

      February 2, 2013 at 10:55 am | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      Hey you, whoever you are, I would strongly thank you not to use God's name when posting your right-wing stupidity which is very blaphemous! I find find it quite dubious that God would like anyone touting the politics of hunger or the use of those ungodly drones slaughtering people like pigs in a pen!!!

      February 2, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  6. Tim

    What a laughable story to have on a site that claims to do serious news reporting. This is blatant propaganda for the Democratic party and its elitists.

    February 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Reply
    • michael

      some people see conspiracies in anything. they are called mentally unbalanced

      February 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  7. Al

    If she's on the road she must not be out of politics. This is the 2013 tour for the 2016 election, more tours to come, tax payers will pay and she will like it.

    February 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Reply
    • reddragon

      It's about showing America as a better country. Those taxes are worth spending if your image improves.

      February 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Reply
    • ezduzit757

      She is Secretary of State. Her job is to improve our relations with other nations – and a lot of improvement was needed after the disaster GWBush. It can't be done from a cushy office in DC, you have to go and meet them and show them that that we are not all war mongers. If she were campaigning, she would be travelling around the US where the voters are, not to other nations where the voters can't see her. She is doing her job – and a darn good one. Hillary 2016!

      February 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      She deserves the same security detail that she provided in Bengazi. With that, I hope she goes on her "tour".

      February 2, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
  8. Benghazi

    The Circus part is very very believable.

    February 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  9. Mike Lake Orion Michigan

    In my view Clinton has accomplished very little as Secretary of State. Ask yourself if the world is better off today? Her failure coincides with the failure of Obama's policies. Obama has ruined any chance of Clinton ever becoming President.

    February 1, 2013 at 11:40 am | Reply
  10. Benjamin Reed

    I think that Mrs.Hillary Clinton is a fine young lady, because she is a Phenomenon person!

    February 1, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
  11. WatrGrrl

    At least Hilary will no longer be in a position of responsibility where she can lie to the American People and damage our nation – oh wait! She's going to campaign in 2016 and if elected she WILL be in a position to do it again. At that point, I think I'll look to enjoy life as an expatriate... The way Benghazi was handled will be remembered and dusted off in 2016, bank on it...

    February 1, 2013 at 11:24 am | Reply
    • Ord_Miler

      You managed to survive George W. Bush, and he had the blood of 3000 Americans murdered on 09-11-01 on his hands.

      February 1, 2013 at 11:38 am | Reply
    • ezduzit757

      All I can say is good riddance to you!

      February 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • michael

      prove it or shut up

      February 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  12. massoud

    Drinking with the Press while Ambassador Stevens and his undermanned Security fought for their lives how pathetic what a disgrace that is her legacy

    February 1, 2013 at 10:14 am | Reply
    • freedom

      Totally agree – and Obama flying to Las Vegas and receiving applause at a rally! And now the press saying she's the best Sec of State we've ever had? We aren't stupid out here. We've seen her antics for years now (and her husband's) They are an arrogant, power-hungry, narcissistic couple. They don't care about the people of this country -only their agenda – just like this president. With her out of the way now, this Benghazi tragedy should lead to impeachment.

      February 1, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • freedom

      And also – her disgraceful, resounding – "What difference does it make?" !!!

      February 1, 2013 at 11:21 am | Reply
    • Ord_Miler

      George W. Bush fled to his Nebraska bunker without lifting a finger to help the 3000 Americans dying on 09-11-01 due to his incompetence, which should be 750 times more pathetic to you.

      February 1, 2013 at 11:40 am | Reply
      • freedom

        George W Bush kept our country safe for 7 years after 9/11. He loves this country and wanted to protect it. Obama bows to other leaders because he hates America and he wants to change it. No president is perfect, but this one has an agenda I cannot get behind. I love this country and all that it stands for, and resent seeing our president try to destroy the great nation that we are.

        February 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  13. bugmetoo

    Who has lied more, Hillary or Casey Anthony? They both got away with murder also.
    Casey is younger, so she qualifies more to be the democratic nominee in 2016.

    February 1, 2013 at 10:05 am | Reply
  14. George Patton-2

    Thanks to Hilary Clinton with her unmitigated arrogance and self-righteousness coupled with our overly aggressive foreign policies, we have now become the most hated country in the world! This is nauseating!!!

    February 1, 2013 at 9:59 am | Reply
    • Kerry

      Thank you, George. You said it all!

      February 1, 2013 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • dho

      That's so true. What a shame after all of teh good will spread around by the Bush administration!!

      February 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  15. jerseydevils76

    Your 2016 Democratic nominee brought to you by CNN and as much other media hype as well. Also in part by, Mr. Obama thanks to Bill's "new perspective" of Obama during his re-election.

    February 1, 2013 at 9:53 am | Reply
  16. Steve

    The 'World' leaders just laughed at her – another American 'Bozo' they had to put up with to get American Money, LOL

    February 1, 2013 at 9:48 am | Reply
    • jerseydevils76

      Remember when she said, during an interview, how she had to duck from flying bullets while exiting a helicopter? Classic.

      February 1, 2013 at 10:01 am | Reply
  17. empresstrudy

    We no longer need elections. Just give her the job now for 2017. All Hail

    February 1, 2013 at 9:29 am | Reply
  18. Bethes Smith

    Finally! It's about time she left!

    February 1, 2013 at 9:29 am | Reply
  19. Rest up Hillary- 2016 is coming!

    The Democratic nomination is hers if she wants it. And she'll beat the pants off anything the GOP can put out there. That said, i think she really is undecided about running, and may choose not to and just chillax. She certainly has earned it. Job well done Hill.

    February 1, 2013 at 9:14 am | Reply
    • comeblowyourhorn

      She has accomplished NOHING as sos. She is an EMPTY PANTS SUIT that must get out of our face !

      February 1, 2013 at 9:37 am | Reply
    • Steve

      If it happens, I heard 'Willy' requested she have Monica on her WH Staff, lol

      February 1, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      @Rest up Hilary-2016 is coming! With all the ignorance and fanaticism running rampant across the country these days, I'm afraid that you're quite right! The people will be dumb enough to elect this nauseating broad!!!

      February 1, 2013 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Jeff

      She will be in jail for Bengazigate.

      February 2, 2013 at 11:03 am | Reply
  20. US_DOJ_Gov

    Sec-of-State Hillary Clinton has re-established & repaired America's reputation among the world which the Bush Administration destroyed within months of taking Office.


    February 1, 2013 at 9:13 am | Reply
  21. Jerry

    CNN, PLEASE, PLEASE!!! Enough of this "What does it matter now?" person. Let her march into the sunset knowing that she is responsible for the senseless death of four innocent/dedicated/defenseless Américans.

    She and her ex-boss should be prosecuted for neglect of duty, among other charges.

    February 1, 2013 at 9:10 am | Reply
  22. james

    "as she was screamed at the TV for the U.S. team as loudly as anyone." PROOF READ PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 1, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply
    • AM

      damm, go for the words,.... its an exprassion!

      February 1, 2013 at 9:32 am | Reply
  23. Mike - VA/NYC

    Enjoyed that a lot. Not a huge Clinton fan but have to admire/respect what she's accomplished. I travel around western/southern euorpe a lot for work (not nearly that much though) – and I'm pretty much a zombie after the 3rd country – that job really is significantly harder than most people realize.

    "beercan thick" is the reason i'm now considered a Rhino. We'll keep getting marginalized as long as he's our base.

    February 1, 2013 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • ezduzit757

      Obama only has us more divided because the Right just can't abide having a black man for president. The fault lies with them.

      February 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  24. Milagros

    Too bad obama slammed Hillary in the 2008 election debates with her senate vote for the Iraq war. If we had to have a democrat in 2008, I believe she would have been measureably better than obama who has us more divided than ever.

    February 1, 2013 at 8:33 am | Reply
  25. Benghazi

    Now she's got brain damage from a blood clot from falling down. Definitely over rated.

    February 1, 2013 at 8:29 am | Reply
    • mm

      She'll be your new president...for two terms. You might want to learn how to handle your sour grapes.

      February 1, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
      • ensense

        So we should do away with the elections then? and start anointing people through CNN?

        February 1, 2013 at 10:11 am |
      • mm

        @ensense, what US president has ever been annointed by anybody? They only one that comes remotely close is George Bush in '00. You might want to gloss over her support, from all points of the political spectrum, for running for 2016.

        February 1, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • ezduzit757

        And wouldn't it be cool if she appointed Obama as her Sec of State?

        February 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  26. joe_right

    Pants Suit!

    February 1, 2013 at 8:29 am | Reply
    • mm

      I'm okay with that.

      Pantsuit 2016 & 2020!

      February 1, 2013 at 9:44 am | Reply
  27. comeblowyourhorn

    She certainly got an around the world vacation o our tax $$$$$$. I can't see thats he accomplished anything else. She's a PR field day.

    February 1, 2013 at 8:24 am | Reply
    • emskadittle

      if you read that article and thought vacation, you are crazy

      February 1, 2013 at 10:01 am | Reply
  28. Valerie Smith

    Well written article, and very readable; thank you. Just one notable correction to make: Ann San Suu Kyi, should read Aung San Suu Kyi.

    February 1, 2013 at 8:00 am | Reply
  29. Don P

    And 4 dead heros that should be alive! (addition to accomplishments)

    February 1, 2013 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • andreas

      and one(probably2,or more) turkish

      February 1, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • mm

      50 US Embassy workers murdered under the last Repub administration...yet no word of any hearings on those....

      February 1, 2013 at 9:44 am | Reply
  30. Sas

    So many ignorant people here.

    February 1, 2013 at 7:56 am | Reply
  31. ascpgh

    Or here:


    February 1, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
  32. ascpgh

    Let me fulfill your missing observation: http://youtu.be/RYYwKW6WroI

    February 1, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply
  33. Marc

    A very well-written article. Just a pleasure to read. Thank you.

    February 1, 2013 at 7:28 am | Reply
  34. bugguy

    Tell me who cares about this story anyhow. I could care less if she fell off the face of this planet

    February 1, 2013 at 7:28 am | Reply
    • SLNH

      Then why click on it?

      February 1, 2013 at 7:52 am | Reply
    • turd ferguson

      Go read something else, you dweeb.

      February 1, 2013 at 8:13 am | Reply
    • mm

      You not only clicked on it. You read it. And you took the time to sign in and comment on it.

      February 1, 2013 at 8:15 am | Reply
      • broadthought

        Strange, that someone so apathetic would so vigorously express said apathy. More likely, certain people are wincing, sore, hurt, upset, and discombobulating over recent elections. Amidst a tirade of self-soiling and guano-hurling, the derrier-hurters take a few handfuls of prozac then, mellowing into lukewarmness, feign disinterest. Well, something like that. But Mrs. Clinton is certainly among the most interesting and important people alive.

        February 1, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • comeblowyourhorn

      Its important for people and specially voters to know that she is an EMPTY PANTS SUIT and nothing else. If she hadn't sort of married an ex president we not have to endure this PR hype.

      February 1, 2013 at 8:26 am | Reply
  35. Pete654

    Ok she traveled a lot ans she shook a lot hands. But before we call her the greatest secretary of state, what are her accomplishments that really helped the U.S?

    February 1, 2013 at 7:14 am | Reply
    • mm

      4 years ago our country's position in international foreign relations was probably the worst it has been in many decades, if not the worst position we'd ever been in. Takes a whole lot of behind the scenes work to restore that. You are welcome for Secretary of State Clinton traveling over 1,000,000 miles and visiting with more heads of state than any other SOS in history. Why is it so very hard for you to be the least bit appreciative of that fact alone? Geesh, the right wing has become so negative 24/7/365. .... One of the reasons why I, a former life-long conservative, just can't go along with that type of self-defeating agenda..

      February 1, 2013 at 8:20 am | Reply
    • US_DOJ_Gov

      Once Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves Office, her accomplishments will be researched & chronicled for debate.

      Regardless of anyone refusing to acknowledge her accomplishments . . . No one will be able to deny she has copious Foreign Relations experience in prep for 2016 Presidential Election.

      February 1, 2013 at 9:02 am | Reply
  36. John K

    He travels will make an excellent addition to her reume for" President Clinton". No one since George H.W. Bush will have had so much international experience/relation building.

    February 1, 2013 at 6:54 am | Reply
    • beercan thick

      you are an idiot and clinton is a pig

      February 1, 2013 at 7:32 am | Reply
      • mm

        Transparent.......nix the partisanship..

        February 1, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  37. JerPell

    The corrupt democrats are hiding something on Benghazi......

    February 1, 2013 at 6:17 am | Reply
    • US_DOJ_Gov

      Yeah - Lack of funding from Republican Congress to safeguard U.S. Embassies & Consulates throughout the world.

      February 1, 2013 at 9:08 am | Reply
  38. petena

    Just look at her persoal history. She has always fought for the well being of people around the world. Give her the respect she deserves. and if she runs for President, she will definitely get my vote. She is intelligent, respected, admires and a real role model.

    February 1, 2013 at 5:52 am | Reply
    • beercan thick

      you are a loser and clinton is a pig

      February 1, 2013 at 7:33 am | Reply
      • mm

        A copy & paste insult, again? Gee – it was transparent the first time you did it..

        February 1, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  39. Dale

    So maybe now she can rest. she will go down in history for one of the greatest, if not greatest Secretary of States this country has ever had in place. She has brought this country back to the forefront and re established the diplomacy from the bush years. Maybe we will see her in the future for the big office. I think she knows the support she will have and the past 4 years is a testament and calling for what this country needs. Thank you Mrs. Clinton for your dedication and civil service.

    February 1, 2013 at 3:28 am | Reply
  40. Jannani

    Monica Monica Monica

    February 1, 2013 at 2:58 am | Reply
    • Dale

      your stuck in the past – move forward please. a problem with so many

      February 1, 2013 at 3:29 am | Reply
      • broadthought

        Nah, he/she is just empathizing with the rioters/terrorists. Gotta know your friends, stick with 'em. We choose Hillary, while others choose– the ANTI-AMERICAN PROTESTERS?? Wow. Now the Dept. of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, etc., have traced those IP addresses and have a file on such sympathizers (thanks to Bush's Patriot Act.) Once again, the stupid brand themselves, and are singed like bugs near a flame.

        Readers can help the U.S. government by flagging such material so a moderator can view it and file the report.

        February 1, 2013 at 8:16 am |
      • liberal disease

        i am sure Moncia has had trouble moving on after Hilary destroyed her life ..

        February 2, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • erchan2000

      "Who let the dogs out"?

      It was funny .... like 10 years ago. At some point, you just have to let it go.

      February 1, 2013 at 4:07 am | Reply

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