She'd embark on an epic swansong around the world as secretary of state, a dizzying itinerary of east-west and north-south flights that would take her past 1 million miles in the air at the helm of American diplomacy and perhaps break her own record of 112 countries visited while in the post. Then, there would be a long rest, time and work with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on development issues and a sequel to her 2003 memoir "Living History."
Finally, she'd make a destiny-defining decision: whether to try again to become America's first female president.
Her health got in the way: a nasty stomach virus while returning from a weeklong trip to Europe, exhaustion, severe dehydration, a faint, a fall and a concussion that led to a brief hospitalization when doctors discovered a blood clot near her brain. The woman who'd seemed to lay the perfect groundwork for another presidential bid — indeed, who'd made a life carving out her own path — was sidelined by circumstances beyond her control.
It was a rare sign of vulnerability in what had been a carefully charted four years of often grueling overseas travel and behind-the-scenes politics, where as a peace mediator, international enforcer and global ambassador of America she fully emerged from the giant shadow of her husband. But it was not the only sign.
Burden Of Benghazi
The deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, revealed an episode of State Department miscommunication on her watch that could feed into her diplomatic legacy and give future political opponents, should she return to politics, an opening to exploit.
And so, when she testified to Congress about the attack, both the drive and the drama forever associated with the Clintons were suddenly back. In the final spectacle of a diplomatic career that ends Friday when John Kerry succeeds her, she would not be browbeaten.
Pressed perhaps once too often on why the terrorist assault was miscast as a public protest in the days afterward, Clinton went after her Republican inquisitor with her voice rising and quivering in anger. "What difference, at this point, does it make?" she demanded. "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."
Clinton's responses confirmed she had lost none of the vigor that had taken her from defeated Democratic Party presidential candidate to one of the world's most popular and recognizable.