Hillary Clinton to leave the hemisphere during Democratic convention

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Where are the Cook Islands?

They are where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be Aug. 31, rather than preparing to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The Cook Islands are a chain of 15 small islands in the Pacific, about halfway between California and New Zealand. Their capital is Rarotonga, and they play a very minor role in international power-politics.

They’re named after an English explorer, Captain James Cook, who discovered them in 1770.

For good measure, Clinton will also visit Vladivostok while the rest of her party nominates President Barack Obama — her boss — as their candidate for 2012.

Vladivostok is in the part of Russia closest to Manchuria, a province of China, where she will also visit.

China’s economy is rapidly growing while the U.S. economy’s growth has stalled under Obama’s leadership.

U.S. unemployment, debts and deficits are at record heights, while wages and investment are in decline.

Clinton’s departure prevents Obama from using her popularity to boost his outreach to swing-voting unmarried and married women.

Instead, Obama has awarded a speaking slot to her husband, former President Bill Clinton. That could be risky, because relations between the two presidents have been frosty, and the former president may subtly undercut the current president.

Clinton’s high-profile exit from the country and from party politics forcefully underlines her effort to distance herself from Obama’s waning political fortunes.

But it also protects her fortunes, just in case she decides to run in 2016.

She reportedly declined an informal offer from Obama’s top aide, Valerie Jarrett, to take over the vice presidential slot.

That slot is still held by Joe Biden, although he has been given a minimal role in Obama’s campaign this week.

Biden’s announced plan to campaign around the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., was cancelled because of Hurricane Isaac, according to official statements. Instead, this week Biden is attending meetings in the White House and elsewhere, says his calendar.

Few observers expect Biden to be replaced by another figure, partly because Obama tweeted out his endorsement Aug. 23. “Today marks four years since I chose @JoeBiden to be my running mate. Here’s to an outstanding Vice President and a great friend. –bo,” the tweet read. (RELATED: Obama endorses Biden, quiets replacement rumors)

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