*Update* United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will meet with senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday to answer questions about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. […] Rice will be accompanied by acting CIA Director Mike Morell while Graham and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will also attend Rice’s meeting with McCain, which was requested by Rice’s office following the Republicans’ criticism. [CBS News]

SECRETARY CLINTON’S pending departure is going to manifest a contagion of articles, all of which will be forced to ignore her adamant refusals not to run for president in 2016. How each writer and media outlet folds this denial into the piece will likely become a chronicle of the absurd. Taking Clinton’s tenure at the State Department on its own terms will be The Impossible Assignment. No one will be able to resist asking what next?

The latest comes from the Washington Post, “How Hillary Clinton’s choices predict her future,” as the two-year chase to write what matters about Clinton’s legacy at the State Department smacks into what will become in Washington and Democratic donor circles as the greatest waiting game in modern political times.

But could we ever have a story of Hillary Rodham Clinton that didn’t include the word “polarizing”? Resisting the “tragic figure” label that won’t let Monica Lewinski, her husband’s great failure, go? Seems not.

…the first was her decision to sublimate any resentment that had come between her and Obama during their fight for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The most controversial may be her push for “expeditionary diplomacy,” the idea that diplomats should engage more with people beyond embassy walls, which Stevens, the ambassador to Libya, exemplified.

The first is that in the time they have known her ““ as a student leader in the 1960s, as a first lady, as a U.S. senator or now ““ Clinton has not really changed except to become more of the person she has always been: a deeply optimistic Methodist who believes that government can advance human progress and a hopeless wonk who knows her yurts from her gers.

The second is that while Clinton is a famously shrewd political operator, she is never more energized or relentless as when she is pursuing a cause that she believes will improve people’s lives, however incrementally.

This has often been Clinton’s most polarizing quality. It is what her detractors have at times interpreted as self-righteousness and a precursor to classic big-government liberalism. It is what her admirers have viewed as the doggedly pragmatic, in-the-trenches quality that makes Clinton an almost heroic, if also at times tragic, figure.

It’s also as if budget battles with the Defense department war horses are minor details. They’re not. Pentagon jousting is real, a back and forth between Secretary Clinton and Steve Clemons two years ago this December is important, so please indulge a reposting of it, as I’ve written about it before [emphasis added]:

Steve Clemons: It is, where do The Pentagon and Pentagon resources fit into the picture? General Anthony Zinni at a New America Foundation program offered a critique, and he said as much as he wanted to see USAID and State more fully deployed in this arena, he continued to run into the notion that when it came to thinking like the pentagon does in simulating crisis and how one responds and thinking through every dimension of a challenge to figure it out, he said State and USAID aren’t resourced or even disciplined to operate in that way. And he said he wanted them to but he saw it as a big deficit.

And so I’m interested, given your close relationship and your many mutual supportive comments with Bob Gates about deploying people and getting them to work, how do you reach across? Kind of like Richard Holbrooke was doing in his inter-agency group, how do you reach across at The Pentagon resources and Pentagon personnel and make them.. conform is the wrong word, but be good partners with your vision on the development side?

Hillary Clinton: Well, Steve, that’s a very important question and one that we spent a lot of time analyzing and there’s really three approaches that I would commend to you:

First; we have to be a good partner and we are well aware that we have a ways to go before we are organized and deployable in a manner that meets the legitimate needs of the kind of civilian military partnership that both Bob Gates and I believe in. What you will see in the QDDR is our effort to begin to better organize ourselves, to better coordinate between State and USAID so that we’re not trying to determine who gets deployed, how they get deployed and who they respond to– we can’t keep reinventing the wheel in every crisis.

And we’ve learned a lot from what has happened in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And we really believe that we are putting forth a better organizational sense. Some may say ‘well that’s just moving the boxes on the organizational chart of the bureaucracy’ ; that matters. It really matters how we describe how we are organized in order to relate to our friends at the Pentagon. So, there are specific organizational reforms.

Secondly; we are trying to build a core of expertise and one of the important recommendations that both Ann-Marie and Raj and Dawn can expand on, is that we are looking at what the congress created, the conflict-resolution stability office. We are trying to create a core of experts who can be on call and deployable. I mean look the problem we have is we have a relatively small workforce.

We’re trying to expand it by having a kind of auxiliary core and also creating better partnerships with the rest of the US Government, very similar to what Richard (Holbrooke) did with SRAP- which I know created a lot of questions and people wondering what it was, but it was a model of an inter-agency operational office to deal with one of our highest needs. And so we are looking at how best to do that.

And finally; there is money that has been made available in accounts for State and Defense to work together to expend. We’re trying to frankly get back a lot of the appropriation authority that was lost during the … 2000’s, I guess that’s a word. And because of the military emphasis in Afghanistan and in Iraq it just was easier and quicker for the military to do a lot of things.

So you found the military doing development, you had young captains and colonels with discretionary funds, the so-called Commander-Emergency-Response funds… that they were literally able to call on $50 or $100 thousand to repair a school outside of Mosul or help build a road in Afghanistan without any of the bureaucratic checks and balances that we go through at AID and State.

And so we’re well aware that first we have to be a better partner. Second, we have to be more operational and expeditionary, and thirdly we have to win back from the congress the authority we should have as the coordinators and lead on civilian power in the United States. You cannot work with the Pentagon as multitudes of agencies, that does not work. And one of the key messages in the QDDR is that the State Department has the statutory authority to lead. That doesn’t mean that we’re not in partnership with Justice and Treasury and Ex-Im and everybody else that has a role to play, but you’ve got to have someone accept the responsibility; and that’s what we are offering and frankly demanding that we be given in order to make this civilian-military partnership something more than just a phrase.

To the Post’s credit, the focus on women’s roles, which is what I see as the Hillary Effect at the State Department, was part of the piece; everything from including “women in everything from budget plans to peace negotiations” to changing how State “thinks about women,” women’s security, but also women as “economic engines.”

While not quoting Clinton’s now famous Beijing human rights are women’s rights declaration, the point is made. However, they go far from stating the revolutionary idea it has been, as well as what happened in the U.N. report declaring contraception an international human rights issue, which should not be seen as coincidental consider Clinton’s reach.

“Thank you for devoting your energy, your efforts and your resources to improving our world one day at a time,” she said before heading off.

The conclusion from here is not what Clinton has said, which is that she hopes to be there when the inevitable happens, a female president is elected, even if it’s not her. But instead whether her belief of “improving our world one day at a time” is a theory of service that will actually force her to run.

For me, the Hillary Effect of her tenure at State depends on what happens next with women around the globe. If Susan Rice is her successor there seems a greater chance, a more natural inclination, that Clinton’s work would be solidified further for women globally, the foreign policy strategy of making women a primary policy component continuing.

This is what’s most important, but also what’s getting lost in the noise of the McCain tantrum, because the stability of the world depends on women’s expanding roles in every country across the globe, in politics and economics, both required to change the minds of fundamentalist cultures. No one worked more diligently on this than Secretary Clinton, but it takes successive tenures of such a foreign policy and diplomatic mission to solidify the goal and the habits of people who still think of women as second class citizens and unequal to men.