Clinton sidesteps speculation about taking Defense job

Hillary Clinton deflected questions Tuesday about whether she'll take over as Defense secretary when Robert Gates retires in 2011.

In a joint interview with Gates from Australia aired Tuesday morning, Clinton said that she hopes Gates' retirement will be postponed "further and further" away. "We came in together, we should go out together," the secretary of State told ABC News. "We all want Bob to stay," she said.

Gates heads the list of upcoming high profile retirements at the Pentagon. During the next year, Obama will not only hand pick a new defense secretary, but also several top generals, including the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Army and Navy chiefs. And that wide range of openings at Defense has only added to speculation that Clinton may be on the short list.

When questioned directly about what her response might be if Obama asked her to take the position, Clinton evaded the question. "I have made it clear I love the job that I have," she said.

For his part, Gates said that Clinton could "absolutely" do his job, though he praised Clinton's work in her current role.

"I think that one of the great strengths that Hillary brings to the job as Secretary of State is as spokesperson for the United States around the world," Gates said. "That's not the role of the secretary of Defense."

If Clinton accepted the job, "she would be terrific," former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who served with her on an advisory group of the Joint Forces Command, said on ABC this morning. "She's knowledgeable, she's tough," he said.

"I think she would be a very good defender of the military in terms of what it needs, its budgets and its concerns," Gingrich said. "I'm not sure she would have quite as much fun, though. I think she's probably having a better time being secretary of State."

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