As Bill speaks, Hillary Clinton is half a world away
September 5, 2012 -- Updated 2143 GMT (0543 HKT)
Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo in Beijing on Wednesday, day two of the DNC.
- Hillary Clinton will be in East Timor when Bill Clinton speaks at the Democratic convention
- Some Clinton-watchers see an ulterior motive in Hillary Clinton's absence
- She and Barack Obama fought for the Democratic nomination four years ago
- But there's a less adversarial reason -- by law, the secretary of state can't be there
(CNN) -- When Bill Clinton takes the podium at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday evening his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will be half a world away -- literally -- meeting with the leaders of the tiny nation of East Timor.
Hillary Clinton, who hasn't missed a Democratic convention in four decades, is on an 11-day swing through the Asia-Pacific region, visiting a number of counties, including China and Indonesia, and standing in for President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum later this week in Russia. Obama bowed out because of the election campaign.
Some Clinton-watchers see an ulterior motive, concluding that the secretary, who waged a hard-fought campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008, still bears a grudge.
Obama and Bill: A solid relationship?
The Obama family takes to the stage as the gathering draws to a close on Thursday, September 6, the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. See the best photos from the Republican National Convention.
Photos: Best of the DNC
Clinton to go to bat for Obama at DNC
Ambiguous voice vote to change Dem platform
Wendell Pierce among DNC celebs
But the two have worked closely since then and, what's more, there's a less adversarial explanation for her absence from the convention: legally, she can't be there.
Federal law -- the Hatch Act of 1939, amended by Congress in 1993 -- specifically prohibits secretaries of state from attending political conventions, and the State Department's own ethics guidelines also rule out political activity.
A senior administration official, speaking on background because the official is not authorized to speak on the record, told CNN, "The law carved out the State Department as having a unique position in the government in that foreign policy, by its nature, must remain nonpartisan/apolitical."
See tonight's DNC Schedule
"So State Department officials -- specifically those who are presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate (i.e. the secretary) -- are far more restricted than, say, someone who works at the Education Department."
When Condoleezza Rice was President George W. Bush's Secretary of State, she did not attend the Republican National Convention. Now that she's a private citizen, however, she did take part in last week's RNC, delivering a speech on foreign policy.
Will Hillary Clinton try to tune in from East Timor to watch her husband's speech? Her staff isn't saying. But if her usual travel schedule applies -- every minute jam-packed with meetings, briefings and news conferences -- she may wait until she gets back home to hear from Bill Clinton directly how it went.
CNN Fact Check: About those 4.5 million jobs ...
Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
Five things to watch at DNC tonight
Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news at CNN's Election Center. There are race updates, a delegate counter and much more.
A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders continue to sharply disagree over the key issue of whether top tax rates should be raised to help resolve the looming crisis.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
In a historic turnaround, the ballot box is showing America's shifting attitudes about same-sex marriage.
Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 0919 GMT (1719 HKT)
The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Democrats will retain their control of the Senate after winning several closely contested races on Tuesday.
Today's five most popular stories