For those who either think that Hillary Clinton will challenge Barack Obama in a primary fight or replace Joe Biden on the ticket in 2012, the Secretary of State has news for you.  Clinton told the BBC that she has had enough of the “merry-go-round” of public service, and that she wants nothing more than to retire from public life in 2013:

She’s in good health from yoga and exercise, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she’s tired by the “merry-go-round” of public life and ready to get off it for good at the end of President Barack Obama’s first term.

“I think that I am a pretty normal, average person, despite all of the hype,” Clinton said in an interview with the BBC conducted Thursday. “And I am very interested in spending time with my friends and my family and not being on the merry-go-round all the time.”

That, she said, is why she plans to “move on and return to private life at the end of what will be a very intense period of activity and work in the next 18 months.”

Clinton has made similar comments in several interviews this year, but this time they were unprompted, coming in response to a question about what the general public might not know about her.

Color me … skeptical.  For one thing, her husband doesn’t seem ready for the quiet life on the farm.  The former President hasn’t attempted to insinuate himself into policy issues the way Jimmy Carter has done, but Bill has been more than ready to engage in political fights … or pretty much any other activity that guarantees he gets in front of the cameras.  It was just a few months ago that the Clinton not on the “merry-go-round” took one last ride at the White House podium as the current President attended a Christmas party.

It’s not unusual for Cabinet members to leave in a President’s second term.  Cabinet jobs are grueling affairs, particularly the Secretary of State, and that particularly in wartime.  However, announcing her departure in such clear language eighteen months early seems a little unusual, and perhaps a not-so-subtle signal of exhaustion not from the job but from Obama.  I don’t recall Colin Powell talking about his retirement plans in mid-2003, for example — and if he had, the press would have immediately cast it as a sign of dissent within the Bush administration.  Given the bumbling manner in which this administration has handled the Middle East in particular this year — TNR publisher Marty Peretz goes on at length about it today — it’s at least a valid question.

Will Hillary do what her husband seems incapable of successfully accomplishing — return to the life of a private citizen?  Neither of them have been private citizens in almost 30 years now, so it seems a long shot, but possible.  She will be 64 this year, and 65 when 2013 comes.  If she wanted to run for President, Hillary would have to distance herself from the mess Obama has made of foreign policy during her tenure at State and convince voters to back a 69-year-old candidate whose executive experience is far from extensive, and who only won two elections in her life as a carpetbagger to ultra-safe New York.  She may have no other choice.

Update: Should have been “retire from public life,” not to.  Corrected now.