President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a joint appearance on “60 Minutes” yesterday that many observers are interpreting as his endorsement of Clinton for president in 2016 — though Obama dismissed that notion, calling the press “incorrigible” for even making such suggestions.
“I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you’re talking about elections four years from now,” Obama joked to correspondent Steve Kroft.
But it was the president’s idea to do the joint interview, an extremely rare move for a president. And Obama didn’t hold back in his praise for Clinton, saying that she would go down in history as one of the greatest secretaries of state. He said many of the foreign policy victories during his first term were her doing.
Since she was ushered into the White House as the first lady 20 years ago, the press has had a fascination with the talented Clinton. Though at one time she was one of the most hated figures in the country by the right wing, the public’s views of her seem to have mellowed over the years — particularly since Obama has stepped in to take the right wing’s “most hated” mantle from her.
Many Republicans are deathly afraid of a Clinton candidacy in 2016. In an interview last month, Newt Gingrich, former House speaker and presidential candidate, said, “If the competitor in ’16 is going to be Hillary Clinton, supported by Bill Clinton and presumably a still relatively popular president Barack Obama, trying to win that will be truly the Super Bowl … and the Republican party is incapable of doing that.”
The president and Clinton spoke during the interview about the aftermath of the 2008 Democratic primary, when Obama beat Clinton to win the nomination. The president suggested that their staffs were more affected by the bitterness of that campaign than Obama and Clinton.
“You know, we’ve both built some pretty thick skins,” said Obama. “Hillary, I suspect, you know, handles this the same way I do, you know? We kind of have a block — a screen from a lot of the silliness that happens during presidential campaigns.”
Clinton offered a window into her deliberations about the president’s offer to be secretary of state. She said she made her final decision after putting herself in his shoes.
“I’ll tell you what I finally thought,” she said. “I thought, ‘You know, if the roles had been reversed, and I had ended up winning, I would have desperately wanted him to be in my cabinet. So if I’m saying I would have wanted him to say yes to me, how am I going to justify saying no to my president?’ And it was a great decision, despite my hesitancy about it.”
During their interview, their affection for each other was obvious, as they laughed and finished each other’s sentences.
Asked to describe their current relationship, the president answered, “I consider Hillary a strong friend,” and she said, “Very warm, close. I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views.”
As for running in 2016, Clinton said, “As you know, Steve, I am still secretary of state. So I’m out of politics. And I’m forbidden from even hearing these questions. I think that, you know, look, obviously the president and I care deeply about what’s going to happen for our country in the future. And I don’t think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next year. What we’ve tried to do over the last four years is get up every day, have a clear-eyed view of what’s going on in the world. And I’m really proud of where we are.”
Most viewers will note that there wasn’t a “no” in there.
Clinton is still in the process of recovering from her recent hospitalization for a blood clot in her brain.
“It would probably be a good idea to just find out how tired I am,” she joked. She told “60 Minutes” there were still lingering effects from the concussion that led to her blood clot, but that the doctors had told her that they would recede. “Thankfully I’m, you know, looking forward to being at full speed.”