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Less than a week after being sworn in to his second term in office, President Barack Obama asked Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” to conduct a half-hour interview with him alongside his outgoing Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Filmed on Friday but aired on the news program Sunday night, the interview focused briefly on the politics of the shooting in Benghazi, Libya, and the Syrian uprising.
Mostly, though, Kroft got Obama and Clinton talking about the evolution of their relationship: how they went from being political adversaries during a hard-fought Democratic primary battle in 2008 to political allies during a four-year period of breathtaking events on the international stage.
“Didn’t take as long as people would perceive it,” Obama said of the reconciliation between the two.
The unprecedented joint interview came about because “I wanted the opportunity to say thanks,” Obama said. “I want the country to appreciate just what an extraordinary role she’s played.”
“This has been the most extraordinary honor and ... a few years ago it would have been seen as improbable because we had that very long, hard campaign,” Clinton said. “[But] I’ve gone around the world ... and one of the things I’ve said to people [is] ... ‘in politics, and in democracy, sometimes you win elections and sometimes you lose elections.’
“This has just been an extraordinary opportunity to work with [Obama] as a partner and friend and do our very best on behalf of this country we love,” she continued.
Seated side by side, Clinton and Obama described each other as a friend. The story of how the president came to tap his onetime rival as secretary of State was, in many ways, a less remarkable story than the overall narrative of how they came to get along at the end of the day.
For one thing, Obama said, he appreciated how Clinton immediately began to campaign on his behalf after he won the 2008 nomination, citing the similarities they shared in terms of their vision for the country.
“I was a big admirer of Hillary’s before our primary battles and before the general election,” Obama said, citing “her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project.”
When he invited her to Chicago to talk about the possibility of serving as secretary of State, Clinton said she was caught off guard, having expected to return to the Senate and continue her support for the Obama administration from Capitol Hill.
“I finally thought, you know, if the roles had been reversed and I had won ... I would have desperately wanted him to be in my Cabinet,” Clinton recalled. “So if I could say I wanted him to say yes to me, how can I say no to my president? And it was a great decision.”
Clinton is expected to step down as soon as this week, when the Senate is expected to consider the nomination of her replacement — another onetime Democratic presidential hopeful: Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Neither Clinton nor Obama would entertain Kroft’s questions about a possible 2016 presidential run by Clinton.
“I’m still secretary of State!” Clinton laughed.