The rare double appearance in front of the cameras gave ample opportunity for the once bitter rivals to bury any lingering doubts that the acrimony of the 2008 primary campaign was long behind them. During the course of CBS's 60 Minutes interview, recorded on Friday but aired on Sunday, the president referred to Clinton as a friend, who will go down as "one of the finest secretaries of state" America had known. It sounded like an official stamp of approval for Clinton, who may or may not be eyeing a run at the White House in 2016. But asked directly over whether the warm words were tantamount to an endorsement and if so how long it would last, both interviewees laughed away any such suggestion, without dismissing the idea out of hand. "You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago, and you're talking about the elections four years from now," offered Obama. Clinton likewise gave an answer that could be interpreted any number of ways: "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," she said. The comment will do little to either bolster or knock down speculation that Clinton's upcoming hiatus from Washington politics will end with a run at the top job in 2016. But they will continue to fuel the rumours. Clinton's last presidential campaign finished in defeat to Obama, in circumstances that were less than amicable. But both participants in that primary battle seemed to be over the sniping and briefings that marked that race out as being particularly bitter. Indeed, Obama gushed over the achievements of his top diplomat in the course of a tireless four years selling his foreign policy overseas. "I'm going to miss her," he said of the outgoing cabinet member. He then added, somewhat tantalizingly given the persistent rumours of a 2016 Clinton-led ticket, that he didn't begrudge her taking it easy "for a little bit". It was all smiles in front of the camera. But Clinton did at least allude to the past problems between their two camps. Asked why she agreed to the rare joint interview, the 65-year-old politician replied: "A few years ago it would have been seen as improbable because we had that very long, hard primary campaign. "But you know, I've gone around the world on behalf of the president and our country, and one of the things that I say to people, because I think it helps them understand, I say look, in politics and in democracy sometimes you win elections and sometimes you lose elections." "I worked very hard, but I lost," she added. But if a week is a long time in politics, then four and a half years is an eternity. And the once bitter rivals were now great pals, they both agreed. "I consider Hilary a strong friend," Obama said. "I mean very warm, close," Clinton chipped in. So much so that it "sometimes doesn't even take words, because we have similar views". If taken at face value, such closeness may be a key asset to Clinton if, as many believe, she is preparing to mount a presidential bid. Already popular amongst the party base and Democratic colleagues, a campaign from the former first lady would be formidable. Some Republican bigwigs have expressed concerns that such a run would be hard to counter.
Newt Gingrich, former House speaker and foe of then-president Bill Clinton, said in an interview last month: "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."
But the state secretary's recent hospitalisation has led to some observers questioning if, after four years of an exhausting schedule, Clinton may be preparing to exit Washington politics for good.
Clinton herself has alluded to the toll that the constant travel has taken, telling staff last year that after 20 years in politics "it would probably be a good idea to just find out how tired I am".
Addressing concerns over her health, Clinton told 60 Minutes that she still had some 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."
But in an indication that Clinton has in no way lost the energy and fight needed to stick around in the Beltway, last week saw the recuperated secretary of state take on her detractors in a fiery exchange with Republican congressmen over her handling of the deadly September attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya.
In Sunday's interview she again defended the State Department's response. After stating that she deeply regretted what happened, she added: "we did fix responsibility appropriately."
As to wider question over foreign policy, and whether the US was guilty of an abdication of responsibility on the world stage, Obama responded: "Muammar Gaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment, or at least if he was around, he wouldn't agree with that assessment."
He also took the opportunity to again heap praise on Clinton's role in shaping US foreign policy.
Obama had said at the beginning of the interview that he had agreed to the joint appearance because he wanted to "publicly say thank you" to his outgoing state secretary.
While the words he uttered were thank you, there was no "and goodbye" to bookend the remark. Indeed many will have switched off their TV set convinced that they heard an endorsement in the lines he spoke.
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