President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak with 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft, left, in the Blue Room of the White House.
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - During their battle for the Democratic presidential nomination more than four years ago, President Obama dismissed his political nemesis Hillary Rodham Clinton as "likable enough."
But as Clinton prepares to depart from the State Department this week, Obama gushed about his outgoing secretary of State and predicted, the history books will remember her as one of the best to grace the office of America's top diplomat.
"I consider Hillary a strong friend," Obama said in a joint interview that aired Sunday evening on CBS' 60 Minutes.
Clinton called their relationship "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," Clinton said.The two stayed away from making any big headlines in the unusual appearance, and laughed at the question of whether their first ever joint interview could be read as a tacit endorsement of Clinton for a potential 2016 run for the White House.
"You guys in the press are incorrigible," Obama said jokingly in the interview that was taped Friday. "I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you're talking about elections four years from now.
Clinton batted away a question from journalist Steve Kroft on whether there are any "political tea leaves" to be read by their appearance. Clinton joked: "We don't have any tea. We've got some water here is the best I can tell."
She was later more circumspect about what the future may hold for her.
"I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year," Clinton said. "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.
The two did offer a bit of reflection on how they managed to get beyond their bitter rivalry and forged a partnership. Obama said he got over the primary fight with Clinton quickly, but he thought that it was harder for their staffs.
"They get invested in this stuff in ways that I think the candidates maybe don't," Obama said.
Clinton said oddly it was her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who took some of the hot rhetoric of the campaign harder.
Clinton, however, acknowledged after their tough primary fight that their partnership would seem unlikely.
"A few years ago it would have seen - been seen as improbable - because we had that very long, hard primary campaign," Clinton said. She added, "This has been just an extraordinary opportunity to work with him as a partner and friend, to do our very best on behalf of this country we both love."