President Obama lavished praise on his one-time political rival and outgoing secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as a seasoned professional diplomat who became a good friend and advisor.
“I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of States we’ve had,” Obama said in a joint interview aired Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “By the time Hillary joined the administration, I felt very confident and comfortable in our working relationship. What did evolve was a friendship, as opposed to just a professional relationship. Friendships involve a sense of trust and being in the foxhole together.”
Clinton, who lost a hard-fought Democratic primary race to Obama in 2008, said she was surprised when he asked her to join his Cabinet.
“He said, ‘Well, I want you to come to Chicago,’ and honestly, at the time, I thought, ‘Well, you know, that’s a very nice gesture.’”
Clinton said she expected to be asked her advice on other people who might serve in the new administration. She did not expect to be offered a top post and said she was initially reluctant.
“I’ll tell you what I finally 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,” she said. With that in mind, she agreed to take the job. “It was a great decision, despite my hesitancy about it,” she added.
Obama cited the end of the war in Iraq, the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi and the dismantling “of the core leadership of Al Qaeda” as the major foreign policy successes of his first term.
But both were hesitant in saying what could be done about what Clinton called “wicked problems like Syria.” The U.S. has resisted military involvement there.
Clinton said she recalled as a young girl hearing speeches by President Eisenhower urging caution. “You’ve got to be careful. You have to be thoughtful. You can’t rush in, especially when it’s more complex than it’s been in decades,” she said.
The president sounded the same theme of caution. “You know, there are transitions and transformations taking place all around the world. We are not going to be able to control every aspect of every transition or transformation,” he said. “Sometimes they’re going to go sideways.”
Clinton brushed aside questions about her future in politics and pronounced her health good – despite a concussion she suffered in December when she fainted, hitting her head, while ill with a virus. That concussion led to a blood clot behind her right ear, for which she was hospitalized earlier this month.
“I still have some lingering effects from falling on my head and having the blood clot,” she said. “But the doctors tell me that will all recede. And so, thankfully, I’m looking forward to being at full speed.”