Hatchet deeply buried, U.S. President Barack Obama and his political nemesis-turned-ally, Hillary Clinton, made a friendly joint appearance on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday in an interview that has fuelled fierce speculation about the secretary of state's political future.
"Everybody understands that Hillary's been one of the most important advisers that I have on a whole range of issues," Obama, describing Clinton as a "strong friend," said in the interview, recorded Friday at the White House.
Both Obama and Clinton deflected questions by CBS's Steve Kroft about whether the interview amounted to a presidential endorsement of the outgoing secretary state, who's at the centre of intense speculation about whether she's making another bid for the White House in 2016.
Their appearance on "60 Minutes" has only further fired up the rumour mill.
"The president and I care deeply about what's going to happen for our country in the future," Clinton said. "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."
Obama, meantime, chided Kroft: "You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you're talking about elections four years from now."
Instead, the president said, he simply wanted to pay tribute to Clinton and the dedication she's brought to the job. He lavished her with praise throughout the interview, calling her an "extraordinary talent" and lauding "her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project."
Clinton returned the kudos.
"I certainly am grateful for the president's steady hand and hard questions and thoughtful analysis on what we should and shouldn't do," she said.
She described their relationship as "very warm, close."
"I think there's a sense of understanding that sometimes doesn't even take words," she said. "We have similar views, similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but really has been at the core of our relationship over the past four years."
Such an astonishing love-in would have seemed unimaginable in 2008, when Obama and Clinton were locked in a brutal, bruising primary battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The "60 Minutes" interview aired on the fifth anniversary of the weekend Obama handily defeated Clinton in the South Carolina primary. That contest followed a particularly nasty leadup, when Bill Clinton angered African-Americans in the state when the former president, campaigning for his wife, described Obama's candidacy as a "fairy tale."
Many of the most incendiary rumours about Obama, including long disproven allegations that he's a Muslim and was born in Kenya, were propagated by Clinton supporters in 2008.
But what a difference four years, and a key cabinet position, has made between Obama and the woman who once derided him as woefully unprepared for the White House.
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