Obama and Clinton: The 60 Minutes interview

From bitter opponents to powerful partners, President Obama and Secretary Clinton discuss their friendship, Benghazi, Clinton's health and more

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Secretary Clinton: It did. We could never figure out what we were different on. Yeah, we worked at that pretty hard. And so I really thought I'd be going back to the Senate, where I would be supporting the president on all of the issues. And what surprised me is 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. And maybe he wants to ask me about some people that might serve in the administration." So when I got to Chicago and he asked me if I would consider being his secretary of state, I immediately said, "Oh, Mr. President, there's so many other people. Let me give you some other names." Because it just took me by surprise. But he is pretty persuasive, I'll tell you that much. And he kept saying, "Well, I want you to think about it again. I want you to-- wait a minute, don't make-- don't give me a final answer." I'll tell you what I finally thought. I 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. So if I'm saying I would have wanted him to say yes to me, how am I going to justify saying no to my president?" And it was a great decision, despite my hesitancy about it.

Steve Kroft: What did he promise you? And has he kept the promises?

Secretary Clinton: It was going to be hard. But, you know--

President Obama: And I kept that promise.

Secretary Clinton: --welcome to hard times. I mean, because the one thing he did mention was he basically said, "You know, we've got this major economic crisis that may push us into a depression. I'm not going to be able to do a lot to satisfy the built-up expectations for our role around the world. So you're going to have to get out there and, you know, really represent us while I deal with, you know, the economic catastrophe I inherited." But, you know, we're both gluttons for punishment. And, you know, my assessment was, "Look, we are in a terrible fix." And, you know, I felt like this president was going to get us out of it, but it wasn't going to be easy. And it was going to need everybody, you know, pulling together.

Steve Kroft: Has she had much influence--

President Obama: Well, I--

Steve Kroft: --in this administration?

President Obama: I think everybody understands that Hillary's been, you know, one of the most important advisors that I've had on a whole range of issues. Hillary's capacity to travel around the world, to lay the groundwork for a new way of doing things, to establish a sense of engagement that, you know, our foreign policy was not going to be defined solely by Iraq, that we were going to be vigilant about terrorism, but we were going to make sure that we deployed all elements of American power, diplomacy, our economic and cultural and social capital, in order to bring about the kinds of international solutions that we wanted to see. I had confidence that Hillary could do that. And, you know, one of the things that I will always be grateful for is-- yeah, it wasn't just that she and I had to integrate. I mean, we had Bob Gates, who was a holdover from the Bush administration. You know Leon Panetta to take over the CIA. And so we had a lot of very strong personalities around the table. And, you know, I think one of the things that Hillary did was establish a standard in terms of professionalism and teamwork in our cabinet, in our foreign policy making that said, "We're going to have an open discussion. We're going to push each other hard. There are going to be times where we have some vigorous disagreements. Once the president makes a decision though we're going to go out there and execute.

Steve Kroft: How would you characterize your relationship right now?

President Obama: I consider Hillary a strong friend.

Secretary Clinton: I mean, 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. We have similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but has been really at a core of our relationship over the last four years. I mean, I've read a lot about other presidents. And I've, you know, been in the White House as a first lady. And I was a senator in the time of 9/11 and spent time in the White House under the Bush administration. And I know how critical it is to really forge that sense of discipline that the president is referring to. Are there going to be differences? Yeah. Deep differences? Of course. You had a lot of strong-willed, minded people. But the president deserves our best judgment, our advice, and then he deserves us to stand with him and to execute. Now I've watched other administrations, where there was pitched warfare between this cabinet secretary and another or this member of the White House. That's not good for the country. And, it's not something that would have served this president.