COMING UP:

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, once bitter foes, have '60 Minutes' love-in

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Hatchet deeply buried, U.S. President Barack Obama and his political nemesis-turned-ally, Hillary Clinton, make a joint appearance on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday in an interview that marks a new chapter in a complex personal and political association.

"I just wanted to have a chance to publicly say thank you because I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we've had," Obama says in the interview, recorded Friday at the White House, as Clinton smiles beside him.

"It has been a great collaboration over the last four years. I'm going to miss her. I wish she was sticking around."

Such a 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.

Obama and Clinton were even photographed tearfully embracing and holding hands in September when the bodies of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were returned to the United States following an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.

Clinton herself acknowledged that their joint interview with Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" was extraordinary considering the nature of their primary brawls.

"A few years ago it would have been seen as improbable because we had that very long, hard primary campaign," she said in an excerpt released over the weekend by CBS.

"And then President Obama asked me to be secretary of state and I said yes. And why did he ask me and why did I say yes? Because we both love our country."

Clinton is resigning her post, likely to be replaced by Sen. John Kerry, amid speculation she's eyeing a run for president in 2016.

The "60 Minutes" interview took place after Clinton spent much of the past week on Capitol Hill, defending her handling of the Benghazi attacks. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials were killed by Islamic militants in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Clinton forcefully denied anyone at the State Department or in the Obama administration made any efforts to mislead Americans on the attacks as the details emerged.

While Clinton's resignation marks the official end of Obama and Clinton's working relationship, it could signal the start of a new chapter in their association with the 2016 presidential election now on the horizon.

During last year's election campaign, Bill Clinton was one of Obama's top surrogates, despite his own notoriously frosty relationship with the commander-in-chief.

The buzz in the U.S. capital is that Obama promised to throw his support behind Hillary Clinton in 2016 in exchange for Bill Clinton's help on the campaign trail in 2012. If so, Obama could find himself in a quandary if Joe Biden, his cherished vice-president, opts to throw his hat in the ring as well.

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