Obama Praises Hillary Clinton in New Interview

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sidestepped questions about her presidential ambitions in 2016, though she was the beneficiary of effusive praise from her boss, President Barack Obama, in a new interview on Sunday.

Neither Obama nor Clinton would address the elephant in the room -- whether the outgoing secretary of state, Obama's 2008 primary opponent, should seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 -- in an interview aired Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes."

But the topic of a prospective second bid for the presidency by Clinton is already on the tongues of most political professionals of both parties. Clinton allowed a knowing chuckle at a congressional hearing last week when a Republican congressman, referring to her possible ambitions, said: "I wish you the best in your future endeavors -- mostly."

But, in the rare joint interview with the president, Clinton refused to engage the speculation.

"I am still secretary of state. So I'm out of politics. And I'm forbidden from even hearing these questions," she said. 

Obama said that Clinton would go down in history "as one of the finest secretary of states we've had."

"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," Obama said at another point in the interview.

And the president even made a pronouncement that would have seemed unthinkable during the bitter 2008 primary campaign between the two former senators: "I consider Hillary a strong friend." (Clinton, for her part, described her relationship with the president as "very warm" and "close.")

But lest Obama's praise for Clinton be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of his secretary of state over his vice president, the president heaped praise on Biden just a week ago, too. 

"One decision I know was absolutely correct -- absolutely spot on -- was my choice of vice president," Obama said Sunday at an inaugural reception. "I could not have a better partner than Joe Biden."

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