BURNISHING HER IMAGE
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s Lovefest on ‘60 Minutes’
The president and his outgoing secretary of state were so laudatory of each other on the CBS news program that they were practically cuddling. Lauren Ashburn on the polishing of Hillary’s image—perhaps for 2016. Plus, watch the best moments.
Hillary Clinton was angry. Really, really angry.
The last time we saw her, she was dressed in green, glowering through her glasses at Republicans who were skewering her over the administration’s flawed handling of the attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Not exactly the image she would have chosen to close out her tenure. Nor this one on the cover of the New York Post (“No Wonder Bill’s Afraid”).
But that all changed when she took to the airwaves with President Obama on 60 Minutes, sounding pitch-perfect in pink. While CBS executives first reached out to Obama for a solo interview, they landed a twofer at the White House’s request.
Hmm. Flawless timing.
By Obama sitting down with his secretary of state, it was clear that he was launching an effort to buff her scuffed image before she resigns in the next couple of weeks. Asked by Steve Kroft why he wanted to do the interview together, Obama said, “I wanted to publicly say thank you ... I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretaries of state we’ve had.”
Obama said on the Sunday broadcast that he’d miss her—that he was a great “admirer” and theirs was a great “collaboration”—and lauded her for foreign-policy successes that were rooted in “her hard work.”
He praised her discipline, stamina, and thoughtfulness. He called her a “strong friend.”
That’s one wet-kiss send-off.
The lovey-dovey duo smiled, joshed, and giggled for nearly 20 minutes before a commercial break and a more serious discussion about what happened in Benghazi.
At one point Clinton called Obama her partner and friend. She defined their relationship as “very warm” and “close” and said sometimes they don’t need words to communicate.
If they both weren’t married, I’d have expected him to get down on his knee and propose. This is the beginning of the Hillary coronation. No doubt about it.
It’s quite a turnaround, really—especially from a man who ripped Hillary a new one during the 2008 presidential campaign, causing her to leave the playing field. Remember when he said she was “likable enough?” Or when he said the Clinton camp was trying to “bamboozle” or “hoodwink” voters? It always seemed unlikely to me that she’d ever really let that one go. But Clinton told Kroft she’s not a hater and wrote off the jousts as “ancient history.”
“A few years ago, it would’ve been seen as improbable, because we had that very long, hard primary campaign,” Clinton said. But had the roles been reversed, “I would have desperately wanted him to be in my cabinet.”
She finally relented to his “persuasive” request—not before recommending others first. She signed on because their views on issues were almost identical and “because we both love our country.”
While Obama’s praise may have been a bit overdone, Clinton earned it through her loyalty and dedication to the man who defeated her—and by traveling nearly a million miles on his behalf.
There were a few serious questions in the second segment about foreign policy and the fatal attack on American diplomats in Libya, but Kroft didn’t press very hard. He seemed far more fascinated by the dynamic between the former rivals.
One thing is for sure: Hillary Clinton doesn’t let failure or hardship stop her from overcoming obstacles and pushing forward. She’s the Little Engine That Could climbing Mount Everest—battling blizzards like Whitewater, Vince Foster’s suicide, and Bill’s Oval Office romp with intern in the blue dress Monica Lewinsky.
I don’t know about you, but I would have waved the white flag a looong time ago and faded into the world of nonprofit do-gooding—maybe even baking a cookie or two.
Many pundits have predicted that once Clinton hints at throwing in her hat for 2016, her political enemies will begin waging war. Just like last month, when she suffered a concussion and had to postpone her appearance at the congressional hearings on Benghazi. Allen West, then a GOP congressman, told Fox News she was suffering from an illness known as “Benghazi flu,” launching a media maelstrom. The New York Post called it a “head fake,” and armchair physicians smelled a conspiracy.
Even as Clinton said in the interview that she was suffering from some after-effects—and wearing special prescription glasses—she looked strong and sounded comfortable. Yet through all her bubbly candor about her work husband, the lawyer, first lady, senator cum secretary dodged the one question on everyone’s mind: will she run for president in 2016?
When Kroft nudged her about reading the tea leaves, Clinton looked around the room and said there was only water there. When Kroft called out Obama on his rehab rhetoric—“What is the date of expiration on this endorsement?”—Hillary’s complicit dodger in chief turned the tables with a politician’s nonanswer:
“I gotta tell you, you guys in the press are incorrigible,” the president said. “I was literally inaugurated four days ago, and you’re talking about elections four years from now.”
Clinton’s nonanswer? She was still “out of politics” as a diplomat, and neither of them could make predictions.
Well, here’s mine. Just as her joint 60 Minutes appearance in 1992, at the height of the Gennifer Flowers scandal, saved her husband’s presidential candidacy, Hill’s joint appearance with Obama polished over any scratches from her tenure, paving the way for another climb to the apex of the mountain. This was the interview of a woman whose final act has not been written.