Following the friendly chat President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had with CBS's Steve Kroft on Sunday's 60 Minutes, NBC's reporters could barely contain their glee over the duo getting along so well, with correspondent Peter Alexander proclaiming on Monday's Today: "There they were, side-by-side, at times chuckling together, it seemed even finishing one another's sentences." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Alexander fawned over Obama and Clinton repeatedly patting each other on the back during the self-promotional interview: "The President said he simply wanted to thank Hillary Clinton for being what he called one of the finest secretaries of state we have ever had. But the mutual gushing did not end there....the bitter rivals turned partners showed just how far their relationship's evolved. The President lavishing Clinton with praise for her discipline, stamina, and thoughtfulness."
ABC's Good Morning America on Monday proclaimed the interview to be a "Lovefest!"
Following Alexander's report, co-host Matt Lauer asked chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd if the dual television appearance amounted to an Obama endorsement of Clinton in 2016: "What did we watch last night? Did we watch a sitting president giving a warm personal embrace to an outgoing secretary of state or did we watch a sitting president passing the baton to a political ally now?"
Todd was skeptical of the notion: "This was more in the thank-you column." However, he then portrayed Clinton as a savior of the Democratic Party by agreeing to be Obama's secretary of state: "Had Hillary Clinton not taken his invitation, the possibility of a Democratic Party that was split in two....So this really was a thank you. Because getting her to come in and the fact that she was such a team player once she went in, this was really the President doing that."
Even before the 60 Minutes segment aired Sunday night, that morning on Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory was giddy with anticipation: "It happens on 60 Minutes tonight, an interview with the President and his outgoing secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Raising a lot of eyebrows....is he passing the baton?"
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joined in Gregory's eagerness: "Unprecedented. An interview that – President Obama has never done an interview with anyone other than his wife, and here he's doing it with the Secretary of State."
She then laughably declared: "I've talked to a lot of Democrats who say that if she decides, and she hasn't decided, but if she decides and she's completely positioned for it, to run, she clears the field....Because after eight years of President Obama, who could come in, and as a woman, and as a non-Obama person originally, be enough of an outsider to challenge a Republican?"
Over twenty years in Washington and Hillary Clinton is an "outsider"?
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's January 28 Today report:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: Side-by-side. President Obama and Hillary Clinton sit down for their first joint interview. Was it a passing of the torch?
HILLARY CLINTON: I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year.
LAUER: So whose idea was it? And was Vice President Biden watching?
7:05AM ET SEGMENT:
MATT LAUER: A lot of people are talking about that interview with President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as the Secretary of State enters her final week on the job. What does it mean? NBC's White House correspondent Peter Alexander has details on that. Peter, good morning to you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "I Consider Hillary a Strong Friend"; Obama & Clinton Give First Joint Interview]
PETER ALEXANDER: Matt, good morning to you. The President said he simply wanted to thank Hillary Clinton for being what he called one of the finest secretaries of state we have ever had. But the mutual gushing did not end there. There they were, side-by-side, at times chuckling together, it seemed even finishing one another's sentences. A joint interview, their first together, that even Clinton acknowledged in 2008 would have seemed improbable. What a difference five years make.
BARACK OBAMA: I consider Hillary a strong friend.
HILLARY 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.
ALEXANDER: On 60 Minutes Sunday, the bitter rivals turned partners showed just how far their relationship's evolved. The President lavishing Clinton with praise for her discipline, stamina, and thoughtfulness.
BARACK OBAMA: Friendships involve a sense of trust and being in the fox hole together. And that emerged during the course of months when we were making some very tough decisions.
ALEXANDER: The Secretary of State, who will officially step down Friday, dismissed the 2008 campaign battle as ancient history.
CLINTON: Despite our hard-fought primary, we had such agreement on what needed to be done for our country.
OBAMA: It made for tough debates, by the way.
CLINTON: It did.
OBAMA: Because we could never figure out what we differed on.
CLINTON: Yeah, we worked at that pretty hard.
ALEXANDER: Clinton, again wearing glasses instead of contact lenses, said she now sympathizes with athletes and soldiers who've suffered traumatic brain injury after her own concussion last month.
CLINTON: I still have some lingering effects from falling on my head and having the blood clot. But you know, the doctors tell me that, that will all recede.
ALEXANDER: Even before the unlikely interview aired, it unleashed a fury of speculation whether viewers should see it as an endorsement for 2016, especially amid reports suggesting the President's right-hand man, Joe Biden, is intoxicated by the idea of his own presidential bid. Mr. Obama deflected those questions.
OBAMA: You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago and you're talking about elections four years from now.
ALEXANDER: Still, Clinton left the door wide open for another presidential run in her future.
CLINTON: I don't thin, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year.
ALEXANDER: And as if to emphasize how quickly their old nasty campaign, those hard feelings had evaporated, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agreed it had a much bigger effect on their spouses, they say, than it ever did them. It left a lot of people, Matt, wondering whether there's any expiration date on this endorsement.
LAUER: Alright, Peter Alexander at the White House. Peter, thank you very much.