NEW YORK -- With limited time and the unusual nature of a dual appearance with President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CBS’ Steve Kroft said Monday said he thought it important to focus on their professional relationship instead of specific questions about world events.
Kroft said CBS was surprised when the White House suggested the appearance a little more than a week ago. The interview was conducted Friday and aired Sunday on “60 Minutes.”
He judged that Obama wanting to do the interview alongside the woman who was once his fierce political rival before joining his administration was news in itself.
“I would have liked very much to delve into some areas of foreign policy and what is going on in the world, but it was not anything we could take on in 30 minutes,” Kroft said, noting the time offered by the White House.
Besides, he said, there are opportunities to ask those questions in presidential or state department briefings.
“What was not ever likely to present itself was the opportunity to sit down and talk to them about their professional relationship,” he said. “We thought that was the most important thing to do. You can watch their body language. You can judge what their relationship is.”
A dual interview with a president and outgoing secretary of state in most cases wouldn’t be particularly appealing. Not in this case, Kroft said.
Obama praised Clinton’s work in the interview. He said that he had made the surprising decision to tap his rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination because he wanted someone who was known on the world stage. After initially resisting, Clinton said she accepted the job because she realized she’d want Obama in her cabinet if she had been elected president.
Kroft said he sensed a warmth and respect between the two that might not have been publicly evident prior to the interview.
CBS received some criticism on Fox News Channel for not seeking news more aggressively. On “Fox & Friends,” for example, co-host Brian Kilmeade said Kroft should have asked more questions about Clinton’s recent fall and concussion.
“Why, exactly, did they sit down?” Fox’s Steve Doocy said. “The interview was awkward. They were giddy saying goodbye and right at the top Steve Kroft said they only gave us 30 minutes which, of course, means there’s not going to be any real news. And there wasn’t.”
Kroft said of the criticism: “This is something that has not been on my radar screen.” The interview was the subject of many television and text news reports.
The “60 Minutes” veteran has been a regular interviewer of Obama, going back to the early days of the president’s first campaign. He said he had a standing request for another interview around the start of the second term, when the Obama-Clinton sit-down was suggested.
Kroft said he felt an obligation to ask about the 2016 presidential race, even though he didn’t expect, or receive, much of an answer.
“He’s not interested in endorsing somebody for president and she’s not, right now, interested in running, so the whole thing is kind of silly,” he said.