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Obama, Hillary "Catch Up" at the White House

Obama, Hillary "Catch Up" at the White House

By Alexis Simendinger - December 4, 2014

Sigh.  When it comes to the White House Press Office, it’s often one step forward, and another step back.

Hours after Press Secretary Josh Earnest opened up President Obama’s question-and-answer session with business leaders to journalists, reporters discovered the White House had been hush-hush about an interesting block of the president’s time on Wednesday afternoon.

Obama spent “about an hour” with Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office  “to catch up and enjoy an informal discussion on a wide range of issues,” the White House disclosed at the end of the day. (The chat took place before the president met Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell at 2:40 p.m., also in the Oval Office.)

In a statement sent to pool reporters in the evening, a White House official attempted to play down the Clinton visit, which had not appeared on the president’s publicly disclosed schedule.

“As is well known, President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy getting together in person on a regular basis,” the unnamed official said.

If their meetings had indeed been that routine, information about Clinton’s tete-a-tetes with Obama might be, well, routine. But au contraire. Asked if the White House would release a photograph, as has occurred in the past, the answer from the Press Office was no.

In an interview with ABC News on Nov. 21, Obama praised his 2008 primary challenger and said if she decides to run to succeed him, she would be “a great president.” Calling her a friend and adding he speaks with her often, Obama predicted Clinton would be “a formidable candidate” if she enters the 2016 race.

“She’s not going to agree with me on everything,” he also predicted.

The president believes a Democratic successor could enlarge his own legacy and continue the unfinished work he will hand off in 2017. Among the issues he has said the next occupant of the White House will tackle are the battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and continued government efforts to revive the U.S. economy.

Clinton, who recently defended Obama for extending immigration relief to millions of migrants using his executive authority, has said she will decide whether to run early in 2015. Advisers have reportedly suggested that she announce her decision early in the year because scrutiny and Republican critiques are already underway.

Her supporters, potential donors and campaign team-in-waiting have given every indication they anticipate the former first lady will seek the nomination.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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