She was the chief rival in his first-term "team of rivals" Cabinet.
But on Sunday, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton served as President Obama's chief cheerleader-- and the feeling for a half-hour of prime-time television was gushingly mutual.
The two smiled, bantered and chuckled like chums throughout their appearance on CBS's "60 Minutes," the first time Obama has been interviewed as president with a person other than his wife.
It was a performance, tracing with little turbulence the course of their relationship, by a pair of all-pro politicians whose public lives and future legacies are entwined. The message: This all worked out well, don't you think?
The praise Obama used to describe his chief diplomat, whom he once notoriously called "likable enough," will serve as a heavy dollop of whipped cream on Clinton's record, at least for Democrats already inclined to hold her in high regard.
"I just wanted to publicly have a chance to say thank you," Obama said when asked by Steve Kroft, the interviewer, why he wanted to appear with Clinton on the program. "I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretaries of state we've ever had."
In the interview, conducted Friday afternoon at the White House, Clinton called her relationship with Obama "warm, close" and said they share "a sense of understanding that sometimes doesn't take words."
Obama said that a rough 2008 election has helped forge a "strong" friendship between them. Sitting side by side -- and watching the other intently as he or she delivered answers -- Obama and Clinton said the acrimony of those primaries evaporated quickly.
But they also acknowledged that the bitterness of a nasty campaign lingered longer among their staffs and spouses.
Those staff suspicions colored relations between the White House and the State Department during policy debates over Afghanistan and Libya -- and never entirely disappeared.
Asked about her initial reluctance to serve as secretary of state, Clinton said she was taken by surprise when Obama told her during a transition meeting in Chicago that he wanted her in that post.
But, she said, she eventually came around.
"I thought that if the roles had been reversed and I had ended up winning, I would have desperately wanted him to be in my Cabinet," Clinton said.
So, she said, she couldn't say no to "my president."