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Obama: Biden among the best VPs ever, Clinton among best secretaries

President Obama (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) President Obama (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Obama declined Thursday to take sides in the potential battle for his successor as president, instead saying that both Vice President Biden and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will rank among the greatest to ever hold those jobs.

"I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best vice presidents — ever," Obama told MSNBC's Chris Matthews, according to a transcript. "And he has been with me, at my side, in every tough decision that I've made, from going after Bin Laden to dealing with the health care issues to — you name it, he's been there."

Obama said much the same about Clinton.

"(She) helped to transition us away from a deep hole that we were in when I first came into office, around the world, and to rebuild confidence and trust in the United States," Obama said.

Obama said the two have "different strengths, but both of them would be outstanding."

Obama also had some words of praise for his Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, Craig Fugate.

"He's doing a heck of a job," Obama said, echoing the much-maligned vote of confidence former president George W. Bush gave his FEMA head, Michael Brown, during Hurricane Katrina.

On government surveillance, Obama said the continued disclosures from Edward Snowden have  raised real issues and, at times, been over-hyped.

"The Snowden disclosures have identified some areas of legitimate concern," Obama said. "Some of it has also been highly sensationalized, and has been painted in a way that's not accurate."

As for Congress, Obama said he continues to believe that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to accomplish immigration reform and that some Republicans genuinely want to compromise.

But he said Republicans should be "embarrassed" by how little they've accomplished during the time they've controlled the House.

"They've gotta be embarrassed," Obama said. "Because the truth of the matter is is that they've now been in charge of the House of Representatives — one chamber in one branch of government — for a couple of years now. And they just don't have a lot to show for it."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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