POLITICS
07/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Clinton: I Turned Down Secretary Of State Offer At First (VIDEO)

When Barack Obama first asked Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State, she turned him down, she told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Sunday.

Clinton said she " thought it was absurd" when she first saw her name floated in the press. And when Obama called and asked her, she said, "'I really don't think I'm the person for this, I want to go back to my life. I really feel like I owe it to the people of New York.' And I gave him a bunch of other names of people I thought would be great secretaries of state." But, Clinton added, Obama was very "quite persistent and very persuasive." In the end, she said, "When your president asks you to do something for your country, you really need a good reason not to it."

Watch:

The new book "Renegade" by Richard Wolffe offers Obama's take on the same event.

His decision to offer her the job of secretary of state came surprisingly early. Well before the end of the primaries, when his staff and friends still felt hostile to her, Obama decided that Clinton possessed the qualities to carry his diplomacy to the rest of the world. "We actually thought during the primary, when we were pretty sure we were going to win, that she could end up being a very effective secretary of state," he told me later. "I felt that she was disciplined, that she was precise, that she was smart as a whip, and that she would present a really strong image to the world...I had that mapped out."

Recruiting and managing a team of rivals would not be easy, and Clinton came with her own set of issues. Chief among them was her campaign debt, which she wanted eliminated before she took the job of secretary of state. Would the president-elect go out and help her to do so? "I'm not begging her to take this job," Obama told his senior aides.