January 8th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
5 years ago

Bill Clinton targets media coverage of Obama

Watch Obama react to Bhutto's death
Watch Bill Clinton's comments Monday night.

(CNN) – On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, former President Bill Clinton criticized the media for not pressing Barack Obama more fully on Iraq, and accused the Illinois senator of shifting his position to reflect changing attitudes on the war.

"It is wrong that Sen. Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war," Clinton said at a campaign stop in Hanover, New Hampshire.

"And you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004. And there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since."

He added, "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

Clinton's wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, is battling Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former president briefly acknowledged that his wife's senior campaign advisor, Mark Penn, was mistaken to claim that Obama had no bounce out of Iowa after winning the state's caucuses because the poll numbers on the day after were relatively unchanged.

Then he abruptly changed the subject - suggesting that Obama's campaign had employed underhanded tactics.

"What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook. Scouring me - scathing criticism over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.

"So you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want. It wasn't his best day. He was hurt. He felt badly we didn't do better in Iowa," said Clinton. "But the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true - and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months - is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media doesn't mean the facts aren't out there."

He added, lightheartedly, "Otherwise, I do not have any strong feelings about that subject."

The former president made the remarks as polls showed his wife trailing Obama in this important first-in-the-nation primary state.

Update:
Responding to the comments later Tuesday, Obama said the Clinton campaign was "frustrated," and he dismissed the notion the press has gone easier on him.

"Maybe I've been missing something, but it seems like you guys have been reporting on me the entire year," Obama told reporters. "I remember this summer when we were down 20 points, we were getting knocked around pretty good. And I didn't hear the Clinton camp complaining about how terrible the press was."

Related video: Watch John King and Jessica Yellin on Bill Clinton's comments

– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (1,430 Responses)
  1. TODD

    Here's my thought on this entire process. Yes, Obama will be awarded the presidential nomination. Why, you ask? Think about how the political game operates, especially within the Republican Party. Votes and well-wishes are being given to Barack through this "game" of politics in hopes that most, when Election Day comes around, will rethink it through and vote for the Republican contender. Another 4 to 8 years again of Republican rule. Probably so, if the Republicans are doing what I think they're doing to gain more time in Washington.

    January 8, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. MJ

    The fairy tale isn't quite as big as the one you told to the American public. And I quote, "Now you listen to me, I did not have sexual relations with that women". The wheels are coming off the train and I am enjoying watching the wreck.

    January 8, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Ben Mo

    Bill is 100% right, the midia are saying all the nice thing about Obama because
    they are affraid to be branded as a racist, but they can say all the trash they want
    about Hillary because most of them are acually SEXIST.

    January 8, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. davidvoter08

    Mr. Barack Hussain Obama is all hype, not substance!!! I finally understand why Americans elected Gorege W.Bush twice! They want a nice guy they can have a beer with, not a leader, not someone strong but less likable.

    January 8, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. get truth guy

    more votes were manufactured by the medias, they are so political motivated group that try to control our nation through Obama.

    January 8, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. betty moss

    the press is fawning over obama. it is so obvious on all the morning news shows. why do they hate hillary so? you can see it in their faces. they cannot hide their contempt. why are people so afraid of a smart woman. i have found that the only news to watch is the jim lehrer newshour on PBS. they give indepth, both sides of an issue, reporting.

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. AJ, IL

    You die-hard Clinton supporters, just don't get it! Notice I said Clinton supporters and not Hillary supporters. This is part of the problem with Hillary's campaign. Bill Clinton is both an asset and liability to Hillary. As long as Bill remains positive about all the Democrats, he is an asset. But as soon as he goes negative against any other Democrat, primarily Obama, he is a liability. Hillary's connection to experience and likability flows from Bill Clinton. Without him, Hillary would not be a viable presidential candidate.

    You can't live in a glass house and throw stones. Bill Clinton is looking for anything on the ground around him to throw. Unfortunately, the house that Obama built is made up of plexi-glass. What Bill Clinton is throwing bounces back at Hillary's house. He is one of Hillary's worst enemies for her to get elected in the last four weeks.

    OBAMA in '08!

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  8. Dilip Samuels

    I like Bill Clinton ... the smoothest talkin extempo ex- USA President ever but man the frustration shows in this picture

    Obama is a Harvard guy and was editor of the Harvard Law Review ... come on guys ...experience indeed ...look who's running the US of A today

    Obama will do fine ..the right wing media is already making sure his roots in Africa are visual and will slow Americans down

    If the USA needs to rebuild its world image ..Obama fits the bill
    Dilip

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Pam Holt Los Angeles, CA

    Bill Clinton is right about Obama.

    Dennis Kucinich is the only PEACE candidate with the record to back him up. The only one smart enough to not be misled by Bush/Cheney.

    Anyone but Kucinich and it will be more of the same, and I guess that's what we deserve, right? We are our own worst enemies, except of course for the mainstream media, which is Public Enemy #1.

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Ken Harris

    I'm getting some really coolt-shirt ideas for caricatures/cartoons involving Hillary and Obama...:)

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Kathleen Ladislaus

    When in American history has a woman run for President who is married to a previous President? I am not saying what President Clinton has said regarding Barack Obama is right or wrong, but we are in all new territory here. I will say I am listening carefully to what all the Democratic candidates say in the next week. My absentee ballot for the state of California is still waiting for an x to be put next to a name. We have some good candidates, the choice is not so obvious.

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  12. DYLAN RIVIS

    Nice work, Bill ! There goes Hillary's last hope of resurrecting her increasingly sourfaced campaign. Attacking the people's (democratic) choice is not exactly wise at this juncture , especially as Hillary made the mistake of choosing to show a little somewhat suspect time-wise 'emotion' this morning on the heels of the networks beginning to write her off.

    No wonder the people are opting for 'change', a change from Bill and Hillary, it seems. It's hard to take someone seriously anymore who effectively blew his party's power base by allowing his intern to blow him under the desk !!!

    Do I hear a rooster crowing ??

    January 8, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. bel

    It's now evident more ever that the Clintons come across as if they are entitled. Hilary's tears and Bill Clinton's anger are nothing more than frustration over their loss of control. Hilary's mask is off now and her rage, arrogance, and sense of entitlement are on full display. It's so obvious that they are control-freaks. I think people are going to see this now. We are so tired of the Clintons and Bushes!! It's time for new leadership!

    January 8, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. Lynn

    What I want to know is, why does this story keep showing up at the top of the Ticker when others have come out subsequent to it? Maybe there is something to this "CNN is pro-Hillary" thing. Hmm.

    January 8, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. Einstein

    You people don't even know who heads the DNC. It is not Bill Clinton it is Howard Dean.

    January 8, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. T. Reidy

    I am a proud U.S. citizen living in Canada. I think it is so hipacritical that for so long many democrats and women voters have almost begged Hillary to run for president, and have now turned their back on her for someone so inexperienced. Hillarys beliefs for her country have not changed, so why has her so called "supporters" turned their backs on her. They want some one strong, yet she is too strong. She shows a little emotion for what she believes in, and she is too weak. But yet they will vote for someone with no experience. Very very scary.

    January 8, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. P.A. G.

    HOW DARE MR. OBAMA IMPLY THAT BILL CLINTON IS A CROOK. HE IS A CROOK!

    January 8, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. th3elite

    Hey Billy! If ur readin this(or anybody else) well, u see my words? U better recognize and memorize!
    Ur pretty cool tryin to run ur wife's lil party, right?
    WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Look , its been like 4 years that obama said that stuff.
    GET OVER IT MAN!!!
    NOBODY CARES IF HE SAID THAT 4 FRIKKIN YEARS AGO MAN!!(i might as well just type in all caps now just to get this through his IMPEACHED head....)
    KEEP BOSSIN UR WIFE AROUND AND SHE'S GONNA GET IMPEACHED TOO(holy cow i'm gonna p in my pants if that happens, thats how hard i'll be laughing)
    LOOK, I DON'T LIKE UR WIFE(thats right, I said it) BUT I KNOW THAT SHE CAN DEFEND HERSELF BETTER THAN U CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(thats right, said it again)
    Yo, pay attention to CNN when they show those emails peeps go and send in, i'm gonna send a good *cough*complaint*cough* review to them of ur wife and U!!!
    -Fatal Rider
    P.S. hows it feel being dissed?

    January 8, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. Navilan Sidbury

    The Clinton Campaign thought they had this election "in the bag," and surprsingly things are shifting . They are now angrily scrambling for an edge that seems to be crumbling right before thier eyes. Hillary Clinton seems to be looking more toward a new addition to her resume, rather than to serve and improve the quaility of life for the American people. The Americans sense this and that is why her campaign is crumbling.

    January 8, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. Seunjohnson

    Mr. Obama was asked about this outburst by Mr. Clinton earlier today. Courtesy of Jeff Zeleny, here’s the reply: “I understand they’re frustrated right now. I suspect that they’ll both try to get back on track in terms of the strategy for them to do better than they feel they’re doing right now.”
    As for Mr. Clinton’s pounding away at Mr. Obama’s war stances over the years, Mr. Obama said: “But I think Tim Russert answered Bill Clinton this morning. Every point that he raised was a question that had been answered _ had been asked and answered, not only on “Meet the Press” but repeatedly.
    It is a little frustrating for the president to _ the former president _ to continually repeat this notion that somehow I didn’t know where I stood in 2004 about the war. He keeps on giving half the quote. I was always against the war. The quote he keeps on feeding back was an interview on Meet the Press at the National Convention when Tim was asking, `Given your firm opposition to the war, what do you make of the fact that your nominee for president and vice president didn’t have that same foresight.’ And obviously I didn’t want to criticize them on the eve of their nomination. So I said, `Well, I don’t know what _ you know, I wasn’t in the Senate. I can’t say for certain what I would have done if I was there. I know that from where I stood the case was not made.’ He always leaves that out.
    “And you know, I understand why he’s frustrated. But at some point since we’ve corrected him repeatedly on this and he keeps on repeating it, you know it tells me that he’s just more interested in trying to muddy the waters than actually talk fairly about my record.”
    Mr. Obama hasn’t commented on all the remarks made last night by Mrs. Clinton about Dr. King and L.B.J. and civil rights, et al.
    We’ll be back later with more reaction, we’d bet as the primary results start rolling in.

    January 8, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. Del

    the Clintons are talking about these tactics because that is what they do - spread negative campaign literature around, especially paid for by the 527s - they did it in Maryland during the 2006 election and probably during their 8 years as well. It takes one to know one.

    January 8, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. Kumar

    Yeah.........OBAMA is going to win all the way....then he is going to loose general election to a republican....oops!

    January 8, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. MP

    Wow- a good example of power politics- reminiscent of a scene from Le Femme Nikita when they "Send in the cleaner." I don't think your going to win this one though Bill.

    January 8, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. LARRY FINKELSTEIN

    WE ARE THIS CLOSE TO ELIMINATING BILL CLINTONS THIRD TERM........AND IF YOU WANTED TO GO AFTER HILLARY CLINTONS EXPERIENCE-8 YEARS OF WHITE HOUSE PILLOW TALK DOESN'T COUNT AS EXPERIENCE. JUST BECAUSE YOU LIVED IN THE WHITEHOUSE DOESN'T COUNT AS EXPERIENCE. THE FANATASY IS OVER FOR THE CLINTONS WHO NEED TO FADE INTO OBSCURITY.NO COMPLAINTS WHEN SHE WAS IN THE LEAD BUT AS THE TIDE TURNED SHE STARTS CRYING...LITERALLY. JUST WHAT WE NEED FROM THE FORMER FRONT RUNNER AND POSSIBLE PRESIDENT. THIS IS A MARATHON AND SHE IS CRYING 2 MILES INTO THE RACE. SHE HAS NOT HAD IT ANY TOUGHER THAN ANY OF THE OTHER CANDIDATES. SHE IS PART OF THE PAST AND THE PAST IS THE CURRENT PROBLEM WITH THIS COUNTRY. THOSE MANLY SUITS YOU WEAR ARE ONLY A COVER FOR THOSE MANLY CANKLES.

    January 8, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  25. Gigi

    Thanks Bill for finally having the guts to expose the "make believe" world Obama is projecting. Sure it's nice to idealize what this world should look like and what we all want it to be. But lets get real. Obama's optimism is just that, optimism not based on reality. What has Obama done since becoming a Senator besides running for president? What's his voting record? What national programs has he instituted or championed? I certainly hope we don't throw out a sure thing for an inexperienced unknown. As a Black American I have all intentions of voting for Hillary because I KNOW her record, Obama needs to get one before assuming he's capable and experienced enough to run this country.
    GO HILLARY!!!!

    January 8, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
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