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

Bill Clinton targets media coverage of Obama

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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. Zac

    This only underscores why Presidents usually step out of the public eye or go on to lead moral fights against hunger or HIV after leaving the White House: because a past President still campaigning dips him into the muck of politics when he should be more concerned with maintaining the dignity of the title he earned.

    It's also why Al Gore, after winning the Nobel Prize, doesn't need to seek the presidency. Who'd want to be president when they can be a Nobel laureate?

    I'd rather be recognized for tilting the world toward peace than winning a popularity contest. And if you can tilt the world toward peace while being president, then that's another issue.

    The point is this: I don't imagine Barack Obama going on the campaign trail after leaving the White House and complaining about media coverage and other lowly issues of politics. And I love Bill Clinton. It's sad to see him at this moment.

    January 8, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. JoAnn

    I am so fed up with political running mates bullying Hillary Clinton, I have served in the military and at the time we were looking for Saddam, Well, today we are searching for someone by the name of Osama. I sure do not want to vote for a man who we will call Pres. Obama, I dont care how smart he is. We are in America and I just can not
    bear the thought of a US President by that name. Another thing is Hillary is smart I really think its about time we give a woman a chance. Whats the difference, if men
    have not done much in the past few years. Look at the past Edwards, McCain, been there, and done that. Their agenda is the same as always. Women should be happy we have a woman come such a long way. Go Hillary, You got my vote and after I get
    my word out she may have many votes from women. It may be after all a gender issue this political year. We will see. We've come a long way baby!

    January 8, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. get truth guy

    you called this the electorate's growing hope? it's a fulse hope that was manufacturing by the Media, we are not buying this.

    January 8, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. june gross

    Thank you Bill, for standing up for your wfe, the very capable nominee, Hillary Clinton. She deserves the nomination and we DESERVE her. Love and Blessings on you both.

    January 8, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. Bob Michael

    To the Clinton Folks.....especailly Hillary and Biil:

    Insanity, as defined by Einstein:
    "Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results"

    This is a perfect portrayal of the Clinton Campaign Strategy......

    January 8, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. COMMON SENSE

    LAdies and Gentlemen,

    Do you really think Mr. Obama stands a chance against McCain? MS CLINTON is the only democrat capable of taking votes from republicans; not Obama. And that is what Democrats need in order to win. No crazy dreams of a newbie into the big game. Republicans will knock Obama down very easily.

    Let us see

    January 8, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. P.S.

    As far as Republicans go. McCain would have had my vote.....8 years ago. I'm not so interested in him after he's been nothing but a pet parrot for GWB since the 2000 GOP Convention. A vote for McCain is a like getting GWB for 12 years. No Thanks! Hillary or Obama save us from the GOP and those annoying Ron Paul supporters!

    January 8, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. JoeSchmoe

    I can't believe how naive people are to believe that Obama could walk into office and change the American political system. Of course we want to believe what he says, but how innocent and naive he must be, and those supporting him, to truly believe that type of change can take place. Even if he actually attempts to fulfill his promises, he has to contend with congress and the senate. These are seasoned politicians that are not simply going to roll over and say O.K. Mr. President, we'll do whatever you say. It is unfortunate that there is a political game to be played, but the fact remains. Hillary knows how to deal with the system in order to accomplish our desires. I hope that the american people are not so gullible as to believe and accept the unattainable goals that Obama is promising.

    January 8, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. Love ya Bill, but...

    Bill, I love ya but, the biggest fairy tale is "I did not touch that woman!"

    January 8, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. Greg

    After all this time,now that things aren't going well, she is going to pull the crying card? She seems to be running out of ideas.
    It's not a good play for someone who thinks that they can lead the U.S. What happens when She becomes President and Iran attacks us? Do we arm ourselves with "Kleenex"?

    January 8, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Leonora42

    Here is something to consider regarding the Obama candidacy. The USA is the most powerful and richest nation in the world. Just as I would feel extremely uncomfortable boarding a 787 jetliner with a novice pilot, I would be equally uncomfortable with a novice president in these turbulent unstable times. I would however consider Sen. Obama as a potential vice president.

    One secondary thought: I have heard enough about change. What the USA needs is "currency" in world and domestic affairs.

    January 8, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Steve

    Why is Bill giving speaches anyway? I thought his wife was running. You dont see Michele Obama speaking to crowds. Is this how she will be "prepared on day one?" When the going gets tough...I'll just call my husband to handle my battles. Yeah...good move Bill...good move. And correction...the biggest fairytale was "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

    January 8, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. Becky Larson

    Jan 8, 2008 4:20 CDT

    Why are you asking if Hillary can turn her campain around? You don't know the outcome of todays election do you ??? Is it because CNN & the media are against Hillary and don't give her a chance ?
    It is comments like this that CNN makes while the election is still going on that is not fair to a canidate. In some business' , what the media does would be called " steering" and it is illegal.

    No Bill, its not a Fairy Tale............ its a nightmare what the media does to Hillary !!

    January 8, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. L Summer

    Bill, If you knew as much about free trade as you do about Big Mac's the economy would not be in the shape that its in now. Stick to what you know and "chill" with a happy meal.

    January 8, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. yaliktono

    People in this country are so desperate for change that they will gravitate toward anything or anyone that looks, even remotely, like it. What has Obama done during his four years in the Senate other than position himself for a run at the presidency? He's articulate, charming, professional and polished, but I sense a real disingenuousness about him. What change has he REALLY singularly affected? Research that question and then make a decision about him. Please look beyond the glitter before getting on the Obama bandwagon. I'm very disappointed with the field of candidates on both sides. I'm tired of having to choose between the lesser of evils – and I would be hard pressed to argue that Obama is that.

    I said earlier that people are desperate for "change." I say that because they don't know what else to call it. I really believe that, underlying it all, the American People yearn for honesty, authenticity and integrity. They want for a leader that will restore dignity to the presidency and pride in our government (which has been waning for many, many years). Barack Obama says he can do that for us. If that's true, why hasn't he before now?

    January 8, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  16. Mike

    How quickly Americans forget...remember the humiliation Clinton brought to the White House..I would have had more respect and would have supported Hil if she left him while he was in office...they talk about not facing facts..they are both living in a fairy tale..always have - working the system to get ahead..who in their right mind would pay Ole Bill millions to speak?!?!? Haven't we heard enough of the Clintons??? she talks about change, as one newsreporter stated..look at the RELIC Hilliary is carrying around with her! WAKE UP AMERICA...think back 8 years ago what was done and not done in the White House...and how, if Hillary wanted to do something, as she says she can...why she didn't back then...all talk! Go home to Arkansas..oh, that's right, they don't want you either!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. James

    Boo-Hoo, Bill. I didn't hear any complaining when your wifey was ahead 20 points in the polls. Maybe that's because back then people thought YOU were running again and they told polsters they'd vote for Clinton. Now that voters realize that your wife is running, they are not interested. What is your wife's name anyway? HC? HRC? She can't even make up her mind about her name, much less anything else.

    January 8, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  18. Aaron

    As a social worker I am glad to hear talk about change. Most of my job is about navigating the existing systems that have failed my clients for years. We need change and I do believe in hope because it can be made reality if we work together. The United States of America and its people need someone to unite us and that is Obama. I am sad to hear the former president speak, at a cost to his positive reputation, on behalf of his wife in this manner. It is obvious they have changed their campaign tactics to muddy Obama's record, and that I do not respect, and hope that if Hillary does lose she will lose with her integrity intact.

    As for issues of race and how we label ourselves I think it is wonderful that we are able to share our cultures with one another. We each have an ethnicity, a way of describing out cultural heritage, but the one thing that unites us is that we are Americans. And for that I am proud of thanks to Obama.

    January 8, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  19. Dan

    Obama...130 votes of "present" when serving in the Illinois senate. Now that's leadership...NOT

    January 8, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. Andy

    Billy Boy you are getting your well viewed nickers in a twist.

    After i listened to Hillary's less than gracious (lol) speech from Iowa i am convinced she is now DEAD MEAT in this race. She is carrying to much baggage and political debts to be of any use to America.

    January 8, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. B. Ambrose

    No more dynasties............period..............democracy forever...................

    January 8, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  22. kbsamurai

    The Clintons feel they are entitled to another eight years in the White House. The 90's are gone. Move on, nothing to see here.

    what was said on CNN video clip and reported verbatim in the NY Times
    says it all.
    ----------------
    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.”

    January 8, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Dave Williamson

    For Bill Clinton to suggest his 'wife' is getting unfair treatment, is absurd. She has no more experience than Obama. I think the nation is tired of clintons and bush's.

    January 8, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. 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.”

    January 8, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  25. Pot & the Kettle

    One last thing. If anyone thinks that whoever our next President is won't raise taxes, I'd say you're in Fairytale Land with Bill!

    January 8, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
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