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. pauolo green

    Am sure the clintons forgot something in the white house which they need to retrieve,i keep hearing her say 39years of experience and am the most experieced,i want to know where her experience is for the last 12years that America is heading for recession. I kindly advice you to give up than to bring shame to your husband bill. Is bill going to be your first lady or man?

    January 8, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  2. Just me

    Hey, Bill never did like you! Hey, Hill never liked you either.

    But, I do have to say to everyone out there regardless of party of choice. It is about time that everyone, not only the news media, take a close look at Obama.

    The man has never answered a question directly! Ever! Find one time anywhere where he gives any subtance to his thoughts/ideas/concerns etc. I like to feel good too and I wish every one did feel great! Obama, it is not just like real life, we have to live and face the truths of life. Facts are facts. We would like to hear that from you and not just the rhetoric that you spill from your face.

    January 8, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. Philip, IN

    Wow... there are what, 1153 posts on this blog. I wish I had time to read them all. The wit is amazing – from everyone! I seriously think the writer's strike is going to fail – the television executives and producers could just come here and take some pre-written wit.

    January 8, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. Citizen

    Are YOU a slave to the to the media, "get truth guy"? So, how can you have so little faith in your fellow citizens? Granted, I have had my doubts – especially when Bush was elected a second time. But aren't those who are supporting Obama also supporting the idea that we CAN be informed, empowered and make a difference?

    Record is important, and I'm not ready to bash Hillary. She has a strong record on some issues (education and children's rights), but touting her "experience" is slightly disingenuous. She was first lady for eight years before "preparing" for her own run in the senate. And frankly, I don't think she stands a chance in a general election.

    Strong character and ethics are qualities that I look for in a presidential candidate, in addition to record and experience (by the way – I don't think Obama's experience is too shabby). On that front, I'm with Obama all the way.

    January 8, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Karen M. Williams

    I have great admiration for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Finally the truth about Obama gets spoken. The words were late in coming.

    What Obama and the other candidates have thrown at Hillary is outrageous. It was time her campaign took the offensive.

    What has Obama done for this country? The Clintons have more than 30 years experience and track record of doing great things not only for this country but for the world. Yes, I refer to The Clintons and consider her entering the White House will bring TWO Presidents not just one. Why not tap into Bill's 8 year experience as President? Look what his administration accomplished: peace, a surplus in lieu of a deficit, lowest unemployment rate in history, highest home ownership in history, etc.

    I have been following the polital race closely, and to date I have not heard any specific steps about what Obama would do about the Iraq war.

    There is nothing wrong with Bill C. coming to the defense of Hillary. The other candidate wives helped in their campaign, why not Bill C.

    It is about time someone spoke up. Thank you Bill for waking others up. Hillary Clinton has my vote.

    Karen M. Williams
    Retired Professional, Florida

    January 8, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. bh

    For those that think Obama is suddenly the front runner because he did win the primary Iowa; please notice that he did only get 2 more delegate votes than Clinton. So do not suddenly be so quick to think Clinton is down and out. Clinton will most likely be the nominee and the next president; we can certainly hope!

    January 8, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  7. Jaymes in Cali

    Somebody recently said, "Obama is on the freshman lineup and Hillary is already playing on the varsity team". I can see that when they talk. If Obama gets the Dem nom, the country will elect a Republican Pres (Mormom or Baptist preacher) for another 4 YEARS! It ain't happnin' folks, Nobama!.

    January 8, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Jorge Phoenix, AZ

    After reading most of the comments after this article, it pains me to see that you the American public still defend Obama or Edwards don't you see that they will be incapable of governing properly? Can you see a Bush in the making? If you choose Obama or Edwards a puppet will be the president with advisors that will do their little dirty works and we will be in such a depression that even Oprah will take back her endorsement after everything comes tumbling down.

    "The most experienced and the only one that should be our next President is none other than Hillary Keep going forward the battle is not over yet"

    January 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Ron Stein

    The Clintons are at their worst when they see that Holy Grail slipping away. Too bad for them that pesky things like "elections" have to interefere with their arrogant sense of entitlement. Let's savour the moment. They're both about to be sent back into the 1990's where they belong. Good riddance.

    January 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. get truth guy

    If Obama is elected, we all flee out to Maxico

    January 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  11. Sean, Detroit

    Bill Clinton was one of the greatest presidents our country has ever known. Maybe his heart surgeon forgot to replace something when he had his chest wide open. How else can you explain this ridiculous rant/tantrum? Smells like desperation has gotten the best of the Clinton clan. When things arent going well for them they ALWAYS blame the media. I love you Bill, but seriously, just sit down and look pretty like a good little wifey. It is *so* over for Hillary, and this rant shows that they know it too!

    January 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Tip

    ...by the way he was sworn in with the Holy Bible, you're confusing him with someonelse...just the FACTS Mam!

    How irritating is it when on the up side of the polls all is well, but now when on the other side our true colors must be shown.

    January 8, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  13. jorge z

    Josh if you think that Bill Clinton was the best president of our time, you are as nasty as he was, he never told the american people who he really was, an adulter and a disgrace for this country. His wife even worst she chose to be with him after all the scandal, and keep the power and the money. It is time for them to get loss.

    January 8, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  14. Caprissa

    The fact of the matter is this Country will not vote a woman or a black man into the next Presidency.

    You may see some action out of New York, California and parts of Florida.

    Remember the last two elections. Most of the people in the other 47 states are just plain ignorant and will vote the way their priest, pastor or reverend wants them too.

    If either of these two candidates gets the Democatic ticket, our next President will be a republican.

    I am sorry to say this but it is a fact of life.

    Maybe in 20-40 years but not in 2008.

    January 8, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  15. retbray

    Let's get back to days of "Hi, my name's Jimmy Carter and I'm running for president" The democrats finally have a rallying cry and are enthusiastic for the first time since those days. Let Obama pull the party together again and maybe we can all work together for eight years to change both the national and international crises in the world.

    The Clinton reign is over, Bill. Off to Elba!

    January 8, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  16. Maria Henning

    I can't believe the difference in the way the media has portrayed Obama as opposed to Hillary. The meida has practically crowned him the nominee of the Dem. party with
    only the results of one state's caucuses and total of 18 delegates votes, vs. 17 & 18 for the other Dem. candidates. Even though I live in Iowa, I don't think that 38% of 230,000 democrats should decide who the next President is going to be.

    Why don't you scrutinize his voting record in the IL. legislature and his one year in the U. S. Senate, like you have done with Sen. Clinton's? Why haven't you critized his debate performances like you have Senator Clinton's?? She made one mistake on answering the question on immigration and she was crucified for it. Yet, Obama gave a very poor response to the same question on the next debate and it was no big deal.

    I am sick and tired of the way the media has treated Senator Clinton. You've been charmed by Sen. Obama's rhetoric, as you were by George Bush's likeability, and are not doing your job by vetting his candidacy like you should.

    I am also tired of hearing about "change" as the only qualification for a candidate for President. Since when has experience become a dirty word?

    What you have done in the media is creating a bandwagon effect based on the results of one election in one very small state and you made it sound like there is a "wave" that it cannot be stopped. I would like to remind you that there are 49 other states who also have a saying in who gets to be President. By the time Feb. 5 comes along, the results of the primaries in 23 states might not even count, the way you're carrying on.

    By the way, the commentator I respect the most on your team is David Gergen. He seems to be the only fair one in the group.

    Sincerely,

    Maria Henning

    January 8, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  17. Obama-man

    This race reminds me of a familiar television spot.

    Obama: "Hello, I'm a Mac."

    Clinton: "And I'm a PC."

    January 8, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  18. James

    Has anybody came to the conclusion that the press is all over Sen. Obama, Because he is wining? American loves winners, especially underdog winners. The press was all over Sen. Clinton not to long ago may i add.

    January 8, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  19. Nereda Haque

    Clinton's are not getting a fair shake in the media.

    I am applaud at the press assuming that what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire sows it up for all of us. In fact, I'm infuriated. We haven't had our say in Washington State yet, and we will. I don't follow the crowd. I'm not influenced by the hoopla. I want facts. To the candidates, I don't want to hear about inspiration without substance. Just tell me the substance. That will tell me how good you are.

    I certainly feel we need someone in office who knows the ropes.

    I'm all for Hiliary Clinton whose love for this country surpases her fame or anyone has can show their gifts.

    Have we forgotten that Mr. Clinton worked for a $1.00 per year and donated his time to the white house. Hiliary has lived all her life in service to her country. Her record is phenomenal. Where are the men in this country that have even accomplished half what she has accomplished.

    I have always favored the Republicans. This year I'm open to facts...I want the resume.

    I'm 56 and I'm not for any gender, race, or class. I am for experience.

    January 8, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  20. Leo, Mesa Arizona

    Mr. Obama is emerging as a real leader. He is winning the campaign test and is truly an inspirational individual. We saw the shock in Iowa. Now, look at New Hampshire go! Feel the power!! GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. Patrick Belvin

    Bill Clinton's comments are reflective of a now desperate campaign being run by Hilary. You can bet these tactics would not have been used had Hilary won the Iowa Caucus.

    Now Bill Clinton, who is well liked by most New Hampshire people, is trying to use his political clout in an attempt to attack Barack Obama. Better be careful, Dollar Bill, your strategy might backfire.

    January 8, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  22. Martin H, San Jose - CA

    I must say that it is very interesting to see the Hillary Camp go on an all out war . . . Now that she knows this wouldn't be a cake walk!

    In any case this has only re-affirmed my decision when it comes time to vote and that vote will be for OBAMA!

    January 8, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. John, Burlington MA

    davidvoter08 you are SO right. We are in this mess because of red neck religious idiots on the right and tv-watching-attention-deficient liberals on the left. We need someone with experience and common sense to get us out the mess we're in, not a glossy corporate puppet. If you want anti-corporate, go with Edwards, but otherwise, there is no contest.

    January 8, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  24. Joan Harrington

    Sometimes I think even CNN has a glass ceiling. That surprises me. Lately you are appearing to be totally biased towards Hillary and promoting Barach Obama with a ferver that appears to be biased. I have found myself punching my remote away from CNN more often because I get so frustrated over your coverage in regards to Hillary. People are overlooking the fact that Obama has NO experience and even though he is attractive he has not yet accrued the intelligence and experience needed for President. Even CNN has a "dancing-with-the-stars" mentality.

    January 8, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Joe, Wilmington DE

    Yes, unity is a fairy tale to someone described as an "uncannily good liar" (Sen. John Kerry's description of Bill Clinton's talent at bending the truth) or Hillary Clinton's "if you're not with us you're against us" mantra (George Stephanopoulos' book "All too Human"). Please. No more Clintons, no more Bushes.

    Maybe if we turn the lights out they will all go away.

    January 8, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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