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. MediaJunkie, Washington, DC

    Bill, couldn't you have brought all this up a bit sooner? Particularly the part about that Iraq speech being yanked from Obama's website? Hillary needs to get her attack dog back on his leash. If Obama's campaign is so negative, what did ol' Billy boy just do?

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. hawk

    We need to kick Bill and Hillary out of the Democrat party. They are do more harm than good.

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  3. Sophia, Los Angeles

    Wow....Billie!!

    Geez some1 is a little perturbed! Any1 to the poster who raises questions about is family in Kenya...what exactly is the problem? Remember to do your best to answer this without sounding like a complete racist or bigot.....on another note where is Monte Brown from NY the raving Hilary Supporter?????

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. Sam Sherman, Philadelphia, Pa.

    It's time for the Baby Boomer generation to step aside. I like Bill Clinton but it is time for us to move on. I am tiring of the 60's generation dividing this country over past battles. We have important issues to deal with and the boomer's self-absorbtion is getting old. Mrs. Clinton, get out of the way, stay in the senate and let Obama unite the country!

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. J.T. richardson

    I really liked and supported Bill Clinton,but , PLEASE! Are we to believe the machine they have built and the professionals they have running the campaign are "hurt" because they lost in Iowa.

    These guys are well know for their tactics and are just, if not more, guilty of using whatever it takes to win.

    I believe the truth of the matter is this . . .the Clintons' want back in the White House and will do whatever is necessary to get there.

    Twenty years of Bushs' and Clintons' is enough.

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Ryan, New York, NY

    Jr., California,

    From 1986-92 she was on the Board of Directors at Wal-Mart, helping to keep those pesky labor costs down for the company. Is that the sort of experience you're looking for? ;)

    By the way, if anyone saw Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the NY Times today, I'm appalled that she claimed that Hillary has "an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House."

    My girlfriend works for a hospital – anyone interested in getting their chemo treatments from me?

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  7. dennis d

    liar ken starr had 14 convictions

    January 8, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  8. b13

    "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."

    Uh...
    So, does that mean that one was negative and one was positive?

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. Glad when it's over

    It sounds like someone's camp is getting a bit nervous and desparate.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Aman! I liked Bill's remarks.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Monte Brown, New York, NY

    Bill Clinton is right. The media has been unduly biased against Hillary Clinton and biased in favor of Barack Obama. The media is looking for another story to sell and Barack is playing the same games as the Republicans. Fox News would love to see Hillary lose because they know that Hillary is truly the only viable candidate that can win it for the Democrats and can send the right wing ideology into the abyss. Obama has not received any scrutiny, whatsoever. Is America voting for Obama because he is black? I am starting to think that some Americans feel that they have to sympathize with black people because of their race. Hillary Clinton never asked anyone to vote for her because she is a woman. Hillary wants to bring forth the change America needs. Obama just wants to score browning points because he definitely will not beat the Republicans. Are the Democrats becoming petty and superficial like the Republicans?

    I feared that this would happen. It is quite evident that some people are just not listening. The media does not care who wins the race. As a black man, I am insulted by this primary race. A black person scoring a political victory is perceived as great but when that black man loses to the Republicans, it is back to square one. I hope white Americans are not trying to just throw us a bone by putting another black face in power because it won’t change a thing for black people here and abroad. Collin Powell held up anthrax that he alleged belonged to the Iraqis when it didn’t. Collin Powell is black. Condi Rice hasn’t made a single achievement in foreign policy worth noting, and she’s black. Black people still score the lowest on standardized exams and have the highest unemployment percentage in America. Will a black man who speaks well, but doesn’t have a plan, change that for black people. I am an educated black man who works for his living and who don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. I see the direction this country needs to go in and the leader that will bring us there is Hillary Clinton.

    I would also like to say that I am not affiliated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, and my views are mine. I am a liberal American who has lived through the last seven years with an observing mind. I don’t want the party of compassion to shoot itself in the foot by voting for false hope.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. ratt

    Sounds like Bill has finally realized his third term is in jeopardy. No more Bush/Clinton dynasty nonsense. Go home baby boomers you wore out your welcome.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    You know what Bill, I have always had your back, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe you are a weasel that cares more about power than the Democratic Party, or the American people for that matter! Just go home and take your wife with you. The rest of us are trying to get on with the future of this country.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  14. Ken

    I agree with former President Clinton that the Press seems to favor Mr.Obama and I guess that it because he creates a bigger story than Mrs.Clinton and other candidates.
    The Press does not hardly even mention his background or his lack of experience for a position of monumental importance.
    What Has Mr.Obama done that makes him think that he has the experience to run this Country?
    If the voters wan't new blood and fresh idea's just get anybody off the street.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  15. Travis H

    Press: please underscore that Obama himself never compared himself to Kennedy or King; Clinton did, and then used this as both a hubris argument against Obama and then a chance to re-introduce her experience (which now feels more like cynacism).

    Surely doubting MLK and the Kennedys was not the end the Clinton's wanted. It seems to a young voter here that Hillary doesn't get it. She is fundamentally aloof to a deep desperation in voters. I've been reading Bobby Kennedy's speeches for the past year and watching Obama step into RFK's shadow. RFK said in South Africa once that "the answer is to rely on youth." We hear you Obama. You echo our desparation, our deepest political desires, which are as specific and adroit as they are inspired.

    For many of us, the only politician we have known in our adult life is Bush.
    Let it be said that our generation did not turn to drugs or violence or chaos. We studied hard. We waited. And we hoped.

    January 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. mary

    Jr. from California, I have the same question. I can certainly understand the Clinton Machine claiming Hilary has 35 years of political exposure. But 35 years of political "experience?" Now that, Bill, is a fairy tale.

    January 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Chinez

    Bill – we are tired of the Clintons. It is time for Change. Your wife is actually dividing America. She is so hungry for power that I am afraid of the consequencies if she wins. Take a break and retire from politics. We cannot have a president who shows weakness to the American people.

    It is our Time!!!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Mike Orlando, FL

    Way to go Bill! It's about time someone lays out the facts for Obama. He thinks he's going to straight-line it to the nomination, but he's wrong!

    GO HILLARY 08!

    January 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  19. MIKE

    BILLYBOB BLAME GAME CONTINUES……………..

    DESPERATE PEOPLE WILL DO AND SAY ANYTHING TO AVOID THE FACT THAT HRC IS NOT WHAT AMERICA WANTS.
    FIRST LET’S GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT; KEN STARR SPENT THAT MONEY TO PROVE YOU’RE A LIAR BILL.
    HOW MANY MORE EXCUSES ARE YOU GOING TO CLAIM FOR YOUR WIFES INFERIOR RECORDS?
    JUST HOW MANY MORE ADVISORS DOES IT TAKE TO SHOW THAT YOUR CAMPAIGN IS SINKING, AND THAT YOU NEED TO ABANDON SHIP?
    SOON YOUR BLAME GAME WILL COME TO AN END AS WILL THE CLINTON POLITICAL CAREERS.

    January 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Ryan, New Jersey

    I think it's pretty telling that no one in the mainstream media is backing Bill up on this, ie, there's no story here Bill.

    January 8, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. dennis d

    left wing wackos finally believe conservatives about the Clintons hooray

    January 8, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. Roy C.

    I remember my first exposure to Obama. I was struck by him, by his articulate and moving speech. I predicted he would be a presidential candidate AT SOME POINT IN THE DISTANT FUTURE. I'm still struck by his charisma. However, I'm not impressed by either his experience or his voting record or how he has represented IL.

    Hillary, on the other hand, is tried and true. It is hard to attack her on her positions and what she sees as needed to correct the results of 8 years of Bush/Cheney, plus health and educational support.

    I wanted a Hillary/Obama ticket for this go around, with Hillary President and Obama a likely presidential candidate in the future - he's just not prepared/experienced enough at this time.

    I love them both, but HILLARY WILL GET MY VOTE. She's substantive, knows the score and knows how to work within the parameters/constraints that exist in the presidential office.

    January 8, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. Biggdawg

    Well, Bill certainly didn't lie in this instance. Obama is a media creation whose missteps are constantly sanitized, if not overlooked altogether, to no end. He's leading through no fault of his own. The media put him there.

    Unfortunately for Hillary and Bill, though, they won't win in a fight with the media. It's a losing proposition. As unqualified as he is, the (liberal) media plans to take this guy as far as they can.

    I'm not a Republican and I can't believe I'm saying this, but thank goodness the Right has their own national media network. I now understand completely why Murdoch felt the need to create FOX. I don't want another numbskull in the oval office no matter how warm and fuzzy he makes people feel. If the left wing media won't at least some modicum of balance and scrutinize this guy, I'm counting on FOX, Limbaugh and others to take him to task so that we can find out what's he's about once and for all. And it will be quite amusing to watch.

    Obama is selling wolf tickets, pure and simple.

    Hillary '08!

    January 8, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. Donna

    Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your point-of-view regarding the Dem candidates, these words from Bill sound suspuciously like the nails in the coffin of the Hillary campaign.

    Obviously, Bill is arguing media bias ("sanitation") from the same media that treated him as a darling. Well, for whatever reasons, they don't love your wife as they loved you. Whereas you could pass obviously planned machinations off as boyish, Hope, AK, charm ... she does not have that same talent. And, unfortunately, while running for her, Bill, your charm has also died.

    I have no clue who I'm voting for in the primaries yet as I take a jaded view of all of the marketing and planned mechanics that go into all of the campaigns, but I do hear a death knell sounding for Hillary.

    January 8, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Aditya Adhikari

    "Sour Grapes"

    Mrs. Clinton Crys Foul, and Bully Clinton Screams Bloody Murder.

    Clitons should stop sobbing, they had a easy ride for 8 years in Whitehouse, did nothing to protect the nation.

    Shame on Mr. Clinton to play dirt game, these tricks are not going to work anymore.

    OBAMA is here to stay Mr. Clinton.

    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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