January 20th, 2008
08:20 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama: I feel like I'm running against both Clintons

Obama is striking back at Bill Clinton
Obama is striking back at Bill Clinton

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - More tit-for-tat on the campaign trail – only this time, it’s between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

After losing the caucus tally in Nevada, the Obama campaign took aim at Bill Clinton and the comments he made during his many campaign stops in that state on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton.

Now the Illinois senator himself is taking on the former president, telling Good Morning America that he feels as if he’s running against both Clintons.

In the interview, Obama reportedly says that the former president has been misrepresenting both “my record of opposition to the war in Iraq” and “our approach to organizing in Las Vegas,” as the controversy over Saturday’s Nevada caucus vote continues to grow.

Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod did not back away from the remarks after they became public Sunday night, telling CNN the Clintons “have a good cop, bad cop thing going” in which “he comes with a negative message she stays positive.”

Axelrod accuses the former President of “doing slash and burn stuff,” and slams the Clinton campaign, saying “there’s a philosophy of saying and doing anything it takes.”

“It’s very clear that Bill Clinton is playing fast and loose with the facts,” says Axelrod, and unbecoming of a former president: “It’s been a little crass, as someone who supported him and respects him, I think it’s disappointing.”

And Axelrod vows Obama will continue to hit back. “As long as he’s out there, we aren’t going to let him distort the record,” he says. “We’ll aggressively challenge him when he misrepresents the facts.”

He also calls on the former president to stop distorting Obama's record. “If he wants to help his wife, just be honest - don’t parse words, don’t truncate quotes to make your case.”

The ABC interview with Obama has yet to air, but the Clinton camp is already fighting back.

“We understand Sen. Obama is frustrated by his loss in Nevada, but the facts are the facts,” said campaign spokesperson Phil Singer. “President Clinton is a huge asset to our campaign and will continue talking to the American people.”

The new brawl comes as the battle between the two camps over the Nevada vote shows no signs of abating, with both sides accusing the other of voter intimidation.

On Sunday, Obama’s Nevada State Director David Cohen said there had been a “clear-cut disenfranchising” of voters in the state because of actions by Clinton supporters, and the campaign's general counsel, Bob Bauer, said they were asking the state and national party to investigate.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson called the allegations “absurd” and “laughable,” and spokesman Phil Singer responded charged that “Sen. Obama’s allies in Nevada engaged in strong arm tactics and intimidation against our supporters.”

Singer also repeated former President Clinton’s charge that the senator’s record on the war had been “inconsistent.”

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

soundoff (653 Responses)
  1. brad johnson

    4 years of bush, 8 years of clinton, 8 years of bush, another 4-8 years of clinton. Dynasties in the white house just do not seem american to me.

    January 20, 2008 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  2. Willy

    Bill Clinton wants Mrs. Bill Clinton in the White House so he can rewrite his legacy.
    The Clinton’s have no shame and will do, say and use all who stand in their way.

    January 20, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  3. Jay

    Oh My Call Obama a Whaaammmbulance..lol
    If he thinks they are playing hard ball now, wait until the Republicans get a hold of him.
    What a whiner...
    All of you ObamaNations... get it... Abominations...better be prepared for February 5th, that is when Mrs. Clinton will take the nomination, then Mr. Obama can go back and play in the puppy kennel for a while longer instead of trying to run with the big dogs.

    January 20, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  4. ao

    I am gonna cry like Hill did, I cannot be worse!!!

    January 20, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  5. Mr. BigLou

    Mr. bill was good when he was in office.........now he's not.
    He needs to back off because MRS. Bill
    is going to cost us if she wins the nomination. She has no chance vs. McClain or Huckleberry or Nit.
    more Reb's will come out and vote and cost us in Nov.
    come on Mr. Bill.....back to NY please!

    January 20, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  6. steve a wilmington

    Great Quote...exactly. Hillary seems to have leaders and her husband brandished on her sides at all times and can't stand alone. Obama doesn't need sympathy getters like Jesse Jackson/Al Sharptons. He is beyond that....a responsible, successful leader.

    January 20, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  7. Heartlight 3, Maui, HI

    I'm pretty disappointed in the way Bill Clinton is acting out on the campaign trail also. I always liked him and supported him, but it makes me sad the way they are both twisting things to their advantage. For example, when Obama said the Republicans had been the party of ideas for a while and Hillary twisted it into that he said he thought their ideas were better ideas. That is not what he said. He was stating a fact, and she turned it into something else. I guess it's just part of the general lack of respect I see in the country, but one of the things I liked about President Clinton was that he seemed to respect people. It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach to see them doing that. It's kind of the same feeling I get when I see the way the Republicans talk about each other and about the Democrats. I wish the American people weren't so susceptible to that kind of stuff. Then maybe it would stop.

    January 20, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  8. T Mitchell

    I thought the candidate was Hillary Clinton and not Bill, but it seems like she can't handle her own campaign. Bill is really a detriment to her and underscores her lack of ability to manage. Hillary should pony up or step aside.

    January 20, 2008 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  9. Bruce Taylor,Berkeley/Sacramento

    The issue with Bill Clinton,and now with Hillary Clinton,has always been an inability to tell the truth and an ability to make this palatable by spinning or twisting facts. It is indeed troubling but does not seem to give much pause to their supporters. Further,the idea that the 1990s were somehow paradisical is quixotic and self-deceiving. The Clintons presided over the first attack on the World Trade Center,the debacle in Somalia,the missile strike on a wrong target in Africa,a missed opportunity to kill Bin Laden due to President Clinton's hesitation,and the attack on the USS Cole. These are hardly stellar credentials or laurels to rest claims on. As a Democrat,I believe it is indeed time to embrace the Party's future in the candidacy of Senator Obama rather than perpetuating a myth.

    January 20, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  10. tina ny, ny

    Oh such a poor baby!!!
    Obama you got Oprah, will smith, usher, hally barry helping you. So what Bill is helping his wife. You were attacking hillary for months. It was you and Edward ganging up together on Hillary. Now you know what it feels like. Bill you keep doing what ever you have been doing.

    January 20, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  11. Gary, Glenwood, IA

    I agree with the Clintons. Grow up Barack! This is a Presidential campaign!

    What do you think the republicans are going to do to you? It isn't going to be a cakewalk to the election!

    I don't think that the Clintons should just sit back and just let him have the nomination. This is a race, a contest.

    Maybe instead of whining, Barack should fight back, and show that he has what it takes to win the General Election. So far, he has not.

    January 20, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  12. James Martin

    The Clintons have been in the white house for 8 yrear, i dont see Hillary to be the kind of change we are looking for. The Clintons have to be careful about this or else its gonna bite them some day. Old bill still is playing dirty politics with the Obama camp and i am happy they have figured that out. I am very proud of Obama and all his accomplishment, runing agaist the wife of a two term president and still waxing strong

    January 20, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  13. jack ny, ny

    He is just scared of Bill because it is showing impact.

    January 20, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  14. nonA

    It is to my knowledge that the only person on the ballot with the last name "Clinton" has "Hillary" as her first name. The last time I checked, Obama was the one who brags about his stance against the war in Iraq since 2002, but fails to mention that he said in an interview in 2004 that he wouldn't know how he would have voted if he was in Kerry's position. This is an example of the "political talk" he mentioned a few days ago. He's against the war in 2002, but isn't so sure when asked in 2004. I know he just didn't want to embarrass Kerry, but he could have been more straightforward than saying that he didn't know how he would have voted.

    Speaking of Nevada, wasn't it Obama who had some of his supporters come out with a radio ad mentioning things along the lines of "Hillary doesn't want our people to vote"? Here are some direct quotes from CNN's ticker.

    “Hillary Clinton does not respect our people. Hillary Clinton supporters went to court to prevent working people to vote this Saturday – that is an embarrassment,”

    "Hillary Clinton is shameless. Hillary Clinton should not allow her friends to attack our people’s right to vote this Saturday. This is unforgivable, there’s no respect."

    "Obama wants our votes. He respects our votes, our community, and our people."

    The only embarrassment is this blatant attempt to divide and conquer using race. It should also be noted that Hillary got the most Hispanic votes among the three candidates, i.e. 64%. So much for Hillary trying to keep Hispanics from voting.

    A bit ironic to hear axelrod talk about Bill doing anything and everything it takes to win when he does nothing to stop a diatribe being put on the radio as an ad.

    Now, for something else: Obama has 3 years of experience at the federal level of government. Hillary has 7 years and Edwards has 6 years. I can't say that I really care about the things he did in Illinois, because the next President will be running the federal government, not a state government. I'm not looking for who I'd like to have a beer with or who will inspire me for a better tomorrow, and I'm not voting for someone on American Idol; I'm looking for someone who can run the federal government.

    Pick the candidate with the most experience. I am voting for Clinton because she has the most experience at the federal level and has an influential husband who can come in handy in foreign policy matters. I'd vote for Obama if he served as a US Senator or VP for several years, but for now, I refuse to hand over the keys to the country to someone who has served only half of a term as US Senator.

    January 20, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  15. God Bless America

    Only the Clintons are on Obama's way. Extremely disheartening!

    January 20, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  16. Neil

    Keep Fighting Barack! As usual the Clintons are playing from the same playbook the Republicans are using to get whatever is necessary at any cost. When it was obvious that Hillary Clinton was the negative campaigner because she actually could not find anything negative in Obama's record (my bad, I forgot about the essay in kindergarten regarding his aspiration to become president – which brings to mind how smart Barack must be to write an essay at the age of 5-6, but I digress). So now, to fool the general public, she gets Bill Clinton to do the dirty work while she pretends she has no idea about things being said and acts innocent. Bill, I respected you as president in the 90's and now as a former president, so before you lose everyone's respect for you, quit playing dirty politics and leave your legacy intact. You can only verbally slander Obama's record so many times, before you get called on your lies. More importantly, let your wife (You know, the ACTUAL candidate who's running for president), fight her own battles. But, wait, I guess that really didn't work in Iowa did it?

    January 20, 2008 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  17. unseeable

    Obama is a young man. I can understand why he could be frustrated, but eventually time is on his side.

    January 20, 2008 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  18. Marlon

    Well we certaily don't see Barack's spouse in front of the cameras railing against her husbands competitor, like Bill is doing for Hillary. Perhaps at some point in the future, the rules will be changed to leave the spouses out of the public debates, since obviously there's a bias there.

    Unfortunately such rules as those cannot come fast enough for this particular presidential cycle.

    January 20, 2008 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  19. asi

    i'm with obama 100% . i was telling my friends the other day i'm begining to feel the clinton campaign has dual candidates. its about time obama starts hitting back hard. this not the time to play nice. if the former president wants to get muddy, obama must be ready to get dirty. we want to see obama get tough.

    January 20, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  20. so what

    So he's running against both Clintons. Isn't Hillary running against both Obamas?

    January 20, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  21. jared

    Hillary Clinton is always trying to distort Obama's record and frankly it is annoying, especially when people believe her.
    For example in the New Hampshire debates she lied about Obama's voting record on the PATRIOT act, and she lied when she said that Obama has a lobbyist working for him. He is a state lobbyist, not a federal lobbyist that buys politicians.

    Too bad Obama didn't have time to respond to this. He might have added that Hillary has state lobbyists working for her also. Or he might have questioned Hillary as to why she said accepting $800,000 worth of federal lobbyist money was ok because " they (federal lobbyists) represent real Americans".

    Federal lobbyists don't speak for me. This is just one example of things that Hillary does.

    January 20, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  22. Karen Haskett

    Obama wants to redefine politics not just get elected at all costs like Bill and Hillary . . they ar eboth so desparate and sad . . so yesterday~!

    why are people so taken with Hillary/Bill's empty promises??? they know the game . the will not be able to deliver

    Lets Vote 4 a new begining in America .
    not Bush not Clinton
    lets go FORWARD

    January 20, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  23. shiv

    I respect both Clintons very much, and I understand that sometimes elections call for hostile tactics. However, their tone has become condescending recently, not just toward the other campaigns, but towards the voters as well!

    I don't think Americans will vote for someone who talks to them as if they're infants.

    If Hillary wants to be president, she must have the courage to be open and forthright with the electorate. For example, she's not doing herself any favors by keeping her records sealed. Nor does it help that she starts so many paragraphs in her press releases and speeches with "make no mistake," a hackneyed phrase of the Bush administration.

    The Clintons are better than these imperious campaign tactics... at least, I hope so.

    January 20, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  24. Brandon

    obama is such a phony. stop crying because bill calls out how fake you are. obama has no problem distorting clinton and edwards' remarks from the nevada debate. don't criticize bill unless you can come close to what he has done for this country and the world.....and you're a far way away from that. obama talks a big game for a guy who hasn't done jack. just the fact that he voted present 130 times in the senate says enough in itself. that isn't leadership.....oh wait that's right, ronald reagan took this nation in a better direction than clinton did. i'm sorry i dont care how perfect a person is...im going to judge them on how their actions affected the country....and there is just no way to intelligently claim that reagan's presidency was more positive for america than bill clintons.

    January 20, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  25. Sean

    What is the definition of "Consistancy", Mr. Obama? What change do you want to make to America, Reagan"s change?

    January 20, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
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