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. Cher

    Obama all the way! Say what you may but remember the Clintons are no match for Obama. She can cry. Billy boy can go knocking on doors but people are smarter. Radio stations are appalled by all the ' negative campaining' by the Clintons.
    remember you will not want old Billy boy in the White House with the Bushes.
    Believe in Change and vote Obama.

    January 21, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  2. Jeff

    Thing is, WE the VOTERS come November also will not tolerate this kind of crap from the Clinton tag-team. We've had a taste of unfying statesmanship in Obama, enough to say, "No more." There are alternatives to this kind of polarizing harassment, Obama is one. McCain is another.

    Back off Bill! If your wife wants to be president – can she do this without you?

    January 21, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  3. Sally

    CORRECTION

    educated and smarter

    January 21, 2008 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  4. pete

    letting your husband do you dirty work, whether he has your permission or not, speaks alot of the lack of integrity and professionalism in the clinton camp. She will DO ANYTHING, NO MATTER HOW LOW, TO GET THE NOMINATION.

    SHOW HILARY AMERICANS ARE NOT STUPID, THEY CAN READ BETWEEN THE LINES.

    January 21, 2008 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  5. Truethis

    S William, if she is the nominee, shame on this country because the world is watching and we will never get the respect or untiy again. Nothing will ever pass in Congress because the base of the Republican, the Independences, and the conservative Democratic will unit against the Clintons. You are so right and I will vote for Bloomberg. ABC "Anything but the Clintons."

    Don, Hillary has played the gender card all this time so where do you really stand in this?

    Wasn't there a rumor last year (07) about Bill Clinton caught dating some woman and he was thinking about divorcing Hillary? Now that's baggage but Obama didn't go there, there. Are we going to hear more about this onces she the nominee???? And you think the Republican not ready???? Let see if she can cry or go on Tara Bank to discuss that rumor. The Republican bases are waiting patiently. Go Figure.

    January 21, 2008 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  6. w

    should've waited until ready.

    January 21, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  7. Jane

    Tell Mr Barack to stop complain about anything except quit your running right now he getting a pain back and forth against Clinton and never attack others just because she is a woman and she is more smart person than you Mr Barack and I hope Mrs. Clinton doesnt choose barack as her running mate vice president because he can be much more pain than anyone in the world

    January 21, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  8. Jessie

    At least Obama is honest and straightforward. Plus, he is a refreshing face for the president of this country. He won't lie to you. He will try to unite. Something these other comments lack. I see why America is so split. We have people with comments like those above.

    January 21, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  9. Jackson

    what happened to the "group hugs" ????? Obama is a POLITICIAN ... and he plays dirty too ... it is the nature of the game. He has changed his entire game plan once he started losing ... and why not ... the goal is to win .... but it is too late ... Hillary Clinton is headed to the White House and that is just the way it is!

    January 21, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  10. Lajuan

    Can't we see what the Clinton's are doing? We knew they were crooks when they were first in office! When they saw Obama's increase in the polls, they pull out all stops. They knew race would divide the nation. We need to be smarter voters and disregard the nonsense the Clinton's are up to. Obama is trying to run a clean and honorable campaign.

    January 21, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  11. Drew

    Over time I believe the aggressive presence of President Bill Clinton on the campaign trail will result in diminishing returns, for several reasons including:

    - Sen. Hillary Clinton's equity will diminish as people grow uncomfortable with the idea of Bill Clinton's activism in Hillary's White House, i.e., who's really going to be in charge?

    - Hillary's positioning as an agent of change to restore unity among Americans and move us forward will be undercut by the sense that a vote for her is a vote for reliving the 1990's all over again...

    I believe most Americans want to finally get on with the new millenium, free from the excesses of the Bush-Clinton-Bush era, and see that our leadership is taking us boldly where we have not gone before. Barack Obama can clearly lead us there, and maybe so can Hillary Clinton, but only if she convinces us that a vote cast for her is not really a half vote for Bill Clinton.

    January 21, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  12. Yolanda Purnell

    Guess what Barack, you ARE running against both Clintons because Hillary cannot stand alone! Bill has been running around like a fifth- grader treating this like a class president election. RELAX BILL!!! If Hillary wins the democratic nomination, the Republicans will win this election. I am an Independent. Where's Bloomberg when we need him? LOL

    January 21, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  13. Elena

    This article is so true. I have been watching the coverage very closely and have seen this pattern. DIRTY POLITICS! Everyday I hope people will be smart enough to see through this behavior. Barack Obama has run a dignified campaign. This is the behavior I want to see in my president.

    January 21, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  14. Michael Richmond

    What 'experience' does Hil have besides being in the same room as Bill?

    Barack Obama has beena Senator for 10 years while Clinton has only been a Senator for 7.

    She's just a JUNIOR Senator who hasn't done much in her 'home' state of New York. All her votes in the Senate shows that she's working with George Bush, she voted for the Iraq War, voted for the Patriot Act, voted to label the Iran Military a Terrorist organization so Bush can go to war with Iran, just like how she voted against Iraq and said Iraq is a terrorist country who was making WMD's and is a threat to the whole world, she held Bush's hand before he led us to war based on nothing else but Lies and Manipulation, and Hillary wants the same thing for Iran.

    She's never balanced a budget larger than her household, she's never made one foreign policy decision and she's never run anything larger than a lemonade stand when she was a kid.

    Her claim to fame is being in the room when big decisions were being made on the national and state level. I'm sorry. That's not experience. If that's the case, the White House cleaning staff and members of the Secret Service are also 'qualified' to be President.

    She's a very smart woman but:

    I'm smart + I'm in the room when policy is being formed does NOT = I have experience forming policy.

    Just because your Husband is a CEO, the wife of a CEO doesn't get to call herself a CEO on her resume and list 'being a CEO' as her experience.

    Hillary is an AIPAC member/Israeli employee, a BlackwaterUSA board member
    and has slept endlessly with all the lobbby groups, corporations and interest groups you can name and considers them the only Americans, she is a neo-conservative who is a member of the DLC, CFR, Bilderberg, Trilateral Commission and only wants nothing but a big government and less freedom/privacy in America. She is the female version of Bush and is a member of many GOP organizations. How could you say that the Oscar worthy Actress Hillary Clinton has no experience, ever heard of having experience in nothing but corruption, profitting and making mistakes, these will show you what you missed, she has loads of experience that she knows will bring America and the world down just like she wants it.

    January 21, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  15. Ben

    I look forward to a race of Obama versus Hillary, and not the whole clinton family.

    January 21, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  16. Justin

    I'm really tired of hearing people say that Obama has "twisted opponents' words," etc. with absolutely NO proof. All I would like is just one example.

    Also, it's really aggravating to me when people get on here and leave comments bashing a candidate and they can't even put together a cohesive sentence or write with even a hint of grammatical intelligence. You really hurt any argument you try to make when the reader thinks, based on your writing, that you're an idiot.

    January 21, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  17. GaryO Virginia Beach

    OK now, Barack Obama says Bill Clinton has misrepresented Obama and his campaign. But the article does not say what Obama specifically has a problem with.

    CNN, don't you think It's important to pinpoint the disagreement between these two candidates? What specifically is Obama disagreeing with?

    . . . sloppy journalism.

    January 21, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  18. Ray

    Obama is fighting both Clintons. And Bill's recent bug-eyed, angry encounter with the press will look great playing over and over again at Republican campaign headquarters. The fighting is getting weird, and this will hurt us in the general election, especially if Hillary gets the nomination.

    All the infighting should stop. In the end, people should realize that a Democratic win of the White House in '08 is crucial to the well-being of our country; therefore, we should nominate the person most capable of winning.

    Increasingly, I believe that is Obama, or more to the point, Obama/Edwards. I have nothing against the Clinton's, but the widespread antipathy in this country for Hillary really scares me. It may not be fair, and you don't have to like it, but there is enough anti-Hillary feeling in this country that it will galvanize the opposition. We'll lose the swing vote, which as we've seen from the last two elections, is critical to winning.

    Hillary: Play fair and tell your husband to do the same. While you're at it, knock off the crazy slogans like "35 years of experience"...give us a break. Save some credibility in case you do win.
    Edwards: If you don't do well soon, bow out and support Obama (and cross your fingers for a spot on the ticket).
    Obama: You are battling two Clintons. Get over it. Keep playing the high road, and don't get distracted.

    January 21, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  19. swede

    HAHA! That's to funny. Don't mess with Bill Clinton's wife. Just as you (OBAMAMA) have your people distorting you Mrs Clinton will have husband, Blacks, Latino whoever that sees your people are doing and saying things that aren't true. Quit whinning is so weak and unMANly.

    January 21, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  20. Shani

    Obama's speech in nevada: Hello everyone, we need change, change, hope, change, MLK, change, hope, change, JFK, Ronald Reagan, change, hope, hope, change.

    What is so great about obama? he says the same things over and over!! We need experience! which obama doesnt have.

    January 21, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  21. Ann Aloha, PA

    Did anyone ever think of what the BIGGER picture is?
    Do you want to set Senator Obama up for failure and have the Republican Part masacre him? It amazes me that supporters aren't looking at the Bigger picture, send an inexperience candidate to the trenches of war that will defeat the civil rights movement. This could weigh heavily on future AA candidates and how they will be looked upon as legitimate presidential candidates.
    Very sad indeed. As a woman of colour, I would not like to send someone to represent me knowing that he or she will fail, I am smarter than that and I am even wiser to know that my vote will be solely based on research and experience.
    I do want to ask all supporters who they think will better end the "colour on colour" violence that seems to have taken a back seat to all this hooplah. I feel EDUCATION is way more important and if anyone wants to CHANGE something, change the people responsible for letting our classrooms become battlegrounds for death and confusion amoungst our youth.
    So much anger is evident by inexperiance supporters that the main issues are tainted with self centered ignorance and negative and meaningless rheteric.
    Why can't we all get along, was Rodney King's and should remain with him. It's not who looks the best, says the most eliquently, personlizes better than others, attacks the issues the best, it's who will delivers and listen to our needs the best and delivers on that PERIOD. And don't forget that "Life Experience" counts bigtime.
    I Love America
    Shame on the media!!! All of you who report spins for personal gain.

    January 21, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  22. Tull

    Nomination of will guarantee Republican victory in 08.

    What shameless behavior by a past president!!

    Bill Clinton's behavior in campaign scenes show he was president just for himself and for the people of this country.

    The Clintons behave as if they are entitled to the White House and no one else.

    January 21, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  23. Carol

    Obma is right. What is Bill's problem anyway? He is hurting Hillary's campaign and galvanizing the Republicans even more (assuming that's even possible). He has acted unpresidential to say the least. He has done a good job of redeeming himself over the past few years on important issues likes AIDS and tsunami relief but he is blowing it now. At my caucus in Reno, Obama beat Hillary by a 2-1 margin. His supporters included young people, senior citizens, African-Americans, women and independents–a cross-section of which Hillary can only dream. Clinton ought to be ashamed of himself because all he is doing in all likelihood is insuring a Republican victory in November if Hillary ultimately becomes the party's nominee (which is not clear at all at this point). If Hilary can't control her angry husband, how does anyone expect her to control bullies like what's his face in Iraq? She needs to rein him in, the sooner the better.

    January 21, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  24. Indepedant in 08

    I applaud Obama for trying to stay above the fray and run a clean campaign. However, he must didn’t realize he was running against some of the most deceptive people in Washington the Clinton’s. Barrack tried to make this a race about issues and “Change.” He tried to make his campaign about uniting this country, and working together toward common goals. Unfortunately, the Clinton’s simply weren’t having that. The first opportunity they received they injected race into the campaign. The most divisive and dividing subject one can think of. They used race to get Obama off his message, and it seems to have worked. This is not to say Obama didn’t get his hands dirty partaking in the issue, but if the media actually looked at the whole issue and how all this nonsense started, I’m sure they would conclude it began with the Clinton’s.

    For the Clinton’s it’s about their enormous ego and maintaining their “Political Dynasty.” Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply naive. This is politics, and winning the Democratic nomination is more important to Bill and Hillary, than acknowledging and engaging in this truly historic election process with honor and dignity, therefore, Obama should expect more of the same. Expect more of Bill parading in front of the media just before the SC primary and complain about how his wife is being treated unfairly (yeah right), or voters are being harassed and prevented from voting for her. Expect Hillary to possibly have another “Hillary moment” and some how get black women to coalesce around her in some form of solidarity for women (God Help Us). Expect a new stomp speech about how Hillary is a change agent, despite the fact Americans have spent the last 20 years with either a Bush or Clinton in the house. Barrack entered this campaign with a good message and a plan to try and unite this country, but it’s hard to fight against any establishment. I don’t fault him for finally speaking up for himself, in what appears to be the 12th hour of his candidacy. Hell, after all of the jabs he has taken from Bill it’s about time he swung back (Maybe his buddy Edwards will jump in and they can tag team Bill like WWE).

    The entire Democratic Party should be ashamed of itself for the way this ridiculous and embarrassing primary has played out. Hillary will win the nomination, because she has the backing of older staunch Democrats who make up the large majority of the Democratic Party, and she has women who turn out in bigger numbers than men. If Democrats had any sense they would realize that Hillary for president is exactly what Republicans want. Personally, I can’t wait to see the Republican attack machine go to work. I can guarantee it won’t be pretty.

    January 21, 2008 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  25. Casey

    Hillary's Wal*Mart ties actually did come up at my caucus meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday. I'd kind of expected it.

    The Obama Precinct Captain used it to convince a leaning Edwards supporter (who was unviable in my precinct) to come to their side. After I chided the PC for looking backward (as it does little to help Obama's future-driven message), I explained Hillary's breakthrough gender-rights accomplishments while she was on the board.

    The Edwards voter went for Hillary.

    Bringing up the Wal*Mart boogieman is a lame attempt to scare the uninformed working class voter, and is completely despicable in my opinion.

    I think that's why no one brings it up. It is a weak and irrelevant point.

    January 21, 2008 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
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