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. dosa

    Clinton waited until she was running for the democratic nomination before she even tried ACTING like a democrat…on ANY of the issues.

    That is why I am not voting for her.

    January 20, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  2. Mauri

    Isn't it amazing how supporters for each respective side will see things so differently? Early on in Hillary's campaign, she was criticized for Bill's going out and speaking in her behalf. They said he would have a negative effect on her campaign efforts. Didn't happen. Then it was said, even more strongly, that having Bill speak for her is unfair, given he is the former president, intimating that his status as ex-president and that he should keep his mouth shut.

    Then came the inevitable confrontation that Senator Obama is making in this story that he's competing against both Hillary AND Bill. Now, finally getting to the facts, Bill Clinton IS the ex-president, but he also happens to be her spouse. One has ask that, under these circumstances, should Hillary be required to nix her spouse as a speaker for her candidacy. If the answer is yes, then should Michelle Obama be sidelined? Should Elizabeth Edwards be muzzled? Should Laura Bush be told to shut up, etc. etc.? Ah, the contemplations involved in presidential politics. 'Taint fair, I say! So does Obama. Who is writing the rules anyway????

    January 20, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  3. Carrie

    I admire Obama for his class against the trailer trash Clintons. Atleast we know Bill's role will be fighting and doing the dirty work. Hillary Clinton is such a strong woman! Ha! A strong woman can fight her own battles.

    Obama 08!

    January 20, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  4. Anthony

    Democrats will be stupid to nominate Hillary. Period. But they will sure do anyways unfortunately. That woman is just too fake, but people will always be stupid for sure. But this is America people: we will sure vote her in, and later scream! and shout!, and cause her out! aka: Bush's two terms.
    I ask. Who is then the problem one? We!! I don’t know why people always chooses self denial over common sense. Such a shame.

    January 20, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  5. Mary

    Dosa, if you think Hillary is a democrat, think again.
    She even was a republican student president in wesley college. They are too wealthy to lead me. I am looking for someone who will level with me. We have all seen how far Clintons can go or do to go back to the white house, from being fake and lying to trying to tear down Obama.
    I am voting for a change and I am voting Obama

    January 20, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  6. Jason King

    Bill Clinton, playing fast and loose with the facts? It couldn't be!

    January 20, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  7. elana

    go obama- you are exactly right. The bad cop, good cop is a brililant analogy. I used to LOVE Bill Clinton and now I am repulsed by him. He needs to let Hillary fight her own battles. Obama- hang in there- I just know we can pull this off!!!!!! YES WE CAN

    January 20, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  8. Amos

    I do not think it is a big deal Sen. Clinton is trying to dig dirt about her rival Sen. Obama. This makes Obama looks like a Saint. Someone pointed out that you do not need to dig dirt about Hillary Clinton because her dirt is all over the place. I was surprised to read cover up of the mysterious death of Vince Foster by Mrs. Clinton. Not only this the report went on to detail her involvment in the White Water scam and also her role in helping her brother to take large sums of my in exchange for presidential purdon of some of the worst criminals.
    After reading about Sen. Clinton, I was surprise to read that she is trying to dig dirt about Obama. Mrs. Clinton was given a pass because the focus was on President Clinton. When the Republican search light turns on her it will be very ulgly. This may explain the reason why most Conservatives are very excited about the possibility that she might win her party nomination. This is going to be bad for America because the last thing we need is what we went through in the 1990’s.

    January 20, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  9. Mrs. America

    I thought Obama was seen to have the advantage in Nevada by getting the caucuses in the casinos. Sounds like Obama boohooing where, by delegate count, he didn't even lose. So what's the fuss. Hillary has Bill out there and Barack has Michelle. Maybe one day Barack will be out there stumping for Michelle. You never know.

    January 20, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  10. Patrick

    Here we go again with the Clintons. This is why I am not for business as usual

    January 20, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  11. TJ

    I agree witht the comment on "Running Against Both Clintons". I too once had respect and admiration for Bill Clinton. His "Fairy Tale" remarks along with others have turned me against theClinton campaign. Bill's comments give the impression that a person of Obama's background should never even have "The Audacity to Hope" that he could even be considered to be electable as President of the United States. Although he apologized for the remarks, I feel it was not genuine. It looks as though the Clintons want to win by any means necessary even if that means lying, cheating, and trying to spread fear into the hearts of many in order to erase their Hope in someone who has the ability to bring people together.

    Clintons, you have had your turn, let someone else have a shot at it!

    January 20, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  12. Cristina

    I don't believe this kind of campaigning is demeaning his ability in the public's eyes to defend his issues. I have heard the case set against Obama's support for the war and it is consistent with his voting record. I have not heard his professional response to the Senator Clinton's professional broaching of his voting record and his management style.

    I certainly believe a President should be organized and that this quality is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. I also believe that his voting record cannot be disputed, nor can his words.

    He has made very strong accusations against Senator Clinton and Senator Clinton has replied with professionalism. Obama has also ridiculed her and made fun of her openly before the Nevada Caucus.

    As for former President Clinton campaigning on behalf of his wife, I don't know which is worse – her wife telling people that she still shops at Target and she won't let him run in 8 years because they will be different people, or a former President delineating Obama's voting record.

    I have yet to hear Obama's professional response to that other than that he's being confronted.

    Former President Clinton has every right to campaign on behalf of his wife. Just as his wife can campaign in churches and give speeches.

    January 20, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  13. ed

    IT IS INTERESTING THAT BILL CLINTON HAS INJECTED HIMSELF SO DEEP INTO THIS CAMPAIGN, HE, HILLARY AND ANY OF THEIR SUPPORTERS SHOULD TAKE A STEP BACK AND REVIEW THE CLINTONS OWN PAST, THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY ILLEGAL AND DEVISIVE ISSUES WITH THE TWO OF THEM. I VOTED FOR RONALD REAGAN, AND BILL CLINTON FOR THE SAME REASONS I AM GOING TO VOTE FOR BARACK OBAMA, AND THAT IS THEY ALL BROUGHT A SENSE OF EXCITEMENT THAT AMERICA "WE CAN". AS A COLLEGE EDUCATED AMERICAN AS WELL AS A MILITARY VETERAN, I THINK AMERICA WOULD BE WISE TO TAKE A STEP BACK AND REVIEW OUR ISSUES TODAY. ASK YOURSELF WHICH CANDIDATE WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO WORK WITH.
    DO WE REALLY NEED SUCH A DEVISIVE FIGURE AS HILLARY CLINTON IN THE WHITE HOUSE AT THIS TIME IN AMERICA. GEORGE WASHINGTON IN HIS GREAT WISDOM, STATED IN HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS WARNING TO AMERICA ABOUT THE PROBLEMS OF POLITICAL PARTIES. "THEY ARE DEVISIVE, AND BRING OUT THE WORST IN HUMAN QUALITIES, SELFISHNESS, BACK BITING, UNAMERICAN ALLIANCES AS WELL AS GREED.

    January 20, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  14. Nita

    Whatever! What Michelle can go on the campaign road for you – and she says alot . Get over it. Cry me a river. Obama was a sore loser last night. Everyone is talking about how he handled his defeat. Just like how he handled to debate straight out of Iowa. Bill is just doing what the other spouses are doing. Showing support of his spouse.

    January 20, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  15. Cristina

    Correction

    I believe this kind of campaign is demeaning his ability in the public's eyes to defend his issues forthrightly and accurately. I have heard the case set against Obama's support for the war and it is consistent with his voting record. I have not heard his professional response to the Senator Clinton's professional broaching of his voting record and his management style.

    I certainly believe a President should be organized and that this quality is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. I also believe that his voting record cannot be disputed, nor can his words on the Senate floor.

    He has made very strong accusations against Senator Clinton and Senator Clinton has replied with professionalism. Obama has also ridiculed her and made fun of her openly before the Nevada Caucus.

    As for former President Clinton campaigning on behalf of his wife, I don't know which is worse – her wife telling people that she still shops at Target and she won't let him run in 8 years because they will be different people, or a former President delineating Obama's voting record and calling Obama on his falsely fabricating his voting record for the masses.

    I have yet to hear Obama's professional response to that other than that he's being confronted.

    Former President Clinton has every right to campaign on behalf of his wife. Just as Obama's wife can campaign in churches and give speeches.

    January 20, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  16. joe schmo

    Hillary Clinton keeps saying that she is ready to be President on day one. She can't even run for office without using her husband as a heavy whenever anybody does not agree with what she says. Is her husband going to have to back up every decision that she makes, if she is President? This is supposed to be an office ran by one person–not a wrestling tag team. Please, wake up America-anybody but Hillary!!!!!

    January 20, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  17. Peter

    Does anyone REALLY believe that a sleazy politician with cash to burn will bring anything good to this country? Say NO to HC in 2008.
    Obama 08!

    January 20, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  18. bob white

    Obama...funny how you have no problem with Oprah Winfrey and everyone else politicizing the Clintons. But now that you're losing, it's not fair eh?

    January 20, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  19. Richie

    I saw this before. This pressure must be huge for Obama from the Clintons. With all their lies who would vote for them anyway?

    January 20, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  20. David, California

    Senator Obama is a sore loser. He only wines and complains. I never hear any specifics about the issues, only negative, negative and more negative.

    If he is going to run for president, than he better start talking issues if he wants to win.

    January 20, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  21. Ezzy

    The Clinton's also have their internet director on Dailykos trying to further prove that Bill Clinton isn't lying. This Clinton camp is simply pathetic...and they continue to get away with it! This man is someone that looked in a camera in the 1990's and told us that "I did not have sexual relationships with that woman" and "it depends on what your definition of the word is, is." Once a liar and a cheat, always a liar and a cheat...And I bring this up because this shows GREAT character flaws on Mr. Clinton's part–not to mention Hillary continues to allow this behaviour while pandering to woman with her poor me tactics. You bet their using good cop vs. bad cop and guess what America, many people are falling for it. Scary isn't it?

    Good-grief, this is so sad. When are we going to do better than this America? When are we going to get this thing right? Hillary Clinton is not what is best for this country in 2008...she cannot and will not unite both parties. We will once again be divided. Can't we just turn the page and move on in a new direction? I don't care who you are for as long as it isn't the Clinton's.

    January 20, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  22. Richard

    Obama.. Clinton.. doesent matter. I will be voting for one of them before I ever vote republican again.

    January 20, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  23. Jarratt Willis, Nacogdoches Texas

    BECAUSE YOU ARE!!!

    Former President Clinton may be an asset in THE CAMPAIGN, but what will his final role be should Hillary Clinton assume the office of presidency?

    Not a single word has been said confirming the presence of Bill Clinton in the White House at a PROFESSIONAL level. Everything has just been hearsay. Nothing has been concrete about his possible involvement.

    It has been said time and time again, and it will continue to be said; Bill Clinton is not running for President, Hillary is! This nation needs to stop judging character and performance based upon familial association and get down to the facts.

    How dangerous was it, in retrospect, for the people of America to have based George W's aptitude for office off of his fathers performance?

    Can we really afford to do the same thing here? Hillary has already had plenty of time in the White House-she had her time to reform healthcare AND SHE FAILED. Even when she had a democratic Congress and White House backing her up. And even as a two-term senator of New York, you must consider the fact the she ascended to office riding the same swell of anti-terrorism/anti-republican sentiment that her colleagues rode in on last year.

    What has she accomplished as Senator anyway, under her own strength, independant from Bill Clinton anyway? Think about it.

    January 20, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  24. Scott

    What facts?

    Oh yeah, these...

    Obama voted present rather than vote up or down while in the State Senate.

    Zero experience dealing with foreign leaders

    A healthcare plan that leaves 15 million people uninsured

    Wants to meet with rogue leaders who have supported groups that want to harm American civilians and military personal.

    Oh yeah, those facts...

    I'm sticking with Hillary.

    January 20, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  25. Karen P

    It's ABOUT TIME someone asked Bill Clinton to back off. Really now, Bill has not acted at all like a former president at all. Total lack of class as usual. Any tiny speck of respect that was left from his presidency is gone. If Hillary can't control Bill now, just imagine getting Bill back in the White House! Bill, as a former Democratic President has absolutely NO business putting down other Democrats. He should stay out of sight and keep quiet or he will divide the Democratic Party for good. Hillary should have been able to do her own campaigning in New Hampshire instead of reminders about Bill's friends. We don't need the Clinton duo AGAIN!

    As far as I'm concerned, the husband/wife team already had 2 terms in the White House...to me it's unconstitutional that they would be a duo there again. (women didn't vote or hold office when the Constitution was written). So if we have Bill exerting influence on Hillary like Hillary exerted influence when Bill was President, we are in big trouble.

    The Clinton tactics are becoming so absurd. I support Obama, not Clinton, and I'm a 58 year old white female. So much for women and the Hillary vote...NOT ME!

    January 20, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
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