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. bennessa

    “You know the former president, who I think all of us have a lot of regard for,has no shame, he has no shame

    January 20, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  2. Drew

    “Wake up folks, we’re going in the wrong direction, let’s get an experienced person in the white house like Hillary ! Amen ! ”

    Wow. Just becuase her husband was president does not give her experience. Same with Bush Jr., just becuase daddy was president does not mean you are experienced. We need someone to give us a clean slate, and Obama seems like the best choice

    January 20, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  3. anon middle america

    Is this Obama's new direction? His message of hope and change didn't work in NV which is rough and tumble and Las Vegas which is over the top in glitz and techno innovation? Guess you can't fool the hucksters who make a living by schilling the customers ;)

    Obama should give his handlers and hacks the heave ho and start over again by going back to being himself. BUT his staff is living in lalaland if they think the united Republican attack machine is going to play pat-a-cake (and now everyone can accuse us of spreading fear and panic – but anyone who has watched presidential politics long enough knows better). So please stop feeding the guileless followers the notion that it's going to be a stroll in the park... or that the path will be steep. The strategy of whining that the other side isn't playing nice isn't going to cut it... suck it up and be a man.

    January 20, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  4. Chaunda

    Get over it Obama. Your wife has had her say. Nobody is trying to stop her. If you want to blame someone blame the media who follows Clinton like he is a runaway slave. They do not have cover everything he says, they choose to.

    January 20, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  5. natouche

    It's really, because Bill Clinton is not respecting himself. When I think that Obama voted for Clinton and probably campaigned for him. It makes you wonder who isrunning for the nomination Bill or Hillary. Bill Clinton wants a 3rd mandate at any cost. Hope everyone sees it now. This is supposed to be the democratic party.
    Good luck Obama. They didn't see you coming, once a friend, now the enemy.

    January 20, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. S, WI

    Well, you are running against both Clintons and Democrats.
    I think you still have a shot at nomination if switch parties to republican.
    Or how about pairing up with Bloomberg?

    January 20, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  7. Don

    Whatever happened to the e-mails that Hillary said she would release from Bill's library so everybody could see her "experience".

    The last time it was an issue was the Philadelphia debate.

    Obama would be wise to push for answers.

    January 20, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  8. a little sad

    Michelle Obama launches attack on Clinton
    By Toby Harnden in Las Vegas
    Last Updated: 9:25am GMT 19/01/2008

    "Michelle Obama, who could become America’s first black First Lady, has launched a scathing attack on her husband’s opponent Hillary Clinton, stating she represents "the same old thing over and over again".

    Whereas Barack Obama preaches a message of hope and transcending differences that is more kumbaya than combative, his wife, like him a lawyer and a Harvard graduate, did not hesitate to take his main opponent on in an appearance at a Las Vegas."

    What is Obama's complaint – that his spouse does not have the same crediblity that Clinton's spouse does?"

    January 20, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  9. Illinois Indie

    And the countdown beings for the destruction of the Democratic Party, and who will be to be blame for it? There is so much internal hatred going on that rallying those that were the targets of the other sides hatred will be hard to do.

    January 20, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  10. natouche

    It's really sad, because Bill Clinton is not respecting himself. When I think that Obama voted for Clinton and probably campaigned for him. It makes you wonder who isrunning for the nomination Bill or Hillary. Bill Clinton wants a 3rd mandate at any cost. Hope everyone sees it now. This is supposed to be the democratic party.
    Good luck Obama. They didn't see you coming, once a friend, now the enemy.

    January 20, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  11. Sam

    Few weeks back in NBC Meet The Press Obama indicated that his Spouse can do better in debates as compared to Hilary Clinton's Spouse. May be this is time Obama get some help from his Spouse :)

    January 20, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  12. Cindy

    Pot and Kettle?

    I agree Barack and it actually reminds me of someone - none other than your wife Michelle who never misses an opportunity to race bait in front of largely black audiences (while using incorrect grammar in a manner I find demeaning, I might add) "Ain't no white folks in Iowa."

    January 20, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  13. Mel

    Can you see?

    If Hillary Clinton goes without Bill Clinton, would she survive in New Hampshire? Certainly NOT!.

    If Hillary Clinton goes without Bill Clinton, would she survive in Nevada? No!.

    If Hillary Clinton goes without Bill Clinton on SUPER TUESDAY – February 5th, HILLARY CLINTON WILL NOT SURVIVE!

    If you really want Hillary Clinton to run this country, she has to stop use Clinton and prove herself to us!

    Thank you

    Hillary's watcher

    January 20, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  14. Illinois Indie

    And the countdown beings for the destruction of the Democratic Party, and who will be blame for it? There is so much internal hatred going on that it will be hard to get those who were hit hard against the other side to come together as a "family"

    January 20, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  15. Jimmy, Oklahoma Feb. 5th

    He claims to be ready for the Republican machine. The Clintons are treating him like he is a little bay and the media is treating him like he is a baby. C'mon this guy is to weak to be President.

    Senator Clinton for President of the United States.

    By the way latest polls in Oklahoma puts Barack Obama at a distant 3rd. Edwards second. Senator Clinton with a commanding lead.

    January 20, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  16. Larry, Columbus, Ohio

    I'm a Republican–a moderate one so no Huckabee for me–and while I like McCain and Romney more than Obama, I have to agree with what he's saying and I completely empathize with him. I like Obama, actually, but I don't know enough about him yet (I think he's too untested) to get my vote, but I think he's got a LOT of potential.

    That said, it DOES indeed seem like he's running against both Clintons as well as their Machine. He's hanging in there well, but holy smokes you have to admit that it's pretty daunting to think of both of the Clintons coming after you as desperately as they have. And it does seem to me, like others have suggested, that there's a "good cop, bad cop" dynamic going on.

    Colin Powell, why don't you run?!?!? Your country needs you!!!!

    January 20, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  17. E. C., Houston, Texas

    Hey....Wake Up, Obama!..........YOU ARE running against Both Clintons. Did you just figure that fact out? Wake Up! You're living in a Fairy Tale World.and giving Fairy Tale Speeches! ....Being President is the Real World. Let's hope that there's a Real President in the White House..........namely, Mitt Romney!

    January 20, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  18. Bimmer

    The comments made by Obama about Bill Clinton sound more like sour grapes.

    Is not Obama the one who started the MLK controversy by distorting the comments made by Hillary and were taken to task by prominent African-American leaders?.

    Is not Obama the one who praised Ronald Reagan whom the labour union and the African-Americans were not too fond of?

    Is not he the one responsible for his downfall for ganging up on Hillary in the NH debate and making the silly comment " You are likeable enough, Hillary"?

    As to the voter suppression by Obama camp in Nevada, did not Edwards campaign make the same complaint?

    Did not Obama promise a positive campaign, but in every debate attacked Hillary?

    His position on Iraq is a fair game as he claims he showed judgement by not voting when he had no voting right but then he voted for the funding after he said would not vote for it. Almost sounds like Joihn Kerry's infamous line " I voted for it before I did not vote for it".

    Obama is losing not because of Bill Clinton's comments, but because of his poor performances in every debate, his substance-less stump speeches, his starting the uproar about MLKand his recent praising Reagan. People are also getting tired of the hope and change things.

    Bill Clinton's campaigning for his wife shows that he really wants her to be the President for the good of the country as he shad aid many times that he thinks she is the best candidate among Republicans and Democrats. It also shows that he has no jealousy towards his wife for the chance of becoming a President and oversahdowing him.

    January 20, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  19. Bethany, St. Louis MO

    Um, that's because he is.

    January 20, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  20. DJ

    Yes it is time, to put Mr. Clinton in the dog house. He acting like he is running for president again. Wait this should be a good point. He knows with term limits he can only be president twice, but since he wife is running, grreat way to get a third or fourth term. Mr. Clinton Go AWAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. FAR AWAY

    January 20, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  21. Sandy

    Every candidate, Democrats and Republicans, have their significant others out there campaigning. The fact that Mrs. Clintons husband was the President once should make no difference. If she were a woman running and her husband had not been the President this would not be looked at twice.

    If Mr. Obama feels threatend than maybe he has something to hide. I heard his wife speaking and she was dissing Hillary. Why can some and not others???

    January 20, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  22. E Gollan

    Come on Obama- quit crying. Wait until the republicans start at you. You ain't seen nothing yet. If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

    January 20, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  23. Barbara Chauvin`

    GEEZ!

    Give it a rest! Obama won more delegates - so what is he complaining about? Get to South Carolina and MOVE ON!!! We have a nominee to elect!

    January 20, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  24. mike k

    What is disappointing to me is when the pundits call the former President's & Mrs. Clinton's politics 'brilliant' when in fact they are dirty.

    I hope that we don't have to say, after the election, that Obama learned the hard way that truth and honesty have no place in American politics.

    The Clintons play dirty because we let them. They are an embarrassment to something that was meant to be a good thing – the American Political system. Frankly I am blown away by the free pass these people are consistently given by the American public and press – it is a real shame.

    January 20, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  25. Vlad

    Why shouldn't President Clinton speak out? Or is there no "free speech" in the US? Or isn't the US a DEMOCRACY?

    January 20, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
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