January 29th, 2008
10:30 AM ET
12 years ago

State of the Union: Awkward moment

The presidential contenders meet on neutral terrain.

The presidential contenders meet on neutral terrain.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It could have been a moment for Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to demonstrate the civility they say we need in our politics.

Oh, well.

Before the President entered the House Chamber for the State of the Union address, Clinton took a seat three chairs and an aisle away from Obama. While members of Congress were still greeting one another, Clinton crossed the aisle to speak with Democratic Rep. Jim Langvin of Rhode Island, a Clinton supporter. He was seated in front of Obama.

While Clinton was bent over talking to Langvin, who has been in a wheelchair since age 16, the senator sitting next to Barack Obama watched Clinton intently. It was Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had made a splash by endorsing Obama earlier in the day.

Here’s where it could have happened.

When Clinton straightened up, Kennedy quickly reached across Barack Obama to shake Clinton’s hand. She took it. As they spoke, Obama turned away. Then the senators seated to Obama’s right – Ben Nelson and Ken Salazar - both shook Senator Clinton’s hand and talked to her. Instead of doing the same, Obama turned to look at the back of the room. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has also endorsed Obama and was seated next to Kennedy, reached across the Massachusetts senator - who was still talking to Clinton - and tapped Obama (still twisted toward the back of the room) on the shoulder. McCaskill engaged Obama in conversation until the moment passed.

It all lasted less than five minutes. Neither acknowledged the other all night.

UPDATE: Speaking about the moment Tuesday morning, Obama advisor David Axelrod said in an interview on MSNBC the Illinois senator was not trying to snub Clinton.

"I think he knew that Senator Kennedy and Senator Clinton were friends," he said. "This was obviously an awkward day from that standpoint, and I don't think he wanted to stand there while Senator Kennedy was greeting Senator Clinton. And I think that was an appropriate sentiment."

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

soundoff (2,013 Responses)
  1. Carolinas

    His behavior is questionable given that he prides himself as the uniter who can bring different parties together. He has shown a lack of respect and a snub like attitude that I find unwise and inappropriate for one running for office. To make matters worse, he actively followed President Bush in order to shake his hand and his wife sent someone to ask President Bush for his autograph.

    He is portraying an image/dream that we can find appealing but I have to say that days go by, I realize that it's nothing but a facade.

    IMPORTANT: In addition to snubbing Hillary, he has also snubbed his grandmother(on his father's side.) His Grandmother still lives in poverty in Kenya and he has not shown any interest in helping her.

    The media needs to realize its duty to report the truth in an unbias way in order to give its viewers fair and balanced information on all candidates. No one should get a free ride. Our future depends on getting the right person to lead our country.

    Don't get distracted by beautiful words and poetry, use your mind and think about your future and who has the best chance and ability to implement change and be a strong advocate on your behalf. From my point of view Hillary is the best candidate for our future..

    January 30, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  2. Angela

    Just had to make this the 2000th post!!!!!
    Go Hillary all the way to White House.!!!
    Oh, yeah, please pick Edwards as your running mate.
    AND THANK YOU FLORIDA!!!

    January 30, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. Angela

    Just had to make this the 2000th post!!!!!
    Go Hillary all the way to White House.!!!
    Oh, yeah, please pick Edwards as your running mate.
    AND THANK YOU FLORIDIANS!!
    COME ON SUPER TUESDAY!!

    January 30, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  4. KGee

    Can we focus on Peace in the Middle East? Or bringing our troops home. Come on People let's not get off track.

    January 30, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. Shell

    This is so incredibly stupid and poor judgment by CNN to cover something so grade school. This sounds like something my 15 year old niece would be involved in. Ok so he didnt shake her hand – who gives a rats!!! She reached across him to shake everyone's hand around him but now its an issue because he turned to talk to someone else. This is pathetic and CNN should be ashamed for even having an article dedicated to something so childish. She played the race card to the fullest and now that he doesnt shake her hand he snubbed her? Wow that is impressive. This is the type of stuff that makes people not want to vote. Just stupid- CNN please please please cover something a little more newsworthy- and no I'm not talking baout Unfitney Spears!

    January 30, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  6. Shell

    HILLARY IS NOT BILL!!! PLEASE PLEASE REMEMBER THAT WHEN VOTING! EVERYONE THINKS SHE IS GOING TO GET IN THE WHITE HOUSE AND BE BILL-WRONG!! REMEMBER SHE VOTED TO GO TO WAR!!!!! ( SHE WILL SAY SHE VOTED FOR DIPLOMACY WHICH IS HER SHADY WAy OF SAYING WAR) I DONT CARE WHAT SHE SAYS SHE VOTED TO INVADE IRAQ AND NOW LOOK WHERE WE ARE AT! DO YOU REALLY WANT SOMEONE LIKE THIS RUNNING OUR COUNTRY?- WE SUFFERED WITH BUSH AND SHE SUPPORTED HIM. PEOPLE ARE BLIND

    January 30, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  7. Be careful!

    He looks like he’s looking down at something or someone. Are we sure that he was not talking to or listening to someone else. As you can see, the bottom of the picture is cut off. We can’t always believe what the media says happened, actually happened!

    January 30, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. Be careful!

    This morning Obama stated that he was, in fact, talking to someone else when this picture was taken. He said someone asked him a question. Remember, be careful about what the media reports! It's not always true! Don't be so gullible!

    January 30, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  9. Be careful!

    I am really disappointed in this type of media reporting! Shame on CNN! Please get your facts straight! You (CNN and other media) are adding to an already touchy situation UNNECESSARILY! You're not playing fair! You are making the situation worse than it actually is! Let the debaters fight their own fight. Who is the reporter on this story?

    January 30, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. jay00789

    Wow. Another moment of politics where some one blows something out of proportion. Way yo go every one. It doesn't mean anything. He simply turned away because some one else called his name.

    January 30, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  11. v.ananthan

    OBAMA IS A TRUE GENTLEMAN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 30, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. Maggie

    Hillary, you are doing great!!!!!!! The wisdom of experience is paying off!!!!!

    January 31, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. markli

    Obama is a dirty, corrupt politicain.

    February 5, 2008 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
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