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. aware

    A picture is worth a thousand words! 🙂

    January 29, 2008 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  2. Masters Student

    Wow! That's all I have to say about that. Jessica Yellin is off the chain, but she is right. They should have at least spoke to each other. I guess they will not be civil, until it is over. By the way, for those of you who thinks that Jessica is against Obama, she is not. She is known to speak up for Obama a lot. She just happened to notice something that we didn't.

    January 29, 2008 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  3. R.A.R.

    I think we're reading into it just fine.

    January 29, 2008 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  4. geekmommy

    That's just plain sad.

    At what point do they figure out that the "real" enemy is not in their own party?

    January 29, 2008 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  5. pk

    you guys are fools. hillary has been giving obama the cold treatment since the campaign started. move on.

    January 29, 2008 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  6. Mike M.

    This should have been under entertainment news or in a tabloid. I'm surprised that CNN reporters stoop this low to sensationalize whatever happened.

    January 29, 2008 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  7. SecondSage

    IT is what it is. Right now they might as well be the Patriots and the Giants after kickoff, by no means friendly. They can be friends in July, not January.

    Much like Romney and McCain who also has bad blood.

    This is a good year for politics.

    January 29, 2008 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  8. Luis

    Finally CNN, ONE STORY!!! ONE STORY!!! Where you show the truth about Obama. You guys want this guy to be your president who can't even shake someone's hand? How is he supposed to meet with foreign executives? How is he supposed to be the chief diplomat, chief of state, commander in chief, chief administrator, or chief executive if he is rude and childish?

    January 29, 2008 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  9. A. Smith

    I think, because of the Clinton's dirty campaign, Obama has lost a lot of respect for them. Probably, turns his stomach to see such a 'disingenuous' person!? Rightfully so!

    January 29, 2008 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  10. Abdy

    Considering some of the things her, her husband, and her campaign surrogates have said and alluded to about him and his character since Iowa, I think Senator Obama shows great restraint and civility every time he sees the woman and doesn't smack the slime out of her.

    January 29, 2008 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  11. lee

    OK Kevin. This is not the first time he has shown ill manners.

    January 29, 2008 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  12. Alex

    I agree...

    January 29, 2008 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  13. Cristy

    I think Hillary is trying to "pretend" that she is alright with the whole thing about Kennedy endorsing Obama, but clearly that is a horribly fake smile.

    January 29, 2008 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  14. YawnFest

    A total non-story.

    So what if they both felt a little awkward? They are human and things are slightly intense between them right now. Give it a rest.

    January 29, 2008 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  15. lee

    "That is the same sense of hope " (Caroline Kennedy). In my opinion, Hillary is not missing anything not having been indorsed by Caroline and Uncle Ted.

    January 29, 2008 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  16. Mark

    After all the bad mouthing from Billary, who wouldn't have turned away....I would have walked across and sat with the republicans instead.

    Stop reading too much in to every move the candidate make.

    January 29, 2008 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  17. Dylan

    Are you kidding? CNN, you're reading way too much into this.
    Stop trying to stir up the pot.

    January 29, 2008 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  18. Kuhlman, Portland OR

    There are still some ruffled feathers but I think come the national convention they will have made up and support whoever gets the nomination. I would also like to say to Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama get over the personal attacks on both sides and discuss the issues you are both good candidates and I would hate for you to alienate members of the party or the public over this tiff with each other.

    January 29, 2008 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  19. Tommy in SD

    Well regardless of either Senators intention, it would be very awkward however it does seem Obama was somewhat bothered just by the look in his face it is clearly disapponting that he behaved in this manner after all he turned away. Obama grow up

    January 29, 2008 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  20. Youth Voter

    Why is it that comments are not posted for this? Has Obama called to remove this blog?

    Arrogant and rude – Obama's hope and unity!

    Obama talks about hope and unity and shows utter disrespect for a senior senator who has been serving in the public eye for so many years.

    I always felt Obama was arrogant and cocky. A man is known by his company and especially most of the Obama supporters give the vibe of cockyness.

    Well, we will have another Bush if Ted Kennedy has his way, in terms of inexperience and arrogance.

    Ruin the country!

    January 29, 2008 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  21. Ian, Eastham MA

    Hey, do hand shakes and looks make policy?

    When will CNN start comparing and contrasting voting records, bills sponsored, and general policy?

    Does anyone at CNN have the brain power for this? Or do you think your readers are too stupid to handle it?

    January 29, 2008 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  22. Marks

    Ever since Bush stood under that Mission Accomplished banner, he's been the awkward President. His last State of the Union was a sideshow. Senators clapping for proposals with him having historical low polls of his Presidential job performance. He's the Decider who made a bunch of poor decisions!

    Senator's running for the Presidency, they have to be awkward to each other because they have to work in same building. Same side of the Senate Chamber. There are real issues between Hillary and Obama arguing about things each other said.

    Bill was the ghost in that room since he's making political desires again.

    He's the problem between them. Hillary thinks she's holding her tongue on some issues with Obama. Obama probably considers Bill has a litany of issues gone unsaid. Republicans won't mind saying them about Bill.

    They are feeling lack of respect between each other, it happens! It's not childish behaviour. Adults have the right to be uncomfortable dealing with someone they don't like.

    Media shouldn't focus that sudden social phobia too much, it's meaningless tomorrow.

    January 29, 2008 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  23. Anonymous

    smart move by Hillary Clinton

    January 29, 2008 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  24. Beth

    that pictures speaks volume......what at "uniter"..

    January 29, 2008 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  25. Pat

    I think Obama was ungracious and shows he is not above politics as usual. You know the old saying..."If it is too good to be true...". So much for Obama's humility he spoke of earlier in the day. Pride ruled the moment for him in this snapshot of events. Voters beware.

    January 29, 2008 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
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