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. shane

    why is cnn so slated towards clinton in its reporting ?

    January 29, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  2. D

    Lmao, this is news worthy? Really now....

    January 29, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  3. merlene

    I think clinton was trying to avoid obama by sitiing where she sat and when she acknowledged rep Jim Langvin she must have seen Obama so that was the moment she should have should have greeted him and the only reason why she acknowledged Kennedy is because he was eyeballing her. Hillary is a very mean
    person and thinks she is the annointed person to be president. I am a lifelong democrat but she will not get my vote. Where is Bill? He must be chilling.

    January 29, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  4. NObama

    No..Obama is nothing but a big baby!!!! Look how he acted. This is who you want to run our Country!!! I mean, Hillary came over to talk to Kennedy after he picked Obama over her to show she was above all this and Obama act's like this??

    January 29, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  5. Tikifire

    anything to dig up dirt...

    January 29, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  6. Anita B.

    Hillary and Bill have gone too far. I am so disappointed in how Hillary has handled this campaign. This was her moment to show how far women have come in a male dominated society. She had the opportunity to demonstrate and role model so much, but she like so many others in the past has stooped to dirty politics. She has truly lost control of her husband and her own image...if she is crying and throwing tantrums now, how will she handle being a president? Will Bill continuously tell her what to do?

    Obama has truly shown himself to be a worthy candidate!! Thank you to the Kennedys for taking time to think and observe the actions of the candidates before deciding who they would endorse.

    January 29, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  7. WW - New York

    I would have done the same. I would figure why interrupt or pretend I wanted a conversation. I don’t think either was being rude. It was probably awkward for all. I do think the media is trying to make something out of nothing.

    January 29, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  8. Nadira, Toronto

    I am sure if it was Hillary who had snub Obama , the press would have been all over this, with Jessica Yellin the innocent reporter and Wolf anchoring!
    double standard!

    January 29, 2008 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  9. Sherry

    Ok, so they didn't acknowledge each other.......

    January 29, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  10. James D.

    While it probably *was* an awkward moment....CNN...as usual, you're looking for trouble where it doesn't always exist. Could it just as likely be that Obama wanted to speak with McCaskill vs Hillary? I wouldn't blame him 🙂

    January 29, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  11. Mongo

    Maybe Obama feels that 'likeable enough' is not enough for him. Too bad the Rev. Wright wasn't there to coach him.

    January 29, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  12. MC- Atlanta,GA

    Its like watching your parents fight....just stop already!

    January 29, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  13. stillvotingmyway

    It is such a shame that this has all become about race.While the whites were able to cross the race and gender lines,eighty percent....EIGHTY PERCENT of the black vote stayed with their race.Don't you dare say it's not about race , or at least fifty percent would have crossed the line.But thats okay,wait until November ,all fifteen percent of you"it's not about race black voters"!!

    January 29, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  14. merlene

    T think Clinton was trying to avoid Obama and when she greeted rep Langvin she saw Obama and that was the time she could have acknowledged him.

    January 29, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  15. JC

    OOOoooooo, I'll bet she won't sit with him in the lunchroom, either. Grow up.

    January 29, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  16. Tavares

    This observation is one of the subconscious reason's that America will not have an woman be it's commander in chief. These stereotypical commentaries about who spoke to who and who didn't is clearly a marked characteristic that will lend itself to Americans as being "catty" and will definitely NOT help Senator Hillary Clinton in her campaign (unless that was the goal of the writer which if is was BRILLIANT).

    BARACK THE VOTE 2008!!!!

    January 29, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  17. Chris in FL

    ...because Barack Obama is a jerk. Watch his body language. Listen to him engage Hillary in debates. It's hard not to see it. This is not the kind of schoolyard antics I would expect to see in the House chamber.

    January 29, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  18. Andrew

    It says something about how Obama deals with people he don't agree. Just wait to see him in White House!

    January 29, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  19. noelle

    i agree with kevin. it seems as if you're just looking for the juicy drama and it's just not there.

    January 29, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  20. Jen, Boston MA

    You're outdoing National Inquierer, CNN.

    January 29, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  21. che

    Why is it that the professional young democrat couldn't be professional to clinton? Is he going to ingore everyone who he doesn't take a liking to?
    Way to go democrats, endorse him all the way.

    January 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  22. shane

    always awaiting moderation ?

    January 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  23. roger, conway sc

    I think this is petty info but in my opinion CNN's golden boy is acting like a bully just like he did in the SC primary debate....If CNN would spend their time checking this man out instead of hammering the Clinton's I feel certain they will find he is not all that...

    January 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  24. Nora

    That shows what a self righteous person he is. I have lost total respect for him and the way he has handled this campaign. I will vote for Hillary hands down. Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. Al in Wpg

    That photo is kinda scary, if someone approached me like that in the street, I'd call for help. Really though, is this news? They don't like eachother, ok, so what. Hillary is an actor and wants any photo op she can get, including jumping over someone to shake a Kennedy's hand, apparently. Reporting on this is like reporting on a pre-school fight, not very interesting. She didn't look at him, he didn't look at her, wow, so tense.

    January 29, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
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