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. David Miami FL

    Yawwwwwnnnnn

    January 29, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. Patricia

    this is kinda ridiculous. The place was swarmed with people. It looks like he is looking down having a conversation with someone. Perhaps someone sitting behind him tapped him to get his attention. It isn't his style to be deliberately rude. Get over it. NONE of us were there...

    January 29, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. Gayron Taylor

    If this photo is true, then this shows that Obama is still a little wet behind the ears and this goes in line with his dry comment from two debates ago. This guys is a petty person.

    January 29, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. TERRI

    ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE CLINTONS, IS READ KATHLEEN WILLEYS BOOK, "TARGET". THEN TELL ME WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD ANYONE EVER WANT TO SEE THOSE TWO BACK IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

    January 29, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  5. Apollo

    Can't we all get along?

    This is sooooo high school/childish...but then again, so is voting for someone who is cute...

    Both candidates have promised to basically pay for everyone who has gone bankrupt to get back in their homes...huh? When did we become more socialist than France?

    We need a president with executive experience. Someone who understands the economy and how to fix it. Someone who takes broken businesses and broken governments and fixes them.

    We need Mitt Romney

    January 29, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  6. Hillbilly for Hillbilly

    I wonder if it's the Obama supporters who are yelling "Who cares?" and "Get to the issues". I didn't hear anything when there are negative news about Hillary.
    If it was the other way around CNN's headline would be something like: "Hillary ignores Obama at State of the Union Address."
    Notice how the headline is trying to sound neutral.
    This kind of reminds me of the "You're likeable enough" moment.
    I'm disappointed in Obama. But I was not gonna vote for him anyway.

    January 29, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. Stacey

    Those Clintons I can't wait until they fade into "old people land". I am so tired of the politices of old. We need a fresh face and that's why I am voting for Obama.

    Obama "08 Oh Yeah.

    January 29, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. AJ, IL

    Yes, who cares. Didn't Bill Clinton scold Jessica Yellin a couple of weeks ago! I don't know the context of the entire night social interactions since our President of the US was giving the State of Union address. It was interesting that Hillary was sitting next to Joe Biden. Obama was sitting next to Ted Kennedy which is understandable given the endorsement of the day. But where was poor John Edwards?

    Obama in '08!

    January 29, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. Pen

    "NO WE CAN'T" should be the motto for Obama. Good luck getting anything paseed in Congress with that attitude. He has alot to learn. Is he even a American?

    January 29, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  10. Apollo

    The audacity of hype. He can't even be civil with a fellow senator. What will he do with those rogue nations he will talk with unconditionally?

    January 29, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. Makeva

    Honestly, who cares? Obama didn't speak to Hillary and Hillary didn't speak to Obama. OH WELL. The media always tries to make things such a big issue.

    January 29, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Clintonhater

    Was this actually news worthy this is like reporting Britney Spears shopping at the mall..

    January 29, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. David Miami FL

    Jessica shame on you. I am sure yourjournalism college profssors are pretty disappointed about this National Enquirer piece you wrote.

    January 29, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. lcb

    This is so interesting, if Hillary would have done it to him, then it would be racist and rude and code words were being used. This is so ridiculous. If people would look at the issues they will see that Obama has absolutely no experience, guts, or ideas, just a speech of "hope".

    As for all these endorsements, "seasoned politicians" know that Hillary can not be manipulated, but a inexperienced senator can. Sounds like another "Bush" in the making, he too was inexperienced and surrounded himself with "seasoned politicians" and look what it got us. Gosh people wake up, after seven years of so call hope and change, I would think you would be more savvy and completely fed up.

    January 29, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. Ron, NJ

    LOL this is stupid, it sounds like some sort of school yard gossip.
    This story is a waste of space.

    January 29, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. r sisk, nevada

    This clearly is the difficult part of politics when rivals run against each other. Hillary has risen above this and is shaking Kennedy's hand in light of his endorsement of Obama. Obama looks to be pouting which raises some red flags. If this is any sign of his ability to be "the uniter" we're in trouble.

    January 29, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. DD, New York

    Well, it has been said a picture says a thousand words....looks to me like Hillary is the bigger person (and winner, overall), and Barak....well...I leave that up to the rest of you.

    January 29, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. Wale

    Is this CNN or perezhilton.com? Please, stop insulting our intelligence.

    January 29, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. AJ, IL

    Some on here say a picture is worth of a 1000 words. So what does the picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Tony Rezko say?

    January 29, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  20. oh please

    Um, Hillary fans, if she was there to take the high road, a simple tap on the arm of Barack to get his attention would've achieved that. Haven't we all had to do that at times in our lives? That basically would've called out Barack, but that didn't happen, regardless of whether or not he was ignoring her. Rather, as usual, she rubs everybody's nose in it hoping some of us buy it. And obviously, some will. I choose to view this differently. Some will say Barack was cowardly, but I have to say it's refreshing to see somebody not be dragged into a phony moment. Her family, who I once supported, has been trashing him for days now. Wouldn't shaking her hand endorse her wretched behavior? Isn't that the exact phonyness we need to get rid of? Sorry, but I wouldn't shake the hand of a filth slinger either. Good for Barack for not being a phony.

    I think the mere coverage of this story perfectly demonstrates how far reaching our conservative run media goes to tear down Barack. Give me a break CNN. What ever happened to you?

    January 29, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  21. JJ

    That's why I don't think Obama is a good choice...I don't know what changes he is going to bring to us but if he is not respect to woman like a grow up man how can he bring a positive to the nation? anyway, if he is demo nominee, I will enpower of all my energy to vote for the republic...Obama need to grow up....

    January 29, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. RAL

    It's not everything but it's not nothing. If they can't even comunicate with each other how will they be able to communicate with foreign leaders whose policies/politics they really dislike? Not sure who is at fault but both should have risen above.

    January 29, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  23. Earl

    Maybe he should have turned the cheek, but she has spread a lot of lies about him. i can understand why he is upset.

    January 29, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  24. charles gabriel

    it just shows the side of obama that he hasnt let you see up until a moment where professsionalism, and mature character is missing. i wonder if all the people of delegation upset obama will be snubbed in the manner he showed . i have no favoritism for either, but certainly courtesy, and the fact that cameras were all over, obama has a lot to learn.. as we all know.... certainly not a presidendial quality i or anyone else would be thrilled about... c.f.gabriel

    January 29, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. CD

    Hilarious...Hillary is running against Bush, Obama is running against both Clintons, and both Hillary and Obama act as if they are 12. The winner with all of this arguing is..........say it with me now.........the GOP. "You worked for Rezko" "You worked for Wal-Mart" Give me a break, CNN will focus on the issues when the candidates do.

    January 29, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81