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. ke, GA

    That is RUDE. Obama shouldn't behave that way....CNN/Jessica is trying to show they/she are/is not for Obama either, but they/she can't fool us anymore. How should we expect balanced reporting from CNN when Jessica Yellin is 'reporting'? Shouldn't she be trained more? Believe me, she should deserve to be on CNN. She doesn't understand what journalistic duties are either. What ever Jessica does, Hillary will be the nominee.

    January 29, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. John

    I also noticed that Bush dissed both of them when he was walking out. Imagine that.

    As for the Obama moment, his campaign manager has expressed that Obama wanted to allow Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kennedy a moment to communicate without his face in the conversation. I consider that gracious behavior, not anti-social.
    Surely you don't see a scenario where they can all be pals together between now and the convention do you?

    Did you also notice that Barack scratched his head one time? This is really a secret signal to imply that Hillary has fleas. Hillary answered by rubbing her nose which everyone knows that time honored signal which boldly states, Obama didn't wash his feet today!

    CNN might make a stab at providing some journalism during this campaign rather than continuing the "beauty contest" that American politics has become.

    January 29, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. isaac

    IF IT WASN'T FOR THE MEDIA WE WOULD ALL JUST GET ALONG.
    HILLARY SUPPORTERS.
    PLEASE STOPPING EXAGERATING EVERY ISSUE THAT DIVIDES US. WE HAVE SEEN THESE PEOPLE SHAKE HANDS BEFORE AND WE KNOW THEY WILL SHAKE HANDS AGAIN. PLEASE STOP STOP TRYING TO SCORE POLITICAL POINTS ON THE CHEAP.

    January 29, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  4. Truth

    CNN doesn't want to post my comments supporting Sen. Clinton! I wonder why?

    I agree with Alex Smith, this is what the media should do. Just give us the facts and pictures (if possible) and let us draw our own conclusions and this pictures speaks a THOUSAND words! Nuff said !

    Hillary all the way. Obama is obviously not ready and enough with this talk about being a uniter and hope and change and bla bla bla. Who is he the Messiah? Give me a break..and enough with the MLK type speeches. As a Black man I am getting annoyed and tired with all the CHANGE and Hope empty talk.

    Hillary is proven, tried and tested and READY on DAY one! She doesn't need people to tell her how to run the country..Hillary for Pres.

    January 29, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  5. Clintonhater

    Go, Hillary! January 29, 2008 10:16 am ET

    What I found REALLY disgusting is the way Obama fawned all over Ted Kennedy sitting next to him during the State of the Union address! This guy is a "player." Hillary Clinton is the real thing — an experienced, smart, powerful woman ready to lead our country out of the abyss created by George W. Bush!
    ============================================================

    I find it funny that just cause he was showering HIlary with endorsements and actually Kennedy was giving body blows to her whole Campignn cause he basicly called her husband a liar and race monger and said that Obama was as ready as she is to lead this country "from day one"...The Kennedy Clan know a true visionary when they see one....they had a really good example in there famly that was gun down in his prime...I don't think them endoring him will be a big deal but the face that Obama has all these former high profile clinton supports riding with him has to be a slap in the face..

    January 29, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  6. judy

    I would certainly not greet and shake hands with someone who's only goal in the life has been to smear my reputation, personally and professionally. That would be phoney on my part. Barack is not a phoney.

    January 29, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  7. Hillary08

    CNN betrayed the American people by not reporting on real issues instead. Who hired Jessica?

    January 29, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. L in florida

    Tom in PA, your are right. If Hillary would of shunned Obama there would be headlines all over Hillary. I'am glad that Hillary canceled last night interview with CNN and MSNBC. all they would of done is come down on her. She did the right thing.

    FLORIDA VOTES 4 HILLARY CLINTON

    GO HILLARY 08

    January 29, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  9. j in nc

    Hey, I'm more interested that she shook Kennedy's hand than Obama turning away. Now that's showing maturity and tolerance.

    January 29, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. Truth

    January 29, 2008 10:30 am ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    CNN doesn't want to post my comments supporting Sen. Clinton! I wonder why?

    I agree with Alex Smith, this is what the media should do. Just give us the facts and pictures (if possible) and let us draw our own conclusions and this pictures speaks a THOUSAND words! Nuff said !

    Hillary all the way. Obama is obviously not ready and enough with this talk about being a uniter and hope and change and bla bla bla. Who is he the Messiah? Give me a break..and enough with the MLK type speeches. As a Black man I am getting annoyed and tired with all the CHANGE and Hope empty talk.

    Hillary is proven, tried and tested and READY on DAY one! She doesn't need people to tell her how to run the country..Hillary for Pres.

    January 29, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. Boomer For Barack

    Why no story on the amazing job Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius did in her response to the speech?

    Now that is a woman America needs to have involved in national politics: grace, straightforward, direct....

    January 29, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  12. Atlanta, GA

    How hard is it to shake someone's hand that you don't necessarily care for. We do it all the time in the corporate world – it's called being professional and acting civil amongst your peers. Give it up, Obama!!

    January 29, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  13. Julie, Binghamton, NY

    He's really immature. Lame.

    January 29, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  14. jess

    Issues please. This isn't the checkout line at the grocery store.

    January 29, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. gene

    Well I am still waiting to get out of moderation. Its a dark and dank place where they send you if you say anything bad anout CNN and Obama. I really did not say anything bad About Obama. I just mentioned he was not acting to mature in trying to avoid looking at Hillary at the State of the Union address.

    January 29, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  16. california

    Hillary leaned over and was watching how Obama voted, read the "The Hill" website.

    January 29, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  17. TiBWA

    OHHH

    Look at you cnn, you are tring to create false controversy. Remember what you tried with Oprah, it did not work, this one will not either. You are freaking me out cnn!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  18. Obamania

    Obama is an angry man. He looks bitter inside. The picture certainly makes him look unpresidential. On a funny note, Obama actually looks like a bodyguard to the big boy – Ted.

    CNN, you can portray a different image of Obama but pictures don't lie. He certainly does not look and act like the next president of the United States.

    Actions speak louder than words. Change is good but what kind of change. Obama is not JFK

    I know CNN will not post this comment

    January 29, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. ESL

    Obama is a hypocrite. He needs to practice what he preaches....

    January 29, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  20. E. C., Houston, Texas

    To: CNN, Jessica Yellin..............This is NOT NEWS. WHO CARES? NO ONE!

    January 29, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. Useless story; silly comments

    Five American soldiers died in Iraq this week and this is what CNN and these inane bloggers are worried about. No wonder our country is in such a mess.

    Perhaps a story on what all the ladies were wearing and who the designer was would be a suitable followup to this fascinating addition to political discourse.

    January 29, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  22. Bethany, St. Louis MO

    I think the people who say Obama ignored Clinton are missing the point....

    They both ignored each other. Clinton didn't go over there to talk to Obama. She went to talk to Kennedy. They both ignored each other.

    In the end, who really cares though.

    January 29, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  23. An Agnostic Democrat

    I think he was justified in turning his back on the past and the oldey, moldey politics of destruction, division and personal attacks! Hillary's attempt to pander at that moment and get her just reward was just a prelude to the State of the Union address that was coming which highlighted more than ever the stale, old partisan bickering that's been apart of Washington since Bill was in office. We need not only turn our back on this type if leadership (which by the way, she embodies), we need to turn the page and unfortunately, Hillary is the oldest chapter in the musty book.

    January 29, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. Lee

    Yeah it kinda makes ya sick in that old man pervert sorda way to see Kennedy and Obama together. I watched the SOTU last night and they showed the whole thing not just a pitcture – Obama did turn and stare off into space when Hillary came over. It looked intentional to me. He would have at least heard her voice talking to Kennedy and could have turned around.

    he is really a uniter 😦 Hes all talk and no substance. How many foriegn elected officials does he even know?

    Hillary has my vote – shes ready – now.

    January 29, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. Casey

    It is true, that God forbid Clinton had done this, there would raving and knashing of the teeth. Clinton gets dismissed by Obama, and it's "no big deal." I agree, it really isn't a big deal, but let's play fair girls and boys.

    January 29, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 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