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. Niko

    Why can't Hillary fans spell the word "loser"? Spellers unite for Obama!!!

    January 29, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. EAJ

    You must be kidding me. The MSM is a joke. There is a primary going on today and they spend time to cover this. It's a picture people. Had Obama been in her face they would have said he was rubbing in the endorsement she desperately wanted.

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

    You are so right! I read the article in the LA Times...but WHERE are the CNN headlines???? MSNBC are you awake? It is amazing how unimportant the news is when it is for the Clintons. I am certain the reason is the news media is trying to figure out a way to turn it into a racist code put out by the Clintons.

    January 29, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  4. Jason

    Why is my comment no put in.

    Anyway,
    Am happy that people also see it my way. As a black man I am uphauled.
    If it were Hillary it would have been Hell. The Obama campaign would have called a press conference and put Hillary to shame again. Reporters would have made front page news: Hillary can´t take it anymore. And then sweet Barrack would come with his soft and polished words: I think my party needs change...
    Please...
    If it were Hill who did this....she would be a racist and the race issue would play up yet again...

    This is proposterous.
    Barrack, this is your true nature.
    Grow Up. Don´t act childish...

    I hate how unfair the media is towards Hillary..... Really. I ma really angry at how the cover her

    January 29, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. Marge Hibbing Mn

    I have one thing to say about Kennedy and Kerry and all the men who say they support obama because he is a man and he has strength and a woman doesn't....

    IF A MAN CAN'T SUPPORT A WOMAN RUNNING FOR THE PRESIDENCY THEN HE SURE ISN'T MUCH OF A MAN.

    And we get that from stumbling bumbling Kennedy who had the support of women when he has his accident....they are what kept him in office in MA. And what did Kerry do to support the American people after they choose him for the nomination. This strong man let rove and bush walk all over him in the swift boat department and then to make matters he laid down and rolled over when bush stole Ohio right out from under him....YEAH WE SURE NEED MORE STRONG MEN LIKE THESE TWO.

    January 29, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  6. John in Columbus, OH

    The Clintons didn't seem to mind the Black voting block dynamic when over 90% of it voted for them, twice.

    Plain and simple. They played the race card to stur racism to get what they thought would be a bigger response from whites, who have been very positive and hopeful about Obama's candidacy. Of course, there are racists within the Democratic Party who can't seem to get their minds off Blacks. We aren't perfect.

    January 29, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. Justin, Houston, TX

    As usual, my comment sits in moderator purgatory for hours on end. Let's give it another try.

    I think the look on his face in this picture says a great deal about the character of this man. Also, every debate where he tries to throw dirt at Clinton, you notice he turns for just a second but never looks her in the eye. Even he knows that getting to the White House this way is shameful for him.

    I think it's kinda sad this country never learns. We just watched an inexperienced President give his last SOTU after the destruction he caused for 7 years. Now, some seem intent on having another President-in-Training for the next 7 years.

    Where's the CHANGE in that?

    January 29, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  8. Al, Los Angeles, CA

    I think he was trying to give them privacy & was being gracious.

    He just stole Kennedy's endorsement. He would look like jerk standing beside Kennedy "In your face Hillary", so he avoided the situation.

    This is a good example of the press abusing the public trust. "This is when it could have happened"

    Journalists can't just created their own realities.

    "This is when Obama could have mooned Bush", but that's not what happened.

    Very sad.

    January 29, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  9. maxwellinformed

    I am almost always holding back laughter, reading many of these post all over the internet. Don't you just love it, when Republicans question Obama's Character and Honesty. Really (think SNL)?! Really?! You want honesty and character, in the White House? Really?! I think someone needs to look in the mirror.

    January 29, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  10. John Logan

    Obama's action to leave the room as Clinton was exchanging greetings with other senators was very appropriate. No doubt, that that has happened because I believe that action alone is enough to explain how honest and faithfull he is and would be in serving the entire Us and for that matter the whole world given the chance as a new president of the United States of America. Of course, how can one pretend to be fine after the hurt and the pain President Clinton and the wife Senator Clinton have both pulled him through. It is very obvious and clear enough that he needs atleast time to get over the situation.

    January 29, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  11. Troopah

    Clinton is such an antaganist. This was done on purpose, she thinking let me get in his face to see how he reacts, he knows that I don't like him I know that he dosen't like me. I'll snub him intentionaly by shaking everyone elses hand around him to piss him off and it will make him look bad. She knows what she's doing she might win the nomination but by doing so she might lose the general election by her antics. I hope Obama refuses to run with her which I think he should if he dosen't get the nomination. If McCain gets the nomination he should ask Obama to run with him they'ed win hands down.

    January 29, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. Wayne

    People need to wake up and stop drinking the Kool-Aide, Obama is no saint. He just likes to act holier than thou! Obama should be careful because his halo is slipping and his horns are starting to show.

    January 29, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. Mauri

    The more we see of him, the less bright his image. Thank you CNN for putting this photo out there showing her as she really is.

    January 29, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  14. KC, Missouri

    Ha! Ha ! This is NOTHING ...gosh. Get over it !

    She would not get my vote if she would be the only one on the ballot! She does only well when people feel sorry for her. Fact: If Billary would be the nominee we will lose the general election – and my family and I would vote for whatever Republican. We lost the prior elections despite the best conditions for a Democratic win (King George II) ... the Democrats will never win with a split party and a polarizing candidate – do the math ! Nooooo problem with a femaile candidate – a problem with Billary !

    OBAMA'08

    January 29, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. Mia, Stafford, VA

    Judy Penn lets try a little honesty Barack was never getting your vote. People kill me with this they will not get my vote for this minor things, it says to me and I could be wrong but your support was soft or never existed!

    January 29, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. Hillary Supporter

    This is the man you think is ready to lead our country and the world? Thought he wanted to unite everyone, meet with all world leaders good and bad, yet can't shake Senator Clinton's hand at the State of the Union???? What exactly has Obama done for women over his career? Or is this a strong picture of what's to come….

    So much for bringing everyone together…….

    January 29, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. Randy

    Obama is such a hypocrite..he hides behind the mask of Hope......and people fall for him....he should grow up and start behaving like an adult and should let everyone know that he too is a politician..that he is no diffrent from any of the other presidential candidate.
    Also, he needs to learn some manners of how to treat people...you don't turn your back on someone like that...that is so rude of him. I agree with the commnets here,; If Hillary had done the same thing it would have been headlines on all news channels...the media is so pro-Obama..all you hear in the media is praising Obama like he is the lord.
    Media, you shuld be ashamed of yourself for being so partisan to Obama. Do your job of fair reporting and let people decide.

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. Felly

    Hillary's supporters are naive. This is much ado about nothing. Hillary needs to go cook for Bill. During the State of the Union address, Hillary was fighting sleep deprivation. She agreed to be intervied by CNN, and later canceled with no explanation. It's unethical and does not make her presidential. Imagine someone that bolted to Nashville, TN to thank her supporters in SC. She is very ungrateful and a Flip Flopper.

    And to CNN, this is uncalled for. Please report substance, and not photo ops that does not meet journalistic threshold.

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  19. Onari

    Obama, this is a childish behavior. How can you unite the country if you can not have the spirit of a sports man. I am surprised Obama's supporters do not see anything wrong with his behavior...this is just ludicrous!

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  20. Steve

    The Republican Party is licking its chops right now. It is in the process of uniting itself under John McCain. McCain knows it, too. Has anyone noticed the big grin on his face the last couple of days? Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is in the process of self-destruction, again. Unless the Democrats can find a way to unite itself it is doomed and we'll find another Republican Administration in the White House.

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. get truth guy

    What kind of "uniter"? he could not even stretch his hand to greet with his own party member, it is all hyperstered by Media and his supporters, empty "changes for the future" promise and fake "uniter". I fear this guy might be manufactured to the presidency by some left wing folks and media.

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  22. maxwellinformed

    People are so hypocritical. We're talking about Hillary Clinton. Not exactly the poster child for Miss Manners

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. Alex

    You are making up some story...problems where there is none...GO...that how you make yr paycheck....shame on you..

    January 29, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. Chris Tinley

    Give me a break. This photo is just that: a snapshot in time. You Hillary supporters will look for anything to try and lift her above the fray. The fact of the matter is that she has brought much of this animosity on herself. Please tell me again: what exactly are her "35 years" of experience that she touts every time she opens her mouth? Go Obama!!!!

    January 29, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. Alfred D.Bills

    Sen.Clinton is by far the best choise for our country.
    GOD grant that she be elected
    Al B from Albany.

    January 29, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
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