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. Ben

    give me a break. this looks like a perfect opportunity for a bunch of arragent people to jump on their soap box. this doesn't mean anything, don't place judgement on such a meaningless encounter. did you expect obama and hillary to give eachother high fives? this is a heated primary and it very well should be- look what's happening to our country.

    January 29, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Roger Peacock

    Give me a break! Obama has been practically screaming all along about having to change the 'old' ways of Washington and now he is gushing over his endorsement by the 2nd longest serving senator who has been in the 'old' guard for almost 50 years!! That is definitely flip-flopping and politics as usual!

    January 29, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. kay

    Is this the most important thing that came out of the SOTU. How about talking about some of the issues that Pres. Bush discussed. This is ridiculous. There are several angles of this shot that show that Senator Obama is with Senator McCaskill.

    January 29, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. Kevin, Illinois

    Hillary let her husband make racial slams against Barack for ever a week without reigning him in... I wouldnt speak to her either. She doesnt care about anyone but herself. And for everyone thinking that Bill and Hillary isnt in this for Powerso they can get even with the Republicans for Impeaching Bill... you will all find out if she is elected. I feel sorry for this country. We are sliding backwards because we dont cease opportunities to evolve.

    January 29, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. susants

    If he turned away from Clinton, who could blame him? He showed the same repulsion at the end of the last debate. It is normal to recoil from people who hurt you. Politicians usually manage to cover up. Obama is human and not a phony.
    I expect, if he is nominated by the Democrats, we shall have a woman Vice Presidential candidate–one who made it on her own abilities and not her husband's coattails or by crucifying opponents.

    January 29, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. Matrix

    You are going to vote for someone wether he shook Hilary's hand or not?
    Please!!! Hilary did not make any effort to shake Obama hand either. They bothpretty much ignored each other. Read the artical. Now at the end of the State of the Union Obama and Bush shook hands....hmmmmmm...What does that mean?

    January 29, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. Nadira

    I wonder if the Kennedy's are inspired by their chosen son action!
    It sticks, it is BUSH # 3 IN THE MAKING.

    January 29, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. Sandra

    Oh, Obama supporters, why do you HATE Hillary so much? I can understand if she just isn't your candidate, but I don't understand your sheer malice towards her. You couldn't stand to be in the same roome with her? Really? What has she ever done to deserve your scorn? I think your misogyny is rearing it's head. Do a little self-evaluation: if this contest were between two black men would you be hating Clinton so much?

    January 29, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. Geesh

    With all this negativity, I wonder how any of you people get anything done....

    January 29, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  10. Nap time... Cookies later

    Wow CNN, This is so third grade. Like totally.

    Seems like we are trying to elect the next American Idol instead of the next leader of our country.

    It slightly concerns me that the Repubs are embracing Obama (including Cowboy Bush)… One could argue that Obama brings folks together. Well, that's one way to look at it. But to be honest, there are so many ways to look at it if you're really looking.

    I'm leary of anyone that Bush embraces. One would think that a democrat who is threatening to change the system would run into resistance from the "Old White Boy" club. Or, wait… Obama never said WHAT he was going to change actually. He's rather abstract with his speeches. He lets us fill in the blank from our own ideals of what he's going to change, and it's working – or so it seems.

    January 29, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. tracey

    The true Obama shines through! Obama is all rhetoric and hot air...not even a gentleman at heart.

    Hillary has a real fight on Her hands to win on Febuary 5th, but I beleive the people know who the best candidate is...and will vote accordinglly.

    Obama has tried to make this about race, blaming it on Clintons. But, it is obvious that Obama is playing the race card to turn Black Americans away from Hilllary. The Clintons are not racist people and even the Black Americans that are buying into this crap know the truth.

    Go Hillary Go!

    January 29, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. Carole

    To answer "Stillvotingmyway" what about all of the white people that vote for the white candidates. It's that old fashioned Good 'ol boy thinking that makes this country look bad. all 15% percent of us?! Are you that ignorant that you think our vote doesn't count? This is the 21st century, time to hang up your white hood buddy!

    January 29, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  13. Tom, New York, NY

    Actions always speak louder than words!!!

    January 29, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  14. Scientific

    This is not news! Give me a break, people.

    January 29, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  15. tmd

    Leave it to the media to blow this out of proportion!

    January 29, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. TrueIndependent

    Nominate Hillary:

    Against John McCain, JM will win hands down – no contest – All Republicans will unite and there will be a lot of crossover Dems and millions of people like me – Independents.

    Against Mitt Romney – It will be Old vs. New, the New will always win.
    Even I would prefer slimebag Romney to having adulterous Bill return as a co-President.

    Dems will be out of the Whitehouse for another 8 years. Another 8 more years of the Iraq war. And we will blame you DEMS.

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  17. Jen

    Obama should have greeted her and not pretend as if he didn't see her.

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  18. Cliff CA

    So, Mia from Stafford, this is the spin Obama's handlers are putting on his rude, immature, boorish behavior last night . . . that "he was attempting to let Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Clinton have their moment of conversation?" What a load of bull!

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  19. Asians for Hillary in Chicago

    Open up your eyes, Obama people!.
    This is how your president-wanna-be is going to behave.
    He acts like a little sissy. He can't stand the heat. He's the one who should wear skirt and pee sitting down. I can't beleive you guys are going to elect this idiot to be your president. He's not going to be my president for sure.

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  20. Jax

    I can't believe this is what CNN decided to cover on the political ticker. I go to TMZ or Gawker for this kind of ridiculousness...not CNN.

    Disappointed.

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  21. Dekonti

    Ellery, get you facts correct. Obama has said he is running as an African American candidate. However, to borrow from Colin Powell, he is a candidate for the presidency who happens to be African American. Additionally, Obama has made multiple statements on Kenya. However, he has refused to overshadow the State Department which speaks for the Government.

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  22. NZ

    The Future,

    You claim that people are upset to have a black man in the White House!!!!! Let me explain some logic to you. I grew in an all white neighborhood, faced racism that you cannot even imagine, have been called the "N" word many times, even by people who were supposed to be my friend.

    Trust me, I WANT A BLACK PRESIDENT!!! I WANT A MINORITY PRESIDENT!!!! I want a president who looks at things the way I do and feels the way I did and had expeeriences the way I did. OBAMA IS NOT THAT PRESIDENT!!!!!!!! Unfortunately, the US is in its worst shape ever, both internationally and at home. We need a president who can bring change and build our economy and establish our name back into the work. WE need someone with character, the best policies, and someone who is aggresive yet companssionate.

    Sorry The Future, but Obama cannot do this, I have looked at all the candidates objectively and Hillary is the only one who can do this. PUT ASIDE RACE people and vote for the best. It is funny though, how quickly people seem to forget how much the Clintons have done for the Black community!

    January 29, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. Angie Wheeler

    This is not news and like someone already said; "much ado about nothing".
    What a waste of space.

    January 29, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. CONCERNED

    I have done fact checks.. THIS IS NO RUMOR....

    January 29, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. shegirl

    Has it occured to anyone that Senator Obama's back was already turned when that photo was taken? Is it possible that he didn;t even know that Senator Clinton was approaching Senator Kennedy? Has it occured to anyone that given the dirty politics that Senator Clinton practices, that she knew if she approached Senator Kennedy while Senator Obama's back was turned that there would be a photograph taken and she could use it to say that Senator Obama spurned her. I don't trust anything that woman does and she may have seen an opportunity to distort things again.

    January 29, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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