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. Chris, NJ

    The one thing the Jessica forgot to report. Did anyone notice that "W" shook Obama's hand as he went down the aisle but didn't shake Hillary's hand. Obama must really admire the Republican party. I think that's an even better endorsement than Ted's. Oh by the way if you're going to give an endorsement speech let's be original at least and not just change the names from a speech you used with Bill Clinton during the Democratic National Convention in 92.

    January 29, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. Anony

    All I have to say is that was a very childish move on behalf of Barack Obama, who is obviously not ready to make good on each campaigns desire to run more respectful campaigns. I hope this decision comes back to bite him in the butt. I didn't know who I was going to vote for on Tuesday, but now I know it will be for Senator Clinton.

    January 29, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Jack, Syracuse, NY

    This has got to be one of the stupidest "news" stories that I've seen in a long time. Well, OK, stupidest "news" story that I've seen since last week's manufactured stories about supposed "tantrums" by Romney, or "rants" by Bill Clinton, or last month's stupid stories about Hillary's cleavage or "fake tears." Why does the media have this insane need to turn every minor candidate interaction into some a stupid manufactured controversy? Why doesn't the media talk about THE ISSUES?

    January 29, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. superduper456

    How is this news? Slow day on the political front I guess.

    January 29, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Bryan

    I'm not an Obama supporter but you Hillary supporters seem nutty as she is, just by looking at your comments. Calling Obama cry baby, etc. (the only one that cried on TV was Hillary by the way). Get a life.

    January 29, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. Scott, Royal Oak, MI

    For more on just how ridiculous Hillary is, see this snippet from "The Hill":

    "In one instance Clinton appeared to gauge Obama’s response before showing her own.

    When Bush warned the Iranian government that “America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf” Obama jumped up to applaud. Clinton leaned across Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), seated to her left, to look in Obama’s direction before slowly standing.

    Now that's the kind of bold leadership we need in a president! Watch someone else and follow whatever they do!

    January 29, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. John

    Ok. Guys let us get back to our work.

    CNN is actually biased supporting and highlighting ONLY Obama's(good) news. They are very much focusing(bad) on Bill and Hillary.

    I hope people of america won't forget the past they enjoyed while Bill's regime.

    I am not saying Obama is a bad guy. The one thing media is avoiding on his was not telling his weakness much. I am not sure how he is going to handle the pressure.

    Even in the debates he is bit struggling to answer many of the questions. He has to gain some more experience before running for big post.

    I am sure he will definitely feel the pressure while facing global leaders.

    January 29, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. Tom

    Is this how Obama is going to react if he is president and dealing with world leaders that he does not respect., turn your back and just ignore. Myabe this is one of the big changes that he is promoting. Oh yeah, he's the one we want.

    January 29, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. checkandbalance

    hey stillvotingmyway:

    "EIGHTY PERCENT of the black vote stayed with their race" –stillvotingmyway

    check facts much?

    75% of the white vote in the sc democratic primary was split between the two white candidates. SEVENTY-FIVE.

    if "at least fifty percent" of black voters must cast their ballot for someone of a different race to "cross racial lines" then why must only 25% of white voters cast their votes for someone of a different race to "cross racial lines", as you illogically deduced in your thinly veiled racist comment?

    i reckon you'll be voting your way–for a person of your race. let me know when you're ready to cross racial lines and stop referring to minority populations in the second person.

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Scientific

    See Judy Penn's comment. It's people like her that remind me daily during this presidential race that we are not, in fact, a serious country.

    People have fought, bled and died for us to have the right to vote, and this silly woman's not going to vote for Obama because he had his back turned on Clinton when she gave Kennedy a handshake.

    Grow up, people.

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. Susan

    To Mia, Stafford, VA
    That was not seconds, Mia....Hillary was there for minutes...I believe CNN was saying 5 minutes......that's a very very long time for an awkward moment like that. Obama should be using his head a little better, to prove that he can unite America and lead this beautiful country!

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. paul

    I do believe with all Obama's talk of civility, coming together, change and all those other "fluff" words he loves to toss about, he is showing that he just like the lot of them. He is full of ego and stubborn as a mule. He should have turned and given a handshake. He should have even just acknowledged her. It was childish.

    As well, so much for saying that you plan to change the guard but Obama is proud to scream from the highest mountain his endorsement of the political dynasty of the Kennedy clan that has been in office since poppa Joe bough JFK his first seat in politics and from Kerry who has so entrenched himself in political life that he can't make a change without checking his approval ratings first.

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. twan

    ummm, what does this have to do with the WAR, Healthcare, the Economy?

    I mean, Teddy and Hillary are friends...Barack is not Hillary's friend after what they did to him (to no avail) in South Carolina. He respected the "moment between them" and as the report states Sen. McClaskill got his attention.....

    is this breaking news? I don't think so...

    A picture does tell a thousand words; even if those words are mostly apart of our imagination!

    whatever!

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. mc

    Clinton -08 NEVER OBAMA (I'd rather stay home -I promise)

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. John M

    Obama = Uniter? Obama = Change? After this kind of behavior and Ted Kennedy's endorsement question is what kind of uniter and what kind of change? I don't like him...He is playing us all.

    January 29, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. S.

    How is this news? Seriously.

    January 29, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Suz D, NYC

    Ike & Ellery are bringing up GREAT points...what about what's going on in the rest of the world??

    CNN: Let's cover this Election the smart way...who is out there talking about the issues that affect people here and abroad? ANYONE?

    January 29, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Joseph DeSousa

    He is not man enough to be president simply put.....

    Like I have said many times I would vote republican before I would ever vote for such a spoiled unrespectfull individual.

    He should be ashamed of such demeaner!

    January 29, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Sooner4Obama

    You are all dumb!! Fools I say!

    January 29, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  20. Linda

    Is this TMZ or CNN the so called most trusted news in the world. Seriously... nothing better than this. I mean comeon... and why is everyone reacting so harshly... we have better things to worry about then how Obama looked at Hillary.

    January 29, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  21. Ingram

    CNN, KNEW THIS WOULD BRING OUT THE RACE BAITER'S GANG. IF THIS CONTINUES, BILLARY IS GETTING BUSTED IN NOVEMBER BECAUSE A LOT OF OBAMA SUPPORTERS WILL SIT THIS ONE OUT.

    JUST GO AHEAD AND DARE US TO STAY HOME, BILLARY GANG MEMBERS. JUST GO AHEAD AND CONTINUE. SHE CANNOT WIN WITHOUT OBAMA'S SUPPORT THIS NOVEMBER.

    January 29, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  22. linda, OKC OK

    i wouldn't want to talk to someone who's been trashing me behind back. so he snubbed her and she deserved it.

    OBAMA 2008!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  23. Rohan

    I agree with you Joe...totally. Obama will be totally shredded by the republicans in the general election, if he were to become the nominee. Just one name is enough to bring him and swift boat him by the republicans.
    REZKO...REZKO....REZKO

    January 29, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  24. Joe C. from Flagstaff, AZ

    You know, when I was growing up I was always in awe of CNN. It seemed like such a source of integrity and wisdom. I'm not sure if things have changed or if I've just now in my adulthood noticed the trivial tabloid nature of many of the things you now report on... including this irresponsible story.

    January 29, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  25. jay

    Ike or whatever your name is stop displaying your ignorance. what does Kenya have to do with this issue.

    January 29, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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