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. Johnathan

    Re: OBama/Clinton at SoU. So what!!!

    What has this to do with forestalling a recession, economic slump and "taking a fresh look at the way ahead"?

    January 29, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Alison, FL

    Wow...you Obama haters are really close-minded...You are missing the whole point...I hope for the sake of our country that this is just a smiggin of what Americans really feel. So I guess everything that Billary did can be forgiven now? Oh God please help us all!

    January 29, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  3. K. Berry 06

    Please stop.......this blog is full of people who are judgemental....Hillary and Obama are good people who loves this country.....I hope a that we a common people do not use 5 min meeting define the next President.......The issues are what matter......

    Before we all forget....SC debate neither H or O displayed what I wanted to see in my Commander-in-Chief

    So both H and O supporter get over yourself....no one is perfect.....

    January 29, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  4. Time after time

    The worst of this is that Barack may not be particularly friendly. Who cares? I have a feeling he and Hillary get along just fine and that Hillary, who is looking in a different direction, did not give Barack the signal that she wanted to shake his hand. Have you ever been next to someone who is being greeted enthusiastically? It feels funny to just stand there.

    I may vote for Hillary, but I don't get the warm & fuzzies about her. I may not vote for Barack, but he strikes me as much more genuine and inspirational.

    January 29, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  5. Maya

    Great reporting by CNN's Jessica Yellin. Why does the media obsess over every thing these candidates do? They are only human, and it's clear to everyone that they don't like each other. So, what? Jessica Yellin = Captain Obvious. Great reporting!

    Besides, no one whines and throws more tantrums than right-wing conservatives. For all the people Obama-bashing in these comments, take a look at all the fits Bill Clinton is throwing, and all of the God-awful whining he has been doing while derailing his wife's campaign. Shut up, already.

    January 29, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  6. Lisa

    I will vote for Obama. I am not pleased at him for turning his back on Hillary justified or not. He is bigger than that even if she deserves being snubbed after what her and her husband have been pulling!

    January 29, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. Ted

    So so sad to see Hillary being a, dare I say, bigger man and swallowing her pride by reaching out and accepting Kennedy's hand. Obama missed it completely and resorted to high school antics and this is suppose to help me want to choose him to be my President? This sealed it for me, it's Hillary all the way now baby!

    January 29, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. Susan

    CNN is correct to braodcast this case. It is not a small thing, as some of you wrote. This is very important for all Amaricans, to know more about the candidates and make the right decision.

    January 29, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. AC

    Now if the rest of us can just snub her too, the Country will be better off!

    January 29, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Mary Sullivan

    Obama main speech theme is REACHING OUT! He will go anywhere at any time to talk and consult ! He will BRING THE COUNTRY TOGETHER!

    This picture demonstrates hie maturity!

    Yesterdays ; support from Senator Kennedy(over 40 years in Washington) shows Obama NOT cutting off ties with OLD WASHINGTON:

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. lkj

    Obama/Gore 08......

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. John

    Somebody needs to shake some sense into these two, they need to realize whoever is not the presidential nominee will be the best choice for the vice president. An Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket would be awesome, but if they keep this up it is going to lock in Mr. Edwards for VP.

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  13. Jude

    Igniorant Americans, 263 comments have been made so far on this nonesense issue of someone not acknowleging the other.

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Ant N Texas

    Please, Kennedy just spent the day slapping BILLARY around like a rag doll, so Obama wants to give her a moment to speak to Kennedy. Big Deal!!! To BILLARY supporter who say Obama is a baby and is this the way he will treat other leaders? How stupid are you? What will BILLARY do? We all know, CRY!!!

    These real times require REAL LEADERSHIP from DAY 1 – Obama 08

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. NZ

    Okay...let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt...and he gave ted and Hillary a moment by turning away as his camp have proclaimed. IS OBAMA DEAF?????? Did he not hear when they had completed the coversation??? A polite man, a uniter would have then turned around at the end of the converstaion and then greeted her, as did EVERYONE around him. But he did not......Everyone keep saying look past the color for Obama....but we now she his true colors!!!

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. E.J. Wolf

    This is nothing more than a controversy created by the media....if Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton had shook hands, it would have been just as big a story.

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. Patty

    This is the reason Obama will not be President. He is so immature.

    January 29, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. Farah

    I find it DEEPLY IRONIC that Obama is always talking about "uniting this country", yet he doesn't even have the common courtesy to acknowledge his opponent!

    YEAH HILLARY!! 🙂

    January 29, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  19. Diane

    Why do we care? Is this going to help the economy, or get the health care mess straight or repair our image around the world. This is nonsense and the rest of us who are name-calling and doing the snotty little nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah to Clinton and Obama, or whomever are just perpetuating the problem. I think we should all grow up and learn about the issues and vote on the basis of who is going to solve the problems the country has. Forget the kindergarten tactics of name-calling and pushing and shoving.

    January 29, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  20. Paul

    Grow up...all of you! Which one of you will go to work today and make sure you speak to the coworker that you know hates your guts.....You too CNN reporter, if you don't grow up and print something worthy, I will turn you off just like I turned off Hillary

    January 29, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. Alison, FL

    Nap time...not sure where you got that Bush supports Obama..you were not watching last night when Bush refused to shake Obama's hand when he reached out several times....the GOP's want Hillary because they know they can control her. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!

    January 29, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Concerned Citizen

    I do not think I have ever seen the poise under pressure that Hillary Clinton constantly shows. I believe it is absolutely incredible. She had a horrible few days, and she exhibited the qualities that I personally feel make her the best candidate. I know that the media is happy to have a new darling, and the coverage of Barack Obama puts it on display. Hillary Clinton is being berated consistently by the republicans, her fellow candidates, the media, and the blogs. It is just sad that America is behaving like this. We need a TRUE uniter and leader. It is truly sad. Thank you.

    January 29, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  23. patriot76

    Obama understands that the fulfillment of his current ambition depends upon demonizing Hillary Clinton.

    January 29, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. liz

    I agree with all of Ellery comments above. Obama is very immature. What is Obama's views on the terrible, atrocious conditions in Africa?

    January 29, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  25. Gelowims

    Only in America can we find such immaturity, both of comments and commentors. There are real lives being destroyed and the only thing that some of our good citizens seem to care about is who spoke to whom. It might be helpful if we all attended some school that would teach us the real issues. The media has a job to do in reporting the news, but this act is a long way from being news worthy. Therefore, I am happy to bestow my Dart for the Day on CNN. They really deserve it. And now for some real news......The war in Iraq..............The housing slump.............Winter storm blasts the west coast......................

    January 29, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 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