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. Helen

    I just love how the obama supporters say NO BIG DEAL , but how different these comments would be if it were turned around...LOL

    January 29, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. anonymous

    The comments seem to be one-sided.... did Hillary put her hounds online? or are people really that hateful toward another human being whom God made?

    CNN, this type of reporting is truly not necessary... there are far more important news worthy event to inform the public about. Please be little more discriminate about what you report.

    January 29, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  3. Gerald Lush

    Re the pic of Clinton greeting Kennedy and Obama looking the other way, I do not se it as being an ackward situation for Obama – on the contrary it would appear to be a victorious moment for Obama to be with Mr. Kennedy who was fully supporting him. It's amazing how the Media "PLAY" with pictures and the "Power of suggestion". In the pic I certainly did not see any indication on Obama's face that he was snubing Clinton or that he was uncomfortable in the situation. I don't think he's the kind of man who would be intimadated by it. I think Clinton felt she needed the linelight with Mr. Kennedy.

    January 29, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. Bob

    Hey Joojo, you said Obama calls himself a "Uniter", maybe he meant "URITER"! Lol, I agree.

    January 29, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. snow

    IS THIS THE KIND OF BEHAVIOR WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM THE UNITER?? TRY TO TRANSFER THIS SITUATION ONTO THE WORLD PLATFORM. BTW ALISON OF FLORIDA, I DID NOT SEE THE PRESIDENT REFUSING TO SHAKE OBAMA;S HAND LAST NIGHT. I WONDER HOW THAT MUST HAVE FELT!!

    PICTURE IF HILLARY DID THIS!! OBAMA IS FAR FROM A UNITER. HE IS SO DIVISIVE AND HIS CAMP ALWAYS WAIT FOR MIS-SLIPS FROM THE CLINTONS AND SPIN THEN WITH THE HELP OF THE MEDIA. THAT IS WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.

    January 29, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. julio

    obama needs to grow up. He needs a good mother: Hillary

    January 29, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. Med

    Actions indeed speak much louder than words. You can run but you cant hide!!

    January 29, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. jinishans

    OBAMA is the No. 1 POWER HUNGRY POLITICIAN in this entire campaign (both Dem & Rep)

    January 29, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Nextprez

    Run Obama Run!!
    This shows how immature you are!
    Running away from things all your life!

    January 29, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. JPS

    Hussein Obama...the uniter!!! Right!! Once again, his true lack of maturity and lack of readiness for the job show through again. If he is supposed to be about change and doing things differently in Washington, he is off to a great start not even being able to be cordial and respectful of your fellow Senators. If he can't reach across to shake his fellow Democrat's hand, how will he ever reach across the aisle and work with the Republicans???

    Its about time people start really questioning Obama. He loves to use the word "change" but has never given a definition to it. Obama = all 30 second soundbite, no substance!!!!

    HILLARY IN 08

    January 29, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. MM

    I do recall Obama waiting then following Bush to shake his hand.

    January 29, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. Thoughts

    I dont see what obama did wrong. You know what Most you Hillary fans problem is you ar sooooooooo easily fooled and pathetic. Seiing hillary laughing and shaking hands with people you know she is pissed at just shows how fake she is, she is no different than Bush. no wonder america always have an idiot for a president, how can america escape this spell if there are HILLARY Supporters who are blind as a bat.

    BUSH – CLINTON – BUSH – CLINTON SEE A TREND HERE. next you know bush brother is running for president after this.

    Sad, Sad

    By the way this is not news CNN... Move on

    January 29, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  13. Dan - Austin,TX

    change, hope , unity ..

    Whatever Obama, you can't even unite your own party!

    In other news , Obama, why did you push that visa through for the Iraqy that resko asked for help on? He was an enemy of the state!!!!!!!

    god we don't need another Bush , please people wake up and see the facts on this OBAMA liar!

    January 29, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Bob

    Yo Zach, no they didn't shake hands before or after; this is actual footage of this and it was discussed on the "view" this morning. Whoopie Goldberg was even downing Obummer for his behavior so do some research before you throw out these useless non-facts. We're not going to lie just to support someone.

    January 29, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. OBAMA 08

    Other news outlets are reporting Kathleen Sebelius" endorsement of Obama and this is what CNN is going with...amazing speesh she gave last night...amazing woman....

    January 29, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. Tom, PA

    GMB,

    She probably would have talked to him if his BACK WASNT TURNED!!

    January 29, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. Georgia

    Just goes to show the maturity level of the possible future leaders of our country!

    January 29, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Samson

    Unfortunately, most Americans are a gullible lot and easily led astray by superficial things. This picture is an example. Obama should have noted this a long time ago and realized that millions of wary democratic voters were sitting on the fence, deciding between Hillary and himself. That he would let this happen is a lapse in concentration; actions speak louder than words. Who knows if the momentum has shifted Hillary's way as a result. Meanwhile Brittany Spears checked in to a local clinic today....

    January 29, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. Nextprez

    Run Obama Run!

    This shows how immature you are!

    January 29, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  20. Edward-Texas

    Barack looks more like he doesn't even know she's there and Hillary looks like she's trying to force herself into the picture in an almost desperate fashion.

    Looks at the expression on her face! It's kinda like when your ex-girlfriend shows up at a bar where your hanging out with your friends.......

    January 29, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  21. Yodit

    There you again, CNN, looking for yet another angle to paint Obama in a negative picture. Who can blame Obama? Billary played the race card from the bottom of the deck; through their surrogates, spread vicious lies - primarily about his faith and his childhood indiscretions; they turned this race ugly. This is a fight for our nation's future not the Clinton legacy. BARACK THE VOTE.

    January 29, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. Jose Card - Independent

    CNN's Jessica Yellin should get a raise, but only a woman would have looked for such things.

    The voters have made up our mind on the differences between Hillary and Obama.
    Senator Ted Kennedy is absolutely right.

    This awkward social incidence paled when you compare what the Clintons said and did to Obama. He just could not believe a fellow Dem would say such nasty things to another.

    What is Obama supposed to say to Hillary?
    Congratulations on your loss?
    Hillary should have congratulated Obama on his S.C. victory and on Kennedy's endorsement. She pretends nothing had happened and the race just began as reported on CNN.com.

    January 29, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Robert

    This isn't news. More importantly, it's being played here as Obama refusing to be a uniter. It doesn't show that. Working with people across the aisle (or on the same side of the aisle in this case) is a process. You don't have to kowtow to the opposition to be a uniter.

    January 29, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  24. Ken

    The picture says it all, that Obama thinks that he is above the rest. What a joke!
    Thank you CNN for posting this here and to give the rest of us a chance to voice our opinion.

    Wake Up America! We do not want a "Rookie" for a President. We do not want a President that has NO talent, NO skills, NO experience. We want Hillary Clinton to become our next President, one that has the skills, talent and experience to start on the first day she is elected.

    The rest of you that think Obama is good for this nation, are all blind and are following Obama as if he were the Pied Piper. And we all know that story!

    America, "Watch Out", if Obama is elected, we will find our military going into Kenya and fighting another civil war.

    Ted Kennedy should be ashamed of himself for backing Obama, which in my mind a terrible mistake. Besides that, I think it is time for Ted Kennedy to retire!

    January 29, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  25. Roger

    Mr. Obama needs to stop wearing diapers.

    January 29, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
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