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. debubol

    I mean, why not capture the moment when Hilary was acting like a drama queen. And was Obama supposed to interfere between Hillary and the senates and crave for attention. What an immature thing for the "big " cable network to post this as an image. I can capture 10,000 images or "moments" that can make anyone bad. I mean are the above folks who condemnded Obama who are going to vote for a leader. I mean this whole page looks nothing but a canvas portrayed by a 3 year old. Obama turned his back against Hilary for 5 minutes....Big deal. I think it is another way of the network telling the foolish people how to think. Come on people. Is this how you choose a president. ? I think it is the voters who need to be mature. And look at Obama's face, that is exactly how a person of morale behaves, and look at Hillary that Big - I have the urge to be a president look. If this pictures anything, then it will be the respect Obama has for the friendship between Hillary and Kennedy. But too immature of the "big" network company.

    January 29, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. JoMomma

    Obama is acting immature in turning the cold shoulder. Although I am not fond of any of these three, a true statesman would have faked a greeting. Is this a preview of the way he is going to act toward foreign dignitaries? I don't trust him to be diplomatic in the world theater. Hussein Obama has a lot to learn!

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. A-kay

    *Sigh*

    CNN is lame for trying to spin a complete NON-moment, and most of the comments here are lame for desperately trying to look into something that wasn't even there. Thankfully, voters are way smarter than the trolls populating this section. If Obama doesn't get elected it'll be because they agree more with Hillary's views, not because of a silly over-exaggeration like this.

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. Susan

    Hillary Clinton has trashed Obama's religion, family, record and his name. I did not see that Obama snubbed her. She is a nasty woman..what I saw was Obama trying not to interfere. He knew this was going to be difficult moment with Senator Kennedy. I didn't see Hillary running over to shake Obama's hand. Plus we saw only a small snippet of time. We didn't see the whole picture. The media frequently does this. Let's get real here. These people are human not super human...I didn't detect anything for Obama's body language that he was rude or childish.

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. lorrie

    i THINK IT WAS very DISRESPECTFUL OF oBAMA . Is that what he calls being Christian? He is really acting like a child that won the softball game and thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Hillary made me pround to be a new yorker.

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. checkthisout

    Typical Behaviour of Slum Lawyers, I would Imagine.

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. deeanna jacobs

    Obama is a snob and it showed big time last night.

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. michael

    are you all serious read the story. Senator kennedy had to jump up quickly to shake Hillary's hand .Hillary walked across the aisle to talk to some one else who was sitting in fornt of Obama. This is a move of CNN to try to take the sting out of Kennedy's endorsement it will not work. Hillary was ignoring them both the person she was talking to was sitting in front of Obama , Hillary did not extend a hand to Obama or Kennedy. To have Obama a leave to give them the time to speak privately, I call that respect. This is not a story this is trickery. CNN SUPPORY CLINTON AND MCCANN JUST WATCH THEM.

    January 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  9. Cindy, Calfiornia

    "Of course she'd be the bigger person in all this."

    January 29, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. bbkenn

    I do find it interesting, albiet trivial, that Obama did not take the opportunity, even in a small way, just to shake her hand. It would have played well especially after the big endorsements.

    I find it interesting also, that this was reported on given CNN's incredible bias towards Obama. I was surprised that they showed him in any negative light as they seem to delight in doing to Hillary.

    I am undecided at the moment, but have been turned off of CNN's blatant favortism and salivating at the downfall of Hillary Clinton. The only really reasonable voices there are Jeffrey Toobin and Bill Schneider.

    January 29, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  11. nate

    what would you do if someone who bashed you and your record were acting fake ...smiling..laughing and talking to the very person who just endorsed you as a great leader?

    January 29, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  12. Sam Gonzales

    Hypocracy at its best. Obama doesn't seem a bit interested in Unity here. How could Hillary shake his hand or even aknowledge him when his back is turned intentionally engaged in coversation meant to be a scapegoat as to avoid Hillary. He got the big endorsement from an "old" political family simultanously touting change. I love how the media is spinning this around. Perception. He had the chance to be a man, he had the chance to take her hand, he had the chance to prove to the American people to stand there and make the gesture...yet again...he opted to "VOTE PRESENT". What a shame!!

    January 29, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  13. GROW UP OBUMMER!

    NOBAMA NO B.O. NO WAY!

    GO HILLARY! GIVE 'EM HILL!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  14. Michiel

    I for one am sick and tired of hearing about the "anointed one" and the "wicked witch". I am sick and tired of the media and the Democratic National Commitee trying to cram their choices down our throats. Hillary and Obama are both equally repugnant to me in that they are both part of the polical machinery ruining this country. Both are beholden to others in Washington. Does anyone honestly believe these endorsements come without strings attached. That these people are altruistic? Give me a break. Obama accepted money from a man in Illinois who has been under investigation for quite some time. Now he give the money to charity, $80000. at last count. We in Illinois have been hearing about this man for quite some time, why didn't Obama know this? Is this really the person we want running this country. As to the childish antics after last nights comments from Curious George on the state of the union, I would expect nothing less from these two candidates. As for being able to unite this country, please! Neither one of these people will be able to unite this country, both are equally polarizing. After 7 years of Curious George's reign of terror, I will support the Democratic candidate, whoever that may be, however, in the primary, I will vote for JOHN EDWARDS.

    January 29, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. Kris

    Obama supporters, just answer this question: If Hillary would have done this to Obama would you have been all over her for it? Of course you would, and please be honest about it.

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. Nita

    Sandra I think hate is such a strong word to use and it seems to me that on both sides of the coin Obama and Hillary supporters you people are just going too far. Freedom to choose, you guys are no better than the candidates and their campaign bickering with each other, negative remarks some I am finding very racists.
    People are dying in Iraq, Kenya and any other country that wars are being fought and all you care about is something as trival as a handshake or a glance. Americans are dying in these wars so that all people in our country continue to have the freedom to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Ameicans you keep feeding off the media and the media keeps leading you astray and when I read these comments I think it is sad what our children's future will be like.

    Sandra and all of you like her this country needs to come together, not divided because to me it seems that you forget this country has a rainbow of American citizens they come from various countries but they are Americans. Respect thier choices and get on with your life. Make your choice and don't worry about your neighbor's choice Try reaching out to each other, whatever happen to love thy neighbor. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU
    A COUNTRY DIVIDED

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. manubi

    Everybody can spin this piece of news however you want. Why don't we let these candidates talk about their positions? I really want to know how each candidate will IMPROVE OUR ECONOMY/HEALTH/EDUCATION SYSTEM and WITHDRAW OUR TROOPS FROM IRAQ!

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. Carrie

    I was disappointed at the behavior of Sen Obama. As the Feb 5th primary approaches I am more sure now that I will cast my vote for Sen. Clinton, Up until now I was leaning heavily toward Obama. I have to look to the future and what kind of President I want again in the Oval office. We have had 7 years of the most divided polilitics I can ever remember in my 65 yrs.I have witnessed a long terrible war due to pettiness and get even attitude and I do not want another Pesident who harbors a get revenge personality I voted fot the first time for JFK and of course was very impressed with the Kennedy endorsment. And until I saw the interchange or lack of on Obama's part ,I felt I had made up my mind. Wrong!
    I felt very let down at the lack of manners at his turning away . She was the bigger of the two!

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  19. CJ

    Gosh, I hope voters aren't basing their voting decision on this useless, trivial bit of gossip "news" as some have mentioned above. I mean, c'mon people: unless you were there yourself observing the whole interacion between Obama and Clinton, you have no right making judgements on either candidate....

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. Rachel

    How could you say she is trying to force her way into the picture (Edward-Texas). She is saying Hello to people, even Kennedy had enough respect to turn and say Hello. What a baby Obama is. It nothing like going to a bar, it's when your nose if stuck to high in the air and you think your better then everything which he thinks he is. What a fake.

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. Steph

    Will this be for Obama what the scream was for Howard Dean? 😉

    January 29, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  22. Carolyn

    If Obama is elected president is he going to act like this when other country's have negitive remarks about him?I think this was very inmature.

    January 29, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  23. Coming Awakening

    One of the biggest problems with America is the media. How do we solve this problem when it is not in their best interest to mention it? Who polices the media? How do we know that they don't spin things because they have favorites? Or because a certain candidate will put a hurting to their advertisers? For example Ron Paul. Do you know he probably won Louisiana primary last week? Of course not. Because they don't want him in the White House. It would hurt them too much.

    I wish we could have a public funded national press to cover the story and not try to create them like they have over the past 15-20 years. It's not news, it's news-tertainment.

    Let's see if they post this comment. Test #1.

    comingawakening @ gmail. com

    January 29, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. GMB

    Tom, PA,

    Any excuse will do, huh! LOL!

    January 29, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. greg

    does any one care that obama bought a house for 300k below the market??? How did this happen?? Was the fact that his neighbor RESKO, helped him? wink wink

    January 29, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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