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

    Wow, leave it to the Clinton News Network to spin a total non-story.

    He was actually being polite. Are you telling me that you would have stood between Kennedy and Clinton and listened to their conversation.

    If ANYTHING, Clinton should have approached both Kennedy and Obama since they were standing together. But she ignored him.

    January 29, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    WHY DO PEOPLE WHINE ABOUT PETTY ISSUES LIKE THIS?

    January 29, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. George from Minneapolis

    So, he is suppose to go out of his way to speak to someone who lies about him ?? I think not.

    January 29, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. veronica lynne

    To the comment from someone saying she should have shaken his hand–I saw the entire photo (this is clipped) last night–he is clapping and he TURNED HIS BACK on her when she shook Ted Kennedy's hand.
    A picture speaks a thousand words about him as a man, and I can see that his supporters here are trying to blow this off as nothing.
    But it is something, and they know if Hillary had done this their orders would have been to be all over her for it.
    Hillary has my vote.

    January 29, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. columbus

    Welcome dems to OUR world where OUR President Bush and every single thing he has done has been trashed by the media RELENTLESSLY. Now the Clintons are getting trashed by the media non-stop. And the media does an excellent job. All they have to do is keep making the Clintons look like the bad guys, and most of you sheep will follow – as you already have. All the media has to do is paint Obama in this wonderful light – even though the guy is clearly clueless about what the ENTIRE country is looking for – it's pretty evident that being endorsed by left wingers is NOT and NEVER HAS won any Independents or Republicans over. When was the last time we voted for a liberal President????? And just because Ted Kennedy backs someone, is that supposed to be good?

    January 29, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. Sarah L, Fayetteville, AR

    First of all, this is stupid. Second, did Hillary try to speak with Obama? Who cares? Didn't she choose to sit far away from him?

    Honestly, as an Obama supporter, I wouldn't give a rat's behind if Hillary chose not to speak with him during a 5 minute period. Grow up.

    January 29, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  7. Shrum

    As usual, Billary planned this just to get the Obama haters to complain even more.

    She is after the sympathy vote once again and she will get it from the Obama haters.

    I am guess the people of the "Diverse" party, the Democrats, are letting their true colors show.

    I can see what"s happening and it reinforces my low opinion of LIBERALS. You are not kidding anybody; I hear people talking on the street and they think Billary is race baiting and looking to divide this country for political gain for her own BIG BUTT.

    I hope you people of the "DIVERSE PARTY" will continue to show your true feelings so that Romney can win the election. Go ahead and savage Obama so that african americans can stay home this November when the Billary and Bubba Show is on stage.

    Yesterday I heard an African American woman say she now understands why the so called "First Black President" could not find any minorities for the Supreme Court; no hispanics, no asians, no african americans, none, nada.

    January 29, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  8. Scott

    Wow – All they need to do is mention Obama on this ticker and look at all the people come. Maybe Obama should just apologize to the Hillary supporters for stealing their moment. I guess no one told him it was Hillary's turn.

    January 29, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. democrat_2008

    Obama knows exactly what he's doing. He's a master Poker Player. He plays everyone. What jerk!

    January 29, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. Sharon

    Finally CNN is hearing what the REST of us think!!!!!!!!

    Now, can you please not run from all this and do not turn this in to another Hillary Bashing????? Obama was wrong.....watch the video.....

    Why did CNN get rid of James Carville????? The ONLY one who would stand up for Hillary????????????????????

    January 29, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. nate

    wow. HILLARY stayed with her man to become President even after you know what..and now people are bashing Obama because he turned his back on someone who promotes LIES about him...TOO FUNNY BILLARY FANS!

    January 29, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. Gee

    Yep, Obama requires people to pacify and support him. Without that he cannot even act grown up in public.

    Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. Ted

    Mommmm, she's looookiiing at meeeeeee.......

    January 29, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  14. Elena

    You respect her for what?! Being just as petty and obnoxious as Obama. This is ridiculous and it's hurting them both, as well as the party. Chill out, you're on the same side!

    January 29, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. veronica lynne

    To the comment above from someone saying she should have shaken his hand–I saw the entire photo (this is clipped) last night–he is clapping and he TURNED HIS BACK on her when she shook Ted Kennedy's hand.
    A picture speaks a thousand words about him as a man, and I can see that his supporters here are trying to blow this off as nothing.
    But it is something, and they know if Hillary had done this their orders would have been to be all over her for it.
    Hillary has my vote.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  16. Dan - Austin,TX

    Think about this,

    When Obama lost Neveda he flew home , and didn't give congrats to Hillary at all. he left his own people hanging and didn't even give a speach.

    When Hillary lost Iowa and South Carolina, she gave speaches to her supporters, and she even called Obama personally and gave him congrats. To me that says a lot about what type of person were voting for.

    He's a sore sport, he has no grace. He is Bush in another a different party. Why do you think he wanted to shake his hand so bad??

    January 29, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Nikole

    Funny how no one cares that she reached OVER Obama to shake hands with Kennedy. I would back up out of the way too.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. Greg

    Actually, who was being more phony? Obama, who actually showed his disdain for Clinton or Clinton who is greeting Uncle Teddy with that "Stepford Wife" smile? The only thing missing is her giving Teddy a kiss and whispering in his ear, "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart."

    NOTE to CNN: If you really want to be "the most trusted" then do away with this tabloid fodder. And while you're at it, please tell Lou Dobbs that we get it. He's aginst immigration. OK. WE GOT THE POINT. MOVE ON.

    I used to think Lou was putting on an act. Now I think "the Act" is puting Lou on.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Carole CA

    player9: You referred (in caps) to "ALL YOU STUPID CLINTON SUPPORTERS". Really? Better be careful who you call "stupid". Look who you're supporting.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. notwatching

    CNN the Clinton News Network you make me sick !

    January 29, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. CP, Duluth, MN

    Interesting...892 comments on this "non-issue"...How many people died in Kenya in the last 24 hours? OK...maybe that's a bit too recent of an issue...let's try Darfur, or China (with the ongoing storms)...THIS is what needs to change...myopia seems to be setting in again and we should be focusing on keeping our sights on our world...
    Happenings on the international stage are real and do have an impact on us, whether, or not, we choose to acknowledge their existence.

    CNN, I realize this has got sensational value...Would you choose responsibility over "hits"? CNN International, surely, must be a completely different company!

    January 29, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. charlotte

    Even boxers shake hands and come out swinging. Very rude and immature.

    January 29, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. mike

    grow up Obama, It was a sure snub, and you want to be president.

    January 29, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. Tim, Seattle

    Let's be real here Greg...We're talking about the Clintons, some of the most corrupt, ambition-driven politicians on record. The only reason they're not behind bars is they have incredible lawyers...

    January 29, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  25. Pam

    Tink! Tink! Tink! It looks like another gem just fell off his crown.

    January 29, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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