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. Alice in Florida

    Wow! This picture sure shows the difference in maturity levels of the two candidates. I guess experience really DOES matter!

    Baby Barack needs to grow up!!!!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. Vignesh

    ZOMG Barak turned away. What if he was looking for somebody that he was expecting or something? Hillary Clinton is against the freedom of speech, why would anybody vote for her? She wants to ban children from playing Halo 3. What kind of woman is that?

    January 29, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Bill

    I really thinks the more important things we should be talking about is Obama's record in the senate of the United States and his record in his state senate. I like his vision for the future but I don't think he has the political maturity nor the political savy to reach his goals.Maybe in 12 more yrs,if the country is still around.

    January 29, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. mvcabe

    this is the way girls act in public, haven't you been to Middle School?

    January 29, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. Ward

    If this is a Clinton talking point, Obama is in better shape than I thought!

    January 29, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Black Women in Florida for Hillary

    Hillary will get the last laugh. President Hillary Clinton '08.
    You Go Girl!!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. sharon R

    All I can say is how rude. Maybe he can't stand himself for acting the way he's been acting . I think we need to take away thier cells no one should be able to go out this week just stay in and do there senate work and learn to treat each other like brothers and sisters and not be able to see any of thier friends in the media because I said so.

    January 29, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  8. Alice in Florida

    Bob – there was a video. Your crybaby choice is exactly that – a crybaby, and that's after he's has a GOOD day. Sorry to break it to you......

    January 29, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. marie

    A president is supposed to be smiling and gracious at all times? I think that's Miss America, actually.

    I don't see the big deal about this AT ALL. They are both human. Neither acted a monster, neither acted a saint. It has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone's ability to lead. Smarten up, voters.

    January 29, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. Angela

    Thank you CNN for posting my post!!!
    you actually posted my post that was negative toward YOU>
    Wow, your winning back my respect – almost...
    Keep it up. Please.

    HILLARY for PRESIDENT.!!!!!! Yeah, baby!!!!!

    I see why you wrote this story now by looking at the amount of posts here.

    I guess that's why you get the big bucks.

    January 29, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. stan pitts pa

    Do you want a fake person in the white house? if you do vote HRC! If you want someone with a fake smile, and can pretend and lie through her teeth, then your choice for pretender-in-chief is HRC! At least when you see obama, what you see is what you get, he aint no faker like HRC! IM glad he didnt pretend or put on a fake smile, i trust him even more now at least he is real!

    January 29, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. Jeffery, New Orleans

    A picture is truly worth a thousand words and Mr. Obama comes across worse than a spoiled child. Is this really the same Commander-in-Chief, Unite the Country figure? I'm not gonna talk to you, nah.

    And everytime he runs to the media with a press release, "that's not what I meant". For once, I would like to find out what Mr. Obama really means about something.

    What is his plan for dealing with Osama....To whine and say he's being mean, making up lies about me. What's his plan for dealing with a Congress that disagrees with him on policies...To turn his back and say I'm not dealing with them.

    I think the true character of this man is starting to come to the surface and for all his preaching otherwise, it's ugly.

    But wait forget all that....because he and Michelle have already said, if we don't elect him now, he's not doing this again.

    January 29, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL

    Only Hillary–would accuse someone of working for a "slum lord" and then expect them to be responsive to her plastic smile and non-stop political posturing.

    For God's sake folks...they were at work...he was being addressed by others around him–and Hillary never actually addressed him or greeted him did she?

    Both of them should have gotten up and walked out–that would be the kind of attitude I would expect–after hearing GW suddenly setting an agenda addressing–the environment, hunger, aids, global warming, healthcare, veterans issues....hell after 7 years of dragging his feet and doing nothing–all of a sudden he has some plans for his last 352 days in office!!!

    They should have laughed out loud...then walked out.

    January 29, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Matt

    For those saying CNN = "Clinton News Network."

    ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    Obama has grabbed nearly every headline on this site for a week now.

    He acts immature...it is reported on...and you blame the same station that has been stroking him for weeks?

    Please.

    January 29, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. RODGER

    MR OBAMA DOES NOT NEED TO BE IN ANY PUBLIC OFFICE WITH AN ATTITUDE LIKE THAT!

    January 29, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. In disbelief

    I felt the overwhelming urge to leave the 1,118th comment:

    I agree there should've been some exchange. Rather than awkward silence, Obama should have offered to send Hillary a DVD of Teddy's endorsement of him from earlier that day. Then Obama could've watcher her foam at the mouth for the entire State of the Union address. That would have been much more appropriate and comfortable for Hillary...

    CNN, if this is the best story you've got, it's time to lay off a few staff reporters!

    January 29, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  17. LucieLee

    I think this is all much ado about nothing~~!! Hillary Clinton didn't acknowledge Barack Obama either, remember....this is not a one-sided issue...if one at all......I am quite amazed how the media just loves to manipulate the electorate and how sad it is for some of us to fickly fall for it............so if folks want to judge something like this, in the heat of the moment...above everything else...and cry and moan that Senators Clinton and Obama didn't fold hands in a friendship circle and sing "Kumbayah" on the House floor......and make that the "test" for which candidate they will/will not support~~~my goodness~~~tomorrow it will be something else the media latches that is more important to them that to us....and is meant to sway us.......This is just craziness~~!!!!!! We all need to "lighten-up" I think~!!

    January 29, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. Up North

    Has anyone seen this, Billary was just endorsed by Maxine Waters, who was named in 2005[4] and 2006[5] as one of the "most corrupt" members of congress! Now that is what CNN should have as "BREAKING NEWS"....!

    January 29, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. David Edmondson

    Mary, is patriotism confined to wearing a flag. President Bush wears a flag, but would you consider his lying to the country about Iraq patriotic? You don't show patriotism by wearing a flag, you show it in the policies you enact. People who supported this war, that their sons and daughters never had to fight in are far less patriotic.

    January 29, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  20. A for KC

    The Hillbilly supporters have finally got something to bash Obama about. A picture of him looking down.

    Cry hillbilly supporters . . .. Cry . . .

    Just like your leader

    lol

    January 29, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. wendy

    It comes down to this: If he can't slap a neutral look on his face and suck it up to shake her hand – or at least look at her while she talks with those immediately around him – how are we supposed to think he is a better statesman? As President I don't think every person he has to talk to is going to be a friend. (You did catch George W shaking hands with and smiling to Nancy P.)

    Obama obviously is not ready for the job. I've seen high school teenagers with more diplomatic skill.

    January 29, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  22. keen

    Obama is one of the most arrogant men to come along in politics in a long while. Michelle Obama summed up both of their egos perfectly when she was Iowa told the crowd, "Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics."

    That's right "deign" to enter politics. Both Obama and Michelle think they're too good for the rest of us and that Barack graces us all with his presence. Excuse me? Obama has a lot of things going for him including intelligence, oratorical skills, and charisma but he is far from the smartest person to deign to enter politics.

    Politics is about public service and if you genuinely care about this country you never deign –you fight, you willingly sacrifice yourself and yes, your perfect image so that others can benefit. Hillary Clinton became the most vilified person in America when she proposed Universal Health Care and that move garnered her 15 years of GOP hits that are being recycled by the Obama campaign today but the result is that now we are at the point in this country where the dream of health care for everyone may actually come true.

    Part of me spitefully hopes that he will get the nomination just so he can see what real attacks are like and his supporters can finally see him for the phony he is –but only part. Wake up, Obama supporters. This man is petty and inexperienced. Do us and him a favor and give him time to mature so that maybe one day he can live up to his promise. Giving him the nomination right now is like giving a teenager a bottle of whiskey and the keys to a Ferrari.

    January 29, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  23. aware

    Ungracious again! A picture is worth more than a thousand words!

    Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Clint

    I was undecided, but seeing this and hearing CNN and all the cable channels praising Obama nonstop has convinced me...

    Hillary is our girl! The media wants Obama. Let's give 'em HILL!

    January 29, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. Lois Blasenheim

    "big man on campus" – change to the "most popular guy on campus"

    January 29, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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