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. JB Hull, IA

    Oh my GOD! Barack was looking at something else in a busy crowded room when a series of handshakes that couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds took place! This should be at the TOP of the political ticker!!!!

    Anyone who still doubts CNNs pro-hillary bias need only look at this case study to have it confirmed

    January 29, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. White Women in NC Against Hillary

    Anybody but the big faker Hill, monopolizing on a media moment. Puh-lease.

    OBAMA '08

    January 29, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. Mark

    I don't know what he would turn his back on her, you never turn you back on a "Snake"!

    January 29, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. Lost My Keys

    "An appropriate settlement" for Obama to snub Clinton? What a crock. He looked at the back of the room the whole time Clinton was "in his space." Doesn't anyone see that she reached to Kennedy with the intention of also reaching for Obama? She tried. He dropped the ball.

    Granted, both persons are ego maniacs right about now. And how disappointing it is that neither of them took the high road to greet one another especially with the cameras focused on them.

    That being said, this is yet another manifestation of Obama's arrogance. He is behaving like a spoiled child, like some crown prince.

    January 29, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. Eric

    You know, I wasn't even going to respond to this until I saw all the negative comments about Barack on here. Did you people even read this not-really-CNN-worth-news article in the first place? Although he may not have spoke to Sen.Clinton, that does not show rudeness or arrogance. Would it have been even more proper had he interrupted the person that was talking to him to greet someone who has been trying to throw his name in the mud the last few months? Please. Get over it people. Look at the truth, the nastiness of the Clinton campaign, and the truth of the Obama campaign. I am just amazed at how much people are hating on such an honest and trustworthy man, especially here on CNN website where I figured we'd have atleast some kind of intellegence jumping around somewhere.

    OBAMA 08

    January 29, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. Jojo

    Why would a photo that does not tell the whole story make your decision in an election that will affect your future? Some of you are choosing silly reasons to vote for or against candidates.

    January 29, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    DONALD TRUMP DOESN'T SHAKE HANDS WITH ANYONE. I THINK HE DOES IT TO AVOID THESE KIND OF GERMS THAT ARE SO EASILY SPREAD.

    January 29, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Bill

    Ward.....I didn't know these were Clinton's talking points but the talking points of an ignorant citizentry.....

    January 29, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. Anyone but Hillary, Kentucky

    This is so ridiculous, it shouldn't even be mentioned as a news item. But look at how much reaction it has received. I guess we know why CNN has posted it. Let's all show restraint, and if something is not "real news", refrain from posting. I'm only doing it at this point because after over 1300 comments, what's one more?

    January 29, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. Mark C, Asheville NC

    The article, or at least the headline, and the comments from the Billary supporters are pathetic.

    From the description it was a complex set of conversations involving half a dozen senators. Hillary did not cross the aisle to talk to Obama either. Neither made the effort to talk to the other.

    January 29, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. jonny

    My comments against obama AWAIT MODERATION and sometimes never make it to the blog. I have to soften my tone to critisize obama. This is so sad...

    January 29, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. checkthisout

    The talking, shaking hands, greeting and so on went in for 5 MINUTES.

    It did not happen in a flash of a second as some suggest.

    His actions were DELIBERATE !!!!!

    What a SHAME !!!

    January 29, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Joe

    The Snub clearly had an effect on the performance of my stocks this morning. (sarcasm intended)

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Scott

    no one better think that this is the media favoring Hillary, my god they are ruthless. See the quick "UPDATE: David Limprod explains that Obama didn't mean it, no he didn't now STOP hurting him!!" The media will be as ruthless as they can up until Feb. 5th, if after that the media doesn't get their way they'll go to plan B...Slash her campaign bus tires!!!

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Amazed

    It's amazing how we (and the news) can spend so much time analyzing insignificant topics such as this as opposed to real issues that impact our life in a very real way. I'm sure that Hillary has turned more than her fair share of "cold shoulders" in her day for one reason or another – heck, she must have turned a few to Bill for him to stray the way he did – but does that really effect you or I in any real way that relates to the presidency?

    How do you tend to feel towards someone that spread lies about you? (And I'm not picking sides here, but if you've kept up with the campaign at all then you are aware that some of Hillary's ads have been erroneous and false.)

    But I digress. The point is that this "issue" is not an issue at all – and we, as the American people that politics in general tends to think of as ignorant, feed into that belief by being distracted and enchanted by this type of irrelevant news.

    Wake up and talk about something worthwhile... and demand news that does the same.

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Doug in NYC

    Hillary definitely took the high road.

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. jonny

    one has to be diplomatic, no matter what the circumstances warrant.

    what about the saying " keep your friends close and your enemies closer"???

    Sadly, Obama is not a uniter as he claims. Hillary had the guts to greet Kennedy. An ordinary person would never do that.

    She just got my vote .Hillary 08.

    My comments against obama AWAIT MODERATION and sometimes never make it to the blog. I have to soften my tone to critisize obama. This is so sad...

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Steve Jay

    Its interesting that the Obama fans are complaining that this is not newsworthy ... yet they have been happy for CNN and every other media outlet to make headline news of all of Clintons so called 'attacks' Hypocrites.

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. Leah DiMarco, TX

    Senator Obama WAS NOT snubbing Clinton.
    Obama was talking to someone else and the picture is cropped so that it does not show the whole truth!

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. Ed,FL

    Grow up people. This isn't newsworthy. Why make a big deal out of it. At least be objective enough to wait for an explanation. I know Obama he is a very elegant guy.

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    DONALD TRUMP DOESN'T SHAKE HANDS WITH ANYONE. I THINK HE DOES IT TO AVOID THESE TYPE OF GERMS.

    January 29, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. chris

    this is a stupid story.

    but, since i cant comment on the huckabee one...

    "Do you hold this end, or this end?," he joked, breaking his wrists and attempting a stance on the pavement. "It'll be like Mitt Romney eating fried chicken."

    ...breaking his wrists?

    January 29, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. Steve, Lyons, CO

    "President Bush didn't shake Hilary's hand either. "

    President Bush should be impeached and tried for treason, then his head put on a pike when he's found guilty. Why the hell would ANYbody, much less Hillary, want to shake hands with our Worst. President. Ever.?

    January 29, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. ojah_w

    Ok, people this is ONE picture out of a million pics taken of BOTH of them. It is not a moving pic so YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT CONTEXT THIS WAS IN OR HOW BIASED THE PHOTOGRAPHER MAY HAVE BEEN IN HIS COMMENTS. Grow up, every last one of you. This is not remotely indicative of how warm and generous Obama isn't or how how warm and generous Hillary is in comparison. Geez, don't all of you have something better to worry about than a silly photo???? Is the love or hate between the two of them really that important???

    January 29, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. get truth guy

    Is this your guys "uniter"? what a joke! He made me sick!

    January 29, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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