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. eli

    HA HA HA.........this is great isn't he suppose to be the great uniter.

    January 29, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  2. Greg E.

    How can we expect Barack Obama to unite a nation when he can't even be civil across his own party? He was rude during the debates when he said she was "nice enough" and in ignoring Hillary at the State of the Union. He is not becoming the leader I hope he will be.

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Max

    This is just gossip.

    In other news... Cindy didn't sit next to Sandy today in the school cafeteria, early reports are that the two are no longer BFF's...

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. Jwill

    The comment regarding former President helping his wife is totally off the mark, after all two is better than one, if one falls down the other can help them up, and that is straight from the good book. As far as Barack Obama's attitude in ignoring Hillary Clinton, it is relevant and tells a lot about his character, it is the little foxes that spoil the vine, it is the liittle things of life that mold and determine the character.

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Noragloria ("Nora")

    Thank you, "clintonhater," for the insight in your post. We so often get only one side of the story.

    Personally, I don't hate either of them. Am just watching and listening, so that I can make a decision before I walk into the voting booth on Tuesday.

    We so need to get our beloved country back. Am so encouraged that young people are getting so involved.

    Peace.

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. Jo Ann

    To Steve@ll:52PM, Touché!

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. Fem4Hillary

    So is this how he plans to unify everyone by giving his back to people. WATCH OUT Ted Kennedy....looks like from now on you are FORBIDEN by your new Master to speak to Hillary

    WAKE UP AMERICA!! This is the REAL OBAMA!! as childish as can get....

    This statement by the Obama camp sums it all:

    "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."

    "appropriate sentiment?" Translation in plain English.... Mr. Obama is RUDE!"

    Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. brenda

    This man actually expects to be President of the US. Heaven help us, we certainly are going to need it.

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Georgians4Hillary

    Ruuuuuuuude. This is the same guy who says he will bring in Republicans (ouch!) and Independents to vote for Dem. He even can't shake hand with his colleague.

    P.S. We know why the Republicans are voting for Obama....don't we? Hmmmm, November is approaching.

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Jonnie rae, Boston

    Look at the other pictures out there. He is actually talking to McCaskill. He shook hands and greeted her outside. He as trying to give Kennedy a chance to talk to her without him hovering. YOu people are so ridiculous. Obama is by far the most gracious, polite candidate in the race. He always has his supporters give the other candidates a round of applause, win or lose. She stopped speaking to him as soon as he announced he was running for President.

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. edenz21

    " A picture paints a thousand words"
    So this is Barack Hussein Obama the Uniter.? The poster child for "Change."

    January 29, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  12. Robert

    Obama is an Immature, Stuck-up Crybaby. I'd rather have an intelligent adult for President. I'm now supporting Hillary.

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. Terry

    Even though I think this is bad journalism...
    really tabloid-type journalism...

    I think CNN really knows how to make the Democrats all whine like litte babies and tear down their own party over "nothing" issues. How about some real issues?

    This is a stupid article with a lot of stupid and gullible Democrats letting CNN bait them into bringing down their own party!

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Will

    Is this really worthwhile? This is making much ado about nothing...I also see some female bias in the responses as well. Is it really important that he shakes her hand (like he does before and after every debate and says good job to her as well-including at the last debate)? Is it going to help this country one bit? What about her sending Bill out to send messages with racial overtones and codewords in them? Is that grown up or mature?

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. LadyM

    Both Clinton and Obama have had their disappointing moments! However, Obama if things happend like CNN is reporthing, had every opportunity to shake Clinton's hand or acknowledge her. They both need to get their campaign's together and Obama needs to start providing the public with details of his "plans" instead of harping on unity.

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. Harry, NY NY

    Am I watching Desperate Housewives or an election campaign? What sort of news is this?

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. Rob

    Awkward moment, overlook ...call it what you will, but this is no way for a candidate to behave. Clearly Sen. Obama saw Hillary and could have easily addressed her, or even looked straight ahead as oppose to turning his back. No way for a candidate or future president of the US or any nation to behave. I say again, if he can't handle these types of situation now, what happens if selected as being the nominee for the Democratic party?

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

    I would like to see some recognition of the Robert F. Kennedy endorsement of Hillary. The only mention of it that I saw was a comprehensive and elequent article in L.A. Times that listed the reasons why he endorsed her.

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. Jude

    1400 comments made on this nonesense. It tells a lot about American Electorates.

    Wise Uop and Grow Up people!

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. T

    It is a shame when the American people's opinions are so easily swayed by media tactics. Is who we vote for really narrowed down to a photo with a person's back turn, however arms and hands cut off so that you cannot tell what he is doing? We should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing the media instead of the issues take precedence in this race. Who ever is put into office next year will decide our fate for the four following year. They will have to clean up the crap from the previous 8 years. That is not easy feat. Considering not one of us was on the floor when this photo was taken, we need to truly re-evaluate how far we will allow any media (not just CNN) network manipulate our intelligence.

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  21. natalie roy

    Good for Hillary!

    January 29, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. Steve Jay

    I think this picture speaks a thousand words. It says a lot about Obama yet predictably, his fans are trying to down play it.

    Also, look at the dignity of Hillary Clinton. She goes out of her way to shake the hand of Ted Kennedy, a man that she calls a friend and just yesterday turned his back on her.

    When you look beyond the hype, I think this picture tells the real story of just who Clinton and Obama really are.

    I hope Clinton wins the nomination.

    January 29, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  23. Trinity, Tacoma WA

    GO OBAMA!!! I WOULDN'T SHAKE SOMEONES HAND WHO TRIED TO JUDGE MY CHARACTER BY MY PAST EITHER!! CLINTON HAS PULLED THIS STUNT TOO MANY TIMES AND EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE HER SCANDALOUS MOTIVES!!!

    January 29, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  24. Amy, Kazoo

    all it takes is one read of this website to know that BOTH Clinton and Obama are truly divisive. Makes one reconsider Edwards more and more.

    January 29, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. Mallory

    I think Hillary has great judgement and decision making ability. Lets see... she married an unfaithful, selfish individual. Your husband cheats on you and then lies about it to the world. I would have divorced him but she choose to stick by him which means she either likes abuse or cared more about her career then her self-respect. How could any of us want Bill Clinton or someone who put up with his disloyality back in the white house. I think if she tolerates it then she probably would lie to us and be manipulative just like Bill was. I know some people will say, don't judge, and oh she is so forgiving and has a big heart, but the truth is she let herself get walked on.

    January 29, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
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