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. Clintonhater

    craig m January 29, 2008 1:38 pm ET

    1) I now question my support for obama.

    2)Obama behaved immaturely.

    3)Hillary exuberates guts.

    hillary 08
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    1) go back to school

    2) your an idiot if you think Obama acted immaurely

    3)your a moron if you change your vote based on a missed handshake...

    I swear what level of education do you people log on this site with..

    January 29, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Bob

    It is perfectly fair to judge a person for running for President of The United Staes by his actions during uncomfortable times, Thats the job. The endorsement of Ted Kennedy shows his political leanings. I have grave reservations about Obama and my decision on super tuesday is still not certain. Honestly, John Edwards looks the most capable to me so far.

    January 29, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. caesar

    I can't believe how many people are sole on this little miscalculation of an observation interpreted by the Media. It just goes to show how the Media has the power to control political discourse. Simple minded people, shame on all of you who are reading way too deep into this, when you weren't even there!

    January 29, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. RKE, Suisun City, CA

    All of this talk is much to do about nothing. Regardless of who I support, people are reallly working overtime to make this a credible issue. None of this reflects on Senators Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton. The only reason I commented on this story is because of the over 1400 responses to this non-issue. Maybe the two senators don't like each other at the moment, but we all know that they will unite after the nomination battle is settled. There is too much bias in the comments that I have read so far. People talk about the lack of civility between the two candidates; however, I think there needs to be more civility in the responses to this story.

    January 29, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Hillary has my vote

    Obama will not unite anyone. He and his wife have torn us apart more than anyone I can remember. This shows his experience, none. You have to deal with people face to face. Clearly he can't do this even with Teddy by his side. So much for thinking he had balls. Grow up Obama. You are not even close to being good for us.

    January 29, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. dee

    CNN is turning into a tabloid

    no better story

    January 29, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Pricha

    Oh Boy! How immature is he? I don't understand how're these people who endosed Obama didn't see it. He just a good talker, when he reads the script, you can see how good is he at the debate after debate, he struggled. It is disgusting to listen to somebody who compared him to John F. Kennedy, give me a break.

    January 29, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Mia, Stafford, VA

    CNN will continue to post these type of "no issues/policy contrast" stories as long as 1400 people keep responding.

    January 29, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. nice!

    The AP just announced that Gov Sebelius endorsed Barack Obama. Sweet!

    January 29, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. Joel

    I really abhor this kind of reporting. Any sensible reporter having knowledge of human behavior should not be so quick to make interpretations regarding a gesture made by an individual before proper investigations into the persons actions. This is a terrible misjudgement on the part of CNN and it goes to show the high level of UNFAIR MEDIA COVERAGE RELATING TO THE 2008 PRIMARIES. CNN your viewers deserve better, get the facts straight before you start sowing seeds of discord among voters. I'VE ALWAYS BEEN AN AVID VIEWER BUT THIS NETWORK IS BEGINNING TO UPSET MY STOMACH

    January 29, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. ibarfly, a bar in your town

    If this is what you use as a measuring stick for a person's character... Don't look in the mirror.

    January 29, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. Gee

    OH good grief Loretta. Don't like her red outfit. You are a real issue watcher. Vote for someone because of their clothes?

    Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. nice!

    craig m:

    very fickle, sir. very fickle. your vote is determined by a photo op???

    January 29, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. brian

    I see one thing here. Obama's supporters are more die hard and they will support Obama even if he did everything wrong. On the otherhand, Hillary's backers are more reasonable in their tone. Just an observation!!!

    January 29, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. Bobert in Austin

    Laf, your eyes are still glued to this site ? Man, what a waste of time. It is Taco Time here in Austin, and I am hungry. Remember, you can never get this time back.

    January 29, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. miss

    THEY HAD ALREADY SHAKEN HANDS BEFORE THEY SAT DOWN!

    January 29, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. caesar

    I hate how people are easily compelled to believe what they see in an instant. As a social scientist, I am always – ALWAYS, skeptical of what people are trying to tell me is going on from their perspective of a particular phenomonoligical observation of human behavior, when that's all it is – and interpretation!
    To me, this particular interpretation made by the Media is blown way out of proportion, and is precisley the kind of thing that fuels hatred and judgemental prejudices deep in the mindset of millions of people.
    Stop this!
    The people who are dumn enough to actually stop supporting Obama because of this, should not be voting for him anyway... idiots!

    January 29, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. Dave

    this is making mountains out of molehills!

    talk about micro-managing the primary election – i don't anyone in their right mind would spend more than a minute analyzing this so-called news!

    January 29, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Gee

    Isn't there another debate coming up? He is going to sit there and not even look at her and duck his head when she speaks? Or get a supporter to sit by and hind behind?

    Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. Latez

    Last night I went through my phone book and sent over 126 people text messages to support Barack Obama in their state Feb 5. I also encourage them to send it to 10 different people to spread the word on the importance of voting on Feb 5. I think supports on this site should do the same thing as well. Make a comment about why you support Obama and send to everyone in your phone book. We all can do something to keep the REVOLUTION alive.

    OBAMA 08

    January 29, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  21. Liam

    Is Hillary a strong independent Woman or not? What was stopping her from reaching out her hand to Senator Obama, and for her to greet him. After all she was the one who came over to his space.

    Why is Senator Obama expected to act like a supplicant to Hillary.

    My lord! Hillary is supposed to be seen as a strong woman who can act just as independant as any Man, and then we get this kind of drivel, where people are whining because Senator Obama did not treat her like some Victorian Era Shrinking Violet who must always wait until the Man comes to her rescue.

    Hillary shakes thousands of hands every day, and she is the one sticking out her hand to all those strangers. If she chose not to do so when she moved into Senator Obama's space, then why is that his fault?

    I hope she does not break out in tears over such an affront to her sheltered existence.

    Give the woman some credit. She is not going to swoon and get a case of the vapors.

    She opted to not address him. Deal with it.

    January 29, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. jason salmon

    CNN is entertainment, not news. Once you understand that, it is plain to see why this event is such a big event in their eyes.

    Snore...zzz...

    January 29, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  23. Stan Harhut, Anchorage, Alaska

    OBAMA is a pig-headed-dumbo the elephant ears that belongs to Rezko crowd. HILLARY will have the last laugh. the Good Lord will see to that, Blessed are the Humble. and Meek.

    January 29, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  24. Tim

    We don't need a high school boy with an altitude running this country.

    January 29, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. TEXAN for Hillary

    Obama supporters you really are not too bright. You give the dumbest justifications why Obama does this or says that whenever he is criticized. LOL!!!

    January 29, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81