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. Mimi

    Looking at who is bragging about being a uniter!
    Wake up people before it's too late! Obama is a real liar!
    Hillary helped a lot his campaign for the senate seat, and now the guy totally turned his back on her!

    Hillary 08 through and through!

    January 29, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  2. united for truth

    Hillary even deserves more than that, after her lies and misleading Americans about Iraq war and numerous of her votes in the senate that are questionable. Good mothers do not support wars and loss of human lives...good mothers take care of their families . Give me a break losers!!!

    January 29, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Lei An

    She was shaking hands with the person who just endorsed him and he turned away? Wow. How would you unite the country when you didn't seem to want to unite your own party?

    January 29, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Ken

    This should be on the front page news!

    January 29, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. KMD

    To Upnorth who states that the endorsement of Clinton by Maxine Waters doesn't matter as she made the list of most corrupt..... You are LAUGHABLE!

    Judicial Watch 10 Most Corrupt Politicians 2007.. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL): A "Dishonorable Mention" last year, Senator Obama moves onto the "ten most wanted" list in 2007. In 2006, it was discovered that Obama was involved in a suspicious real estate deal with an indicted political fundraiser, Antoin "Tony" Rezko. In 2007, more reports surfaced of deeper and suspicious business and political connections It was reported that just two months after he joined the Senate, Obama purchased $50,000 worth of stock in speculative companies whose major investors were his biggest campaign contributors. One of the companies was a biotech concern that benefited from legislation Obama pushed just two weeks after the senator purchased $5,000 of the company's shares. Obama was also nabbed conducting campaign business in his Senate office, a violation of federal law.

    January 29, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  6. June (California Voter)

    I think I voted for the right person. Go Hillary'08.
    She will be able to lead our country better.
    Her husban,Bill just made a simple mistake.

    January 29, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. Cameron

    IT IS THE ECONOMY STUPID

    well this is just average me I am a single mother of 2 with holding 2 jobs
    and I endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

    January 29, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. Vince, Arizona

    HOPE THIS LITTLE STORY (WITH OVER 1400 COMMENT POSTS) MAKES ALL YOU BILLARY LOVERS FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELVES...

    TAKE YOUR PETTY LITTLE POT SHOTS..

    WE'LL JUST CONTINUE TO RACK UP ENDORSEMENTS BY LEADING PARTY MEMBERS...

    THANKS.

    January 29, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  9. cyndy

    this is crazy....
    who cares who did or didn't shake someone's hand
    the media is the worst thing that has happened to this world

    January 29, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. tracy

    Thus far this morning, I have seen this clip at least 18 times. Hmmm, how is Obama's camp going to make this racist? I know, he is grossly misunderstood.

    January 29, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. SJ

    The vast majority of voters backing Obama are young kids anyways....it's fitting that he would act like a child himself.......

    January 29, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. Responsible Citizen

    I agree with the folowing from another blogger:

    "obama deserves to be endorsed by a loser like kennedy who lost the nomination in the past."

    In addition, Obama is deceptive and always seems to want a double standard. I will tell the rest later!

    January 29, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. Jose Card, NYC, NY

    A good cop must act like one in public.
    This just shows Obama doesn't pretend in public.
    He is what you see and what you get.
    He apoligized for buying a strip of land from Tony Rezko in 2005.
    He also admitted to have used illegal drugs in his youth and inhaled it.

    You must be honest if you want to be inspiring to others.

    January 29, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. dprice

    Seems to me that this is twice now that Obama has shown his lack of maturity and peevishness – first with his expression and verbiage of "Hillary, you are nice enough" and now this. Didn't he learn the first time? That's scary! Seems he is a little a loose ends when he doesn't have a handler around him and a canned answer. He lost my vote the first time but now he has made a real Hillary supporter!

    January 29, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  15. Mike

    Being that Ted Kennedy is such close friends with the Clintons, i really think that is was a very strange moment for B.Obama, and it to me just shows his respect not to try and get in on the moment, or make it uneasy as those two talked. we on the outside need to stop trying to make something out of every little move made by these two, as you will see at the convention, which ever one who gets the nomination the other will fall direct in line and be 150% supportive of the other, as we the Democrats will take the white house in November, by the way i am for Barack Obama!!!!

    January 29, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. Larry, CA

    Are people really basing their vote on a picture that obviously the publisher was trying to smear one canidate????????? WOW!!!! We really are hopeless in this country. Truly Pathetic

    January 29, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. B. S.

    The majority of these comments remind me of the typical hypocrites and sycophants that I encounter everyday at work. They remind of of the double speak, rhetoric spouting politicians themselves. Most decent people would be offended to be slandered by their neighbor or co-worker, much less a presidential candidate utilizing national television and radio. By your comments you show that you value someone who lies, back-stabs and is two-faced more than someone who is honest, straight-forward and doesn't pretend. While we all need to strive to get along, it is refuse like Hillary and a lot of the people here that make it very difficult. So please, feel free to go back to your own little world as those with some character and decency try to mitigate your stupidity.

    January 29, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. Vince, Arizona

    Sorry to call you all out on this.... but.... if THIS is what turns you off from Obama, then you weren't going to vote for him anyway.

    This fake outrage reminds me of the fake outrage from the Bush/Cheyney camp after Kerry mentioned in an answer that Cheyney's lesbian daughter was a lesbian.

    (sigh)....

    January 29, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  19. Sarge

    We all need new face, new start, forget the old faces,We need Barack or John,
    Bush 4 years Clintons 8 years Bush 8 years and Clintons again, u.s or world is not ready.

    January 29, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Nidal

    Turning his back to the Clinton machine after they tried so pathetically to cast him as the token black candidate is the least I would have if I were him. This is pathetic reporting and CNN as usual plays the part beautifully. CNN is just like Hillary in a way, both want to be like their popular right wing counterparts (FOX, Bush) and then liberal with the progressives, depending of course what mood the nation is in ....... P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C

    January 29, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  21. Amy in Cincy

    Glad we're focusing on the issues here, guys. I can't believe the tizzy that Clinton supporters have gotten themselves into over this! Good grief. If this brief moment in a crowded room is what you are basing your vote on, I am ashamed of you. I can't believe I even spent the time reading this blog with all the nonsence written here.

    CNN...give me some real news.

    January 29, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. caesar

    People who try to analyze human behavior like this in a snap shot of an instant in time are perpetuating prejudice and are being judgemental in their interpretation of a human behavioral/phenomonological events.
    I don't get it, when even anthropologists and sociologists have trouble doing this.
    Read Clifford Geertz 1978 or Pierre Bourdieu 1989 if you really and trully would like to understand how difficult it actually is to make interpretations based on observations of human behavior.
    Why do people jump to, and are so fickle to change their minds based on a single interpretation made by the Media giants?
    Ahh, long live the power of the Media.

    January 29, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. united for truth

    Hillary even deserves more than that, after her lies and misleading Americans about Iraq war and numerous of her votes in the senate that is questionable. Good mothers do not support wars and loss of human lives...good mothers takes care of their families. Give me break losers!!!

    January 29, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. theresa

    Who is being the child now.....that sure says "a lot'"about his charactor!

    January 29, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  25. Rafael

    Two great individuals have the power to make history and make our nation better. I hope they recognize the enormous amount of good that they can make together come the Democratic National Convention.

    January 29, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
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