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. Friendly

    Hillary Clinton's supporters and everyone who enjoys making a big deal out of nothing – chill down and be patient – see CNN democratic debate in CA on Jan 31 – Barack Obama will shake her hand as he always does at the debates – don't worry about it – go to her blog (http://www.hillaryclinton.com/blog/) for a boost of some cheerful and happy thoughts :).

    People who've made their decision to vote for Hillary based on this picture – I'm sure she'll be happy to have a support from serious and thoughtful people like you ;).

    January 29, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. anonymous

    John Edwards is looking better all the time to me. Just wish that folks would give him a chance.

    January 29, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  3. jake

    graham take a pill for the nonsense you are feeding here. Bottom line is Obama talks and walks differently. Sooner you understand that better it is.

    __________________________
    Graham January 29, 2008 3:48 pm ET

    Battle tested?

    Ok, Anti-Obama people want to know why he keeps calling for change and what change really means. It's exactly the mentality that candidates for President have to be battle tested in order to win. Obama is stating that you do not have to attack other candidates using distortions and you do not have to tear the other party down in order to win an election. It's a fundamental change in the way we see politics and that is what is inspiring countless people around the nation. I hope I'm right in the notion that young people will carry this nomination and when it happens and Barack Obama becomes our president, I hope that we all learn from our dated views and mistakes…

    January 29, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. Concerned Citizen

    Are you really serious? With all the events happening in and around the the world today the only thing CNN can come up with is this nonsense about whether or not Obama snubbed Clinton. This is ridiculous! With all the slurs and hurtful things she and her husband has thrown at him in recent days, so what if he doesn't acknowledge her at the moment CNN thinks he should. There has to be something else to talk about. So much for "CNN, the most trusted name in news".

    January 29, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Landon

    You people are completely nuts. If you can't see that this is a prime example of the media making something out of nothing, then you need to get your head examined. Instead of leaving comments on here, maybe you'd be happier following the candidates around and waiting for one of them to sneeze as they come out of the bathroom. That has to mean something, right?

    January 29, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Cher

    Barack Obama is not nice.

    January 29, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. Phyl

    It's a two way street. Why didn't Hilary acknowledge him?? She was clearly looking his way. Don't just blame Obama for not acknowledging her when she could have done the same thing.

    January 29, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  8. LOL

    LOL.... You got to be kidding me- read on....

    "January 28, 2008 11:51 pm ET

    This is so priceless!!!!!!! It is already all over the internet. President Pookie Pouty Face. He looks so Presidential when he throws a tantrum! '

    Does this poster know you must be over twelve to blog?
    Grow up.

    January 29, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. Mark

    Rohrschach...that is all it is. As you read the comments, I learn more about the commentors than what actually occurred. My interpretation: The Clinton's tried to derail Obama's campaign last week. Politics is about raw power that confounds the artificial demeanor that we expect from politicians. Would you really expect any politician who has been savaged by another' s surrogates to not want to automatically reach out to a hand they may be extended in a clearly staged, artificial way?

    Voters would be better served if CNN used it's journalistic expertise to delve further into the issues that differentiate the candidates. As one commentor said....this picture is worthy of People magazine.

    January 29, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Leedy

    You guys are really reading too much into things!!! Of course there is tension from both sides. It is just who can handle it. If you can't handle it now then wait until you become President. But, the fact that Obama is of mix race I think he should show more that he is for every American because if a white American thinks that you are mainly for African Americans, whether you are qualified or not they will not vote for you. They will come out to the polls trailer park and all. That is why Bush won a second term and Kerry lost. Obama need to show he is for everyone, black, white, and hispanic. As an African American myself I am looking for the candidate that will atleast try to mend the division that Americans have fell into through the Bush years. It's almost like America went back to the sixties. Thinking racial segregation is the answer. Well guess what America is like a Gumbo. You have a variety of flavors( chicken, seafood, beef ect....) in it. That is what make it a unique dish. Also it is time for Hillary to tell Bill to shut up. He is hurting her more and more. It's almost as if he doesn't want her to win, atleast not the African American votes anymore. Maybe he is just tired.

    January 29, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. excel bueno

    What's up Borack buddy? Can't stand her guts?

    January 29, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  12. Tracy

    O my goodness, the Republicans are scared, they have flood all THREADS/BLOGS concerning Obama.

    Beware all Obama supporters, they are NOT Hillary supporters, they are republicans.

    January 29, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    i am a staunch Obama supporter. its obvious that Obama was totally uncomfortable in that situation where his endorser was reaching out to his rival.

    he just suffered from the fact that his whole body reacted with dislike for Clinton. afterall she hasnt been honest about his record and belittled his win in SC. maybe people like clinton can smile and act happy in the midst of people who have pulled her name through the mud.

    uniting the country has nothing to do with shaking hands with hillary. infact it has all to do with rejecting people like hillary from the public sphere.

    January 29, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. stan pitts pa

    hey speaking of snubs, didnt HRC smob us all when after President Bush speech, she left without talking to CNN, without reason, or notice? How rude, left us hanging, yet the one senator obama, who most naive people on this site are bashing, took the time to give us his thoughts on the speech, Actions do speak louder, obama 08! for what matters!

    January 29, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. Obama buddy

    Obama – grow up – admit you took money from the slum lord.

    January 29, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. JustUsGirlsDownInTexas

    Now Hillary, dear this just isn't your best look.

    I mean when you bug your eyes out like that and put that big ole fake looking smile on your face...well dear, don't want to hurt your feelings, but it just doesn't look genuine. No...no...I would say it just looks down right plastic....well even down right scarey.

    Yep, that look would just make a small child run crying, you know what I mean? Now let's work on that game face whadda ya say?

    January 29, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. constant

    These two candidates are not running for MIddle School Student Council for gods sake!
    Can we get REAL for a moment, a minute, an hour, gee possibly for a day??? Is this the biggest news to come out of this whole evening?
    He's immature...
    she's an attention getter....
    I hate her...
    I hate him!!
    Good god people....grow up! It is so frustrating that with all the significant issues REAL AMERICANS are dealing with...this gets the head lines??
    This kind of coverage is like reading about "britney Spears" newest outing to a gas station, what she was wearing, and/or if she had underwear on??????
    I DON'T CARE!!!
    Does anyone know where we can get "grown up" articles, written by an unbiased reporter who investigates a REAL ISSUE, with a slight hint of intelligence about....ohhh....let's say "other" things that happened yesterday?? OUR CRUMBLING ECONOMY, MORE LOST JOBS, 5 MORE U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED....YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hey, maybe even report "What" our President said last night....well that wouldn't be intelligent...but it would be far better than feeling like I'm running down the hall at Middle School....trying to find a way out!!!!!!
    Unbelievable!

    January 29, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  18. Jim, American in Paris

    Quite frankly Hillary doesn't need Obama anyway just the way America can do without him!

    January 29, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. RT

    People, get lives... people are dying over seas... the economy is spiraling out of control... our kids and failing in school and you are arguing over whether Obama should have shaken Hillary's hand or whether he was nice to her? Please! Maybe this is why the rest of the world think we are a bunch of morons!

    January 29, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. Doris

    God you ugly women – stop saying smack about Clinton apperance. I'd like to see your saggy old faces the ones that say this crap. Women that write things about her apperance are the ones that probably have nothing to look forward to in life.

    January 29, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. stan pitts pa

    HRC grow up and return all the millions you got from NORMAN HSU, and explain your relationship with him, im still fuzzy on that!

    January 29, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Joyce S

    it would be nice if after the big endorsement yeserday..Kennedy and Clinton
    could have show civility towards each other..that was the issue..not
    what Obama was doing...Kennedy endorsed the man..I think
    Senator Clinton wanted to let him know all's fair in politics.

    January 29, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. shelly

    Me being a democrat makes me think hard on what america thinks is more important. If Hillary was so bad why is she where shes at. Yeah Obama got three Kennedys and Hillary got two Kennedys. So what Ted is a joke that kisses John Kerrys sorry butt. Ted has no direction and has to listen to John, and John has no direction without listening to his wealthy wife.

    January 29, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Jon

    Wow, its amazing that there are so many comments on this trival matter - HRC in one of her speeches said she avoided Fidel Castro (purposely) so what does that say about a public figure running for the presidency. No one knows what really happen so I suggest that everyone calm down and think about real issues and how we can work together to change these issues. This is not about HRC or about OB – there is a bigger picture and that is the stability of the United States of America – if you continue to act like children the rest of the world will not respect you. No one is perfect – I believe OB said that himself. Its amazing how people can judge you.

    So Americans grow up and work together to make your country stronger. Take a stand for CHANGE. You've have been blessed with a great opportunity to overcome so many obstacles so please use it wisely.

    January 29, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. Jen, Boston MA

    not only does CNN distract voters with this sort of gossip, CNN also managed to waste Senator Obama's precious time by forcing him to react to this rubbish.
    CNN, good job in dumbing down America. your masters will richly reward you.

    January 29, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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