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. Brian

    They waved hello to each other sources (unbiased) say. Why don't all you people that react to a framed picture and over react, just remove your selves from the political process. You have shown to the world an inability to judge anything fairly and intelligently. Therefore, in my mind, the world would be a better place if you didn't vote.

    January 29, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. tara

    ARRRHHH! R we in grade school. And we wonder why some citizens don't vote. I am going to write Lou Dobbs in for our next Pres.

    January 29, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. Kathleen

    CNN let the "best political team of TV" do what they do best. Stop writing soap operas. This is not news.

    January 29, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. Peter Waters

    I would have come to expect it "i did not mean to" – Obama.

    He always "does not mean to" or "did not mean it like that". We need a new excuse.

    Hillary a mature leader!

    HILLARY 2008!

    January 29, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. stan pitts pa

    The people are speaking
    obama is the clear choice
    the past versus the future!

    January 29, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  6. Joel

    This is ridiculous. So petty, so juvenile. You can do a better job than this, CNN!

    January 29, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. Harry in Chicago

    Mr. Obama has lost my vote. I have been looking for signs of maturity and leadership to re-inforce my decision to vote for the maverick of change. Today I saw childishness and cowardice. Not so presidential at all.

    January 29, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  8. Joel

    CNN is the Jerry Springer of news networks. They are hoping for a fight.

    January 29, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  9. Harry in Chicago

    Mr. Obama has lost my vote today. I have been looking for signs of true consistant maturity and leadership qualities to reinforce my decision to vote fo rthe maverick of change. What I saw today was childisness and cowardice. Not presidential at all.

    January 29, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. Anne

    The Democrats will lose in November, regardless of who is the nominee. The American people are fed up with being used by the liberal elite. This is not the liberal elite's private kingdom. This country belongs to all of the people and we are taking it back in November by electing Mike Huckabee and like-minded Congressmen and women who support the FairTax.

    January 29, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. Aidyn

    Mr Obama, inmature!

    He wont stand up to Clinton but he will meet with leaders of unstable countries.

    January 29, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. JI

    I ditto with Billy, shame on you, CNN.. This cannot be a news!!! Stop teh crap!!!

    January 29, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  13. Erica

    This is so absurd. Why is this even news?

    January 29, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  14. RKS

    Whats a big deal about it ? I wouldn't act differently in that situation. I do think Hillary did a great job of shaking hands with Ted Kennedy even though he endorsed Barak with such a fan fare a day before. Way to go Hillary .............Hillary 08

    January 29, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  15. Fred

    This is not an issue folks....Will one of Hillary's supporters answer this question for me. WITH ALL OF HER 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AT THE TIME, DID HILLARY VOTE "YES" FOR THE IRAQ WAR? SHE KNOWS NOW IN HINDSIGHT IT WAS NOT THE CORRECT THING TO DO. WELL PEOPLE WE HAVE ONE CANDIDATE THAT GOT IT CORRECT AND DOES NOT HAVE TO SAY IN HINDSIGHT.....HE TOOK A STAND AND VOTED "NO" WHEN IT COUNTED. LET'S VOTE FOR SOMEONE THAT GET'S THINGS RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. THE NEXT PRESIDENT SHOULD BE SENATOR BARACK OBAMA........

    January 29, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  16. Steph

    Where is Al Sharpton in all of this?!?!

    January 29, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  17. Ken

    Finally someone who is REAL – sick of the fake stuff... fake smile...

    I am surprise she did not send Bill instead to the state of union while she campaign in Florida.

    kudo – she should get some votes from this, like the fake tears after OH

    January 29, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  18. Sam

    Maybe, Obama will say "that's not what I meant"??? Spin what you want. This picture showed the true you. Let's hope that it's not too late for America to see the true Obama. He can dish out, but, he can't take the heat. This is the kind of President only the Republican will do. Democrats and Independent, lets vote for the Democrat to be President. And that is Madame President Clinton.

    January 29, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  19. Beth

    I think the biggest point of all this it shows Hillarys true character going to shake Tedd Kennedys hand...

    January 29, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  20. Don

    For those of you saying this is not news, you are wrong. Its news because the Obama campaign has tried to lift Barack Obama up to a God-like status. He is the one who will bring us all together we are told. He will work across party lines. He is a fresh face for Washington. Well, this is one example that shows he is only a politician. Last night, he set beside the old democratic establishment and when the Dems all sit down, while republicans stood up, it shows that he will be no differant. He is playing party politics. Do you think Kennedy will actually let Obama change Washington?

    This is news because Obama himself has elevated himself to a position that no poltician can hold. This is news because its time we know more about this man that we follow blindly. Ask yourself is this would not be a huge story if Hillary would have been the one to look away. Whats worse is that Obama has lied now about what happened. That is news. That is the last thing we need in DC. Bush was enough for a lifetime. No one complained last week when Bill Clinton was all over the news for a similar non-important story. The differance, this story has some truth behind it. Obama, intentionally, or not, snubbed Hillary Clinton. He has told us that he is better than that. That is the news story.

    January 29, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  21. World Citizen UK

    G R O W U P A L L O F Y O U !!!!!!!

    F O R G O D ' S S A K E G E T B A C K T O T H E I S S U E S !!!!!

    I F Y O U W O U L D V O T E F O R O R A G A I N S T A C A N D I D A T E,

    O N T H E B A S I S O F A P I C T U R E, T H E N G O D H E L P

    A M E R I C A !!!!!

    January 29, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  22. Obama

    IRON MY SHIRTS!!! IRON MY SHIRTS!!!!

    -Obama-

    January 29, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  23. yoyo

    People can you think for one minute. Obama knows that every body in that room and every body in America were wating for this encounter. If he were a smart person he were the one looking for Clinton to shake her hand. He did the most stupid and dumb thing in politics. I would like to see him with the Syrian president o worse with Hugo Chavez.
    Americans I' m from Cuba and I'm telling you Clinton is no the Devil you guys haven't met the devil yet. that role is for Fidel castro and Hugo Chavez. You should be proud of the freedom that you have and elected a president with experience to manage the internationals issues.

    January 29, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  24. Vikki, Tennessee

    Like it or not, this is newsworthy. The President of the US is the person who represents America as a whole. I think that person should have a basic knowledge of how to show courtesies to those whom we may not agree with, but would like to maintain a civil relationship with. If Obama slighted a foreign leader, it would be much bigger news than this. I’m confident that Hillary and Ted Kennedy don’t like each other, and yet both managed an adult handshake and a polite smile.

    January 29, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  25. Marty

    kathleen,

    boloney is spelled B.O.L.O.G.N.A. I do agree with you, however. What's that? I'm switching to MSNBC. HAHA..

    January 29, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
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