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. Paul, Tulsa OK

    Many of u are making more of this than there was.

    Obama did nothing here to snub her..... To think it proves that you are imature and pretty much a nut.

    And of Hillarys experience...what experience.
    Her time as 1stlday doesnt count...and as a congressperson its not enough to matter.

    Besided with her early day comments about health care she should never ever become president.

    Oh, and about Mr BJ hubby .

    SHe knew full well her husband was fooling around for decades.
    To deny that proves that she doesnt have the capability to be president.

    January 29, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. Isabella

    Oh Fred, Fred, Fred, Fred, Fred. Hate to burst your bubble-but Redko and Iraq had relations in bed with money. And Redko was best friends with Obama. Yep, I would have voted no to the war, too.

    January 29, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  3. Dem08

    Fred, yes Hillary voted YES. We know. However, her vote has been distorted. Her vote was to give the President authority to pursue military action if all else failed and it was proven that their were WMD's. This was not Yes, go blow them up vote. Bush and his cronies manipulated the facts,the congress and the American people. Its my memory that close to 90% of the public supported the invasion based on the information we were given by our President. Hillary did not draw up the battle plan. The President botched this, lied to us all. How dare people now, including Obama, be so hypocritical. Obama had no knowledge of what was going on. She has admitted this was wrong. However, we must put the blame where it belongs, George Bush.

    I am so tired about hearing about this.

    January 29, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  4. Amy

    As Oprah says "When someone shows you who they are, listen!"... are you listening, America? Obama lacks the maturity necessary to lead the most powerful country on the planet.

    January 29, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  5. Jo

    Turning his back on his subordinates........... a look at things to come for americans voting for him

    January 29, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  6. Joel

    I think CNN and everyone is attempting to create the news as opposed to report it. Senators Obama and Clinton have had some sharp exchanges, but have always been completely civil with each other during the entire length of this long, long campaign. But even if not, I question CNN's news credentials by focusing on trival speculation at the expense of reporting worthy news.

    Naturally after a long-time ally like Senator Ted Kennedy came out with a splashy endorsement for Barack Obama yesterday, it would not have been appropriate for Barack to have stayed there and overheard their conversation. Seems like he tried to do the polite and decent thing by turning away and let them talk privately.

    Regarding CNN, there is enough news of substance to report on without stooping to populist conjecture. I would encourage CNN to focus on reporting the news professionally and stop trying to compete with People Magazine and the tabloid press.

    January 29, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. Steph

    Hillary is stronger than Barak.

    January 29, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  8. stan pitts pa

    HRC and her supporters will PAY a big price on Super Tuesday for making this none issue an iSSUE, instead of dealing with the problems facing this nation, HRC supporters and campaign staffers who post on this BLOG seem to think Americans are stupid or idiots! You will find out otherwise and the hard way on Feb 5th, obama 08!

    January 29, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  9. Nick

    Wow, dont you all have anything better to report on? This is ridiculous, reminiscent of the he-said she-said immaturities of high school. Grow up everyone.

    January 29, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  10. Fat Lady

    Actually, check Sneator Obama's victory acceptance speeches. The ones that I noted were his Iowa speech, his SC speech and his comments when the teacher's union lost in the Nevada Court System. He took pot-shots at the losing side each time. Quite a contrast to the way Senator Clinon reacted for her victories.

    Can't seem to accept any wins with graciousness.

    January 29, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  11. Fat Lady

    Actually, check Sneator Obama's victory acceptance speeches. The ones that I noted were his Iowa speech, his SC speech and his comments when the teacher's union lost in the Nevada Court System. He took pot-shots at the losing side each time. Quite a contrast to the way Senator Clinon reacted for her victories.

    Can't seem to accept any wins with graciousness. Don't see how one can talk about hope, dreams, etc., and unite people if one keeps grudges.

    January 29, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  12. Amy

    As Oprah says "When someone shows you who they are, believe them", I think we have seen that Obama lacks the maturity to lead the most powerful nation on Earth.

    January 29, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  13. LT, Cumming, GA

    Obama shows is true maturity and how good he will be to unify the country.
    If he was elected, how would he deal with Putine if they were in disagreement...
    Great image of an American president!

    January 29, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  14. Joe

    Don't get it.

    MSNBC and CNN hosts talked for days after New Hampshire about Hillary and if her crying changed the vote as a win for for her.

    Are they now preparing the same talk for after tonight when Obama gets beat badly in Florida and replay the same thing after Super Tuesday on Feb 5th about the "photo" that changed the campaign?

    January 29, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  15. JAG

    WHY DID HILLARY SKIP OBAMA TO REACH OVER AND SHAKE THE HAND OF A THIRD PERSON? WHO IS RUDE HERE? OBVIOUSLY IT'S HILLARY. SHE COULD START BY REACHING OUT TO OBAMA FIRST BEFORE SHE GOES TO THE NEXT PERSON. OBAMA IS A GENTLEMAN AND HE WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT

    January 29, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Kel

    Yeah, just like I've always said, Obama is out of his league. He looks more like a high school principal than a political figure. He needs a lot more time to gain a lot more experience!!

    January 29, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  17. Beaches

    You know its the little things like this that show who you really are, not the bloated speeches he's so good at giving. Isn't he the one talking about how he's the candidate of "change" and how it's not going to be the same old Washington politics as usual? He's the one that's going to bring people together, let's put it another way, "he's the uniter not the divider", and you know where you've heard that before. He's done this before at the end of one of the (Democ) past debates. Shortly after he first got into this race, it was said that he is "thin skinned", I think that this kind of thing is just a peak at who he really is and so one need only guess at how is would react, if he gets the nomination,

    January 29, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  18. jay mo

    wow, i am overly surprised at the spin that has been put on such an issue that doesn't really matter. Don't we have real issues to debate and respectfully disagree on? i think that we could afford to divert our attention towards something other than who supposedly didn't talk to who, and why.... sounds like something that my children would come home with from the local highschool...

    January 29, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  19. DonI

    Still funny how Obama supporters don't want to talk about this non-issue, but can't stop on any other...

    January 29, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  20. longbench

    many of you should start acting like an educated citizenry rather than gossip-mongering and name-calling. ridiculous. this is what american politics is really about, I see.

    January 29, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  21. Jack

    Sen. Clinton made an unwarranted remark with regards to drug use of the part of Sen. Obama at their last debate. Which brought a lot of negative chatter from the audience. They (the audience) knew instinctivly what a low handed remake that was. It was a desparate attempt by Sen. Clinton to take a hurtful stab at Sen. Obama. So, the point being, she is as vindictive as the next guy...er, I mean candidate. Barak Obama for President!

    January 29, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  22. Dee Ward Mena, AR

    Why doesn't the press just admit that they hate Hillary and LOVE obama. She has had nothing but bad press and he has had nothing but good press from CNN. I think obama could have been at least cordial to a fellow candidate. How much would it have taken for him to at least look and smile at her. He didn't have to TOUCH her.
    This shows the obama that I always knew was there. I am so disappointed that CNN has chosen to show it's bias and back obama. It has been very obvious from the beginning of this campaign that they want obama to be the candidate. I guess because they are all republican and they know the republicans can beat him and can't beat Senator Clinton. I'm sure referee's have preferences in a game but they can't show bias and I am sure reporters have preferences also but they sure shouldn't show it and CNN can't seem to help itself. I thing they need to go back to school and learn that the media is not suppose to show bais. It looks like CNN would have someone reading the blogs on their own website and see how disgusted the viewers are with this bias. Most all blogs are condemning CNN for their unfair practices. Wake up CNN or you might lose a lot of viewers.

    January 29, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  23. Hope

    Beth January 29, 2008 6:23 pm ET

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

    I agree Hillary has alot of character shaking the hand of the man that sold her out. That is what I admire the most of Hillary. Clinton 08

    January 29, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  24. Hillary2008

    Wanna know how much character and integrity obama has? go to:
    sommervillenews.typepad.com and look in the March 2007 archives until find obama.

    That is if CNN doesn't block this – since they are pro-obama. Had it been Clinton doing the "snubbing" – it would've been headlines news and all the Hillary bashing we've been allowed.

    Shame on you CNN!

    January 29, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  25. marlyn

    i don't want a president who can grow while he is in the presidency....i want a person who is "ready" to take on the likes of the enemies of the U.S. obama is not that person. thin skinned, petulant, easily irritated is what i see. go hillary! keep on thumping him and watch him unravel...i am waiting to see it.

    January 29, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
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