October 18th, 2007
03:12 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama on Leno: Michelle can take on Bill Clinton

Obama appeared on Leno Wednesday night.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - His chief rival for the Democratic nomination has a famous husband, but White House hopeful Barack Obama said Wednesday night his wife Michelle could go head-to-head with former President Bill Clinton.

"My wife, is no slouch, you see - if there's a debate between Michelle and Bill, you know, I'm putting my money on my girl," he said on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The Illinois Democrat also laughed off Leno's suggestion that he might want to reconsider leaving his wife alone with the former president.

"Michelle can handle herself," he quipped. "She doesn't play."

Obama also said Bill Clinton's popularity in Democratic circles plays a significant role in wife Hillary's large lead in the Democratic field. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll registered Clinton at 51 percent nationally, compared to Obama’s 21 percent.

"Particularly among democrats, Bill Clinton is very popular," Obama said. "He's a great strategist. He's very smart when it comes to the politics of the Democratic Party."

"And, you know, there are a lot of chips out," he added. "People - you develop a lot of relationships when you're president. So that's part of the challenge that we have to face is making sure that people know me as well as they know her and as well as they know Bill."

But Obama sharply brushed aside suggestions Clinton was unbeatable and said the New York Democrat's early coronation as the party's nominee reminded him of President Bush's now infamous appearance on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

"Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'Mission Accomplished’ a little too soon," he said to laughter and cheers. "So we've got a long way to go before the first vote is cast."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (190 Responses)
  1. San Jose, CA

    Obama's remark on his main rival senator clinton continues to highlight his inexperience in diplomacy. I don't believe he is ready for the commander-in-chief job at least for another 10 years. Grow up Obama!

    October 18, 2007 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Doug, New Jersey

    "We must take our country back completely from the right wingers and send their ideology into the abyss for the sake of our children and for the prosperity of our nation. Hillary Clinton is the most qualified, the most experienced and she is READY TO LEAD."

    Let's see if you can spot your contradiction. You say that you want a candidate who has stated "We are going to take things away from you for the common good" to be president for the sake of our children. I suggest you study history and see just how well children have made out under a socialist regime.

    October 18, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Angie, Charlotte NC

    Some of you people need to have a funny bone surgically added or buy a sense of humor. Of course he's going to pick his wife like a good husband should!! Good grief.

    October 18, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Dave, Richmond, Virginia

    Edwards-Obama is the best ticket for the Democrats and for the country. America does not need to rely on Bush-Clinton royal families.

    October 18, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. laurinda,ny

    It's great that he's running his mouth. Now the American people can see that they don't want to waste their vote on this untrustworthy man.

    October 18, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. Obama Mama, OKC, OK

    I do not want to see a Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton future. I'm ready for REAL change, and Obama is the man!

    October 18, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. Liberal Chic

    I have been unimpressed by the Obamas and hearing that Michelle Obama got a degree in sociology impresses me even less. Yes, she went to Harvard Law, but she couldn't stick it out in a law firm, an admittedly difficult endeavor. Hillary Clinton, however, made it as the first woman partner in a very venerable Arkansas law firm. And she did it an entire generation before Michelle Obama's.

    Also, many, many political insiders, including Alan Greenspan have said Bill Clinton (along with, unfortunately, Richard Nixon) were two of the most brilliant presidents ever. Even my Republican husband is awed by Bill Clinton's exceptional political skills and sharpness of mind.

    Nonetheless, it is acceptable and expected that a husband should be his wife's champion. Just don't dumb people insist that Michelle Obama could hold up in a debate with the master politician himself.

    October 18, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. ken, Arnhem, Netherlands

    I doubt if most of the people responding in this blog have actually saw the show. I can't blame such baseless arguments made because CNN title is misleading. The fact is, that was mentioned as a joke. What worries me is that Clinton supporters are sounding more like republicans in FOX news. They twist anything they feel uncomfortable with. That is sad for progressives.

    October 18, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  9. Shawn, Stillwater, MN

    Bill is the best president in the last 20 years huh?...He only destroyed our military financially by underfunding, allowed Osama Bin Laden to develop and Al Kaeda, and plan 911. He robbed social security to "balance the budget." Passed no difficult bills made no tough decisions... the ONLY ALL OF YOU IDIOTS CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE CLINTONS IS BECAUSE BILL WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE PRESIDENT DURING THE STOCK MARKET BOOM OF THE 90'S. Not to mention the disgrace to which those to run there personal lives...have any of you seen the people that have been murdered around them...google it. A vote for clinton destroys our country!

    October 18, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Sash, Baton Rouge LA

    I am willing to bet that none of these people posting comments against Obama's comments even watched the show. It's not always about what you say, it's how you say it. If you saw the show, it would be clear that he was just joking (a big smile and jest) about Bill and his wife. Everyone laughed, and I thought it was very funny and human-like; I guess we Americans like our politicians old and stiff. He's already made it very clear that he has much respect for those guys, but they're not perfect. I would hope that he is not afraid to be critical of them, challenge them, and give his honest assessment, which I am sure he's not. There is a clear difference b/t that and disrespect. But clearly, Obama is wise knows how to walk, talk, and think, and doesn't need anyone to tell him how to do it. That's confidence and a natural leader to me. I am very proud of him. No disrespect to Clinton of course.

    October 18, 2007 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Maurice, Washington, DC

    The war vote is not going to hurt Hillary Clinton, GET OVER IT!!! She voted based on the intelligence she had on hand. She wasn't the commander in chief. She was just a senator who received faulty intelligence. Barack Obama was not in the senate then. It's very easy to sit on the side lines and make such comments. It's different to be in the senate when you really have to vote.

    Hillary has not for once said anything about 'Mission Accomplished'. This just goes to show you how desperate her opponents are getting. They will do and say anything to derail her. I think the american people are smarter than that.

    Anyone with some wit watching Hillary's campaign will know that she is running the campaign for a winner. Running as if she were last. I am sure any of the other candidates would love to be in her shoes. They need to work on their campaign and present their vision for the country. That's what Hillary has done. You might not agree with her vision but at least she has one.

    October 18, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Karen, Irwin, PA

    Barack has my vote- he was a class act on Leno. Please- no more Clinton's! The public forgets their many past scandals.....bring on Obama for a change & some real intelligence in the White House! I liked his quip about Cheney being his cousin & his daughter showing (Cheney) how they live!

    October 18, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    !!! ATTENTION ALL !!!

    Make book on this.

    If Obama proves to be strong all the way to the DNC and lights the crowd up with his speech, Hillary would be a fool not to choose him as VP running mate!

    October 18, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. Missy, Dearborn, MI

    Hilary has NEVER said "Mission Accomplished." Quite the opposite in fact.

    I like Obama – but when he lowers himself to playing the political game as he does (especially attributing a quote to his rival that was never uttered!) I understand why I think he is to green to be prez.

    Hilary is doing it right! You never hear her bash the other candidates.

    October 18, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. Mark, Shreveport, LA

    I bet Michelle Obama would not sit by quietly if her huband cheated on her again and again and again! She'd drop him like a wet spider!

    Hillary's campaign song should be "Stand by Your Man"!

    October 18, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. Larry McGee, Smyrna GA

    I think people who are offended by Obama's assertion that his wife could "take on Bill" are taking this whole thing too seriously and out of context. Jay Leno is a comedian. The context of the whole discussion was comedy, including the coment from Jay about Michelle being alone with Bill.

    October 18, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Rebecca, Los Angeles, CA

    Obama is so glib and arrogant and despite his obvious lack of experience, he talks and acts like he has all the right answers. Shame on him! Hillary might not be that likeable but Obama's attacks are so personal that I am being drawn more and more to Hillary.

    October 18, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. Voice for the Uniter FL

    I've seen several posts about a certain candidate for president who offers no reasons to vote for him.

    So that guy running for president with the weird name?

    Oh yea that guy Barack?

    Yea. He graduated Harvard Law and had his pick of six figure jobs to walk into.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    He turned down all those jobs to organize voters at the grassroots for 14k a year.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    He's served elected office for longer than hillary clinton and John Edwards.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Has already raised more money from individual donors(no pacs no lobbyists) than any Presidential campaingn in the history of the United States.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    doesn't take money from lobbyists.

    O yea and that guy Barack?

    Is the only current presidential candidate to author ethics reform.

    O yea and that guy Barack?

    Authored a sweeping ethics reform bill last year AND it passed the house and senate AND the president signed it into law.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    isn't afraid to stand up to the Big Companies and doesn't need their money.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Held a meeting for the Big Wigs on wallstreet and told them he thought it was wrong that 1 percent of the population controlled 90 percent of the wealth in America.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Had a meeting with Auto-industry executives and ripped them on carbon gas emmissions.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Opposed the war from the start.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Loves, respects and believes in his wife who is smart and independantly successful.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Doesn't change his positions according to polls.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Says ethics reform is the cause of his career.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Has a healthcare plan that people are not forced into.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Has an energy plan that doesn't threaten bankrupt the auto and energy industries.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Is out on the road changing america while the snakes in washington sit in their cushy offices and vote to condemn ads.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Turned out 10,000 people to come see him speak when it was 40 below zero outside.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Reportedly has the largest grassroots network in history in place in South Carolina.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?
    Turned out 25000 people to a rally in New York and none of the news networks did a story on it.

    Oh yea and that guy Barack?

    Is the most popular candidate for president in America because all polls are conducted by landline and who is home to answer the housephone except 75 year old gramps? Until conversations at the bingo game begin to start with,

    Oh yea and that Guy Barack?

    Obama 2008!

    October 18, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Ivan, Chicago, Illinois

    To Jay Leno that was an inappropriate question about President Clinton and Mrs.Obama.
    To Mr. Obama Hillary has never said mission accomplished.

    October 18, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |

    Gosh, what arrogance? It appears to me that this race is between his wife and Hillary. When has Hillary ever said "mission accomplished"? She still talks like you are ahead of her. I agree with the other comments though such as, "you'll be a good candidate once she retires".

    October 18, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    All of you people need to lighten up. It's a joke. Get it? Ha ha.

    October 18, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. Sela, Roselle, NJ

    I agree with you C'mon, the headline is misleading. Obama, keep on moving, we got your back.

    October 18, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  23. Jessica, Fort Lauderdale, FL

    People, lighten up. All this huffing and puffing and indignation about disrespecting Bill Clinton. Calm yourselves. He was on Jay Leno, not Meet the Press or Jim Lehrer.

    And I'm sorry, who wouldn't stick up for their wives. At least he answered the question, unlike some other people who can't even choose a baseball team to root for...

    October 18, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. Henry Tucker, Ga

    Mr Obama, when it comes to Bill Clinton (and Michelle) You don't need to worry about Michelle handling herself. You might worry, though, about Bill Clinton "handling" Michelle – Kathleen Willey style.

    October 18, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. Matt S., USA

    Hindsight is always 20/20. We need a President whose -foresight- is 20/20. Barack Obama got it 100% correct, dotted the i's and crossed the t's. In October of 2002 when he gave a speech on Iraq:

    "I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

    I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars."

    It's a shame CNN didn't cover the rest of Obama's comments on Iran and Bush's WWIII comment.

    October 18, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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