January 8th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
12 years ago

Bill Clinton targets media coverage of Obama

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Watch Bill Clinton's comments Monday night.

(CNN) - On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, former President Bill Clinton criticized the media for not pressing Barack Obama more fully on Iraq, and accused the Illinois senator of shifting his position to reflect changing attitudes on the war.

"It is wrong that Sen. Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war," Clinton said at a campaign stop in Hanover, New Hampshire.

"And you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004. And there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since."

He added, "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

Clinton's wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, is battling Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former president briefly acknowledged that his wife's senior campaign advisor, Mark Penn, was mistaken to claim that Obama had no bounce out of Iowa after winning the state's caucuses because the poll numbers on the day after were relatively unchanged.

Then he abruptly changed the subject - suggesting that Obama's campaign had employed underhanded tactics.

"What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook. Scouring me - scathing criticism over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.

"So you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want. It wasn't his best day. He was hurt. He felt badly we didn't do better in Iowa," said Clinton. "But the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true - and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months - is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media doesn't mean the facts aren't out there."

He added, lightheartedly, "Otherwise, I do not have any strong feelings about that subject."

The former president made the remarks as polls showed his wife trailing Obama in this important first-in-the-nation primary state.

Responding to the comments later Tuesday, Obama said the Clinton campaign was "frustrated," and he dismissed the notion the press has gone easier on him.

"Maybe I've been missing something, but it seems like you guys have been reporting on me the entire year," Obama told reporters. "I remember this summer when we were down 20 points, we were getting knocked around pretty good. And I didn't hear the Clinton camp complaining about how terrible the press was."

Related video: Watch John King and Jessica Yellin on Bill Clinton's comments

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (1,430 Responses)
  1. Eric

    After 35 years of experience and public exposure the "media" just wont give Hillary Clinton a fair shake. If your an effective politician the media has no effect. Otherwise, ROnald Ragan would not have one two landslides, as the media hated him. On the other hand, if you suck as a politician, like Hillary, and people can see through your phony "focus grouped" positions, you get trounced, even with the media and the Democratic Party elite almost entirely on your side. The type of attack done by Bill will only make Obama stronger.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. V.Dixon

    I think Hillary Clinton disqaulified herself from becoming president by Stating that
    she will be a very emotional President.Crying, and whimpering on national T.V.
    and showing weakness to the entire World, is not a character that I want in a commander in cheif and or President of the United States.A American President
    should project strength and power , not emotional weakness .
    American needs a strong President , not some wimpering wanabee.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. Scott H.

    Would someone tell Bill clinton to fade away gracefully? I supported Clinton in both elections and am a lifelong democarat – however, I have had enough of his and Hillary's whining about how they are mischaracterized, not treated fairly, etc. etc. etc. America has given them the benefit of the doubt on the majority of issues during campaigns and otherwise for 20 years. The 2008 campaing smacks of desperation – with Hillary's "crying" and Bill's yelling. Please do us all a favor – if Hillary loses NH ( and hopefully the majority of states on Super Tuesday) – please - just fade away.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. IJ baltimore, MD

    I could swear that just two weeks ago, people were complaining about "the media" annointing Hillary Clinton as the "inveitable" candidate. Now, probably those same people are claiming the media has "all along" been behind Obama. Give me a break. Nobody in this campaign is "annointed". The reason, plain and simple, that Obama won in Iowa is that....wait for it....MORE PEOPLE VOTED FOR HIM!
    I'm not totally sold on Obama. He's got some policy 'splainin' to do. And I like both he and Hillary. If either of them wins, we're a better country for it. But this whole "wahhh, the media is treating me unfair!" thing played by just about everyone in this campaign, Democrat and Republican, is old, tired, and pathetic.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. J

    Obama's staffers were alluding to comments made by Hillary Clinton herself with the Hillary could be a senator from Punjab. From the Chicago Tribune website: Writer Aziz Haniffa was reporting from a fundraiser in which over 80 prominent Sikh professionals and entrepeneurs from the Washington metropolitcan area paid $500 to $2,000 apiece to boost Clinton's political warchest: At the fundraiser hosted by Dr Rajwant Singh at his Potomac, Maryland home and which raised nearly $50,000 for her re-election campaign, CLINTON B EGAN BY JOKING THAT "I CAN CERTAINLY RUN FOR THE SENATE SEAT IN PUNJAB AND WIN EASILY" AFTER BEING INTROUDUCED BY SINGH AS THE SENATOR NOT ONLY FROM NEW YORK BUT ALSO PUNJAB.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. CJ

    Haha. Oh wow.

    Obama and Clinton are one in the same.

    The Democratic party kind of blows this time around. :\

    Though I must say Obama's a bit of a oxymoron: even though he suggests that he's the agent of change, he uses the same type of mud slinging found in every other politician.

    To the Obama campaign: Enjoy your failed presidency.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. charley

    We vode for a smart president not an "American Idol". If Senator loses the carcus, Democrat will lose the election for sure.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. von

    Bill and Hillary are sore losers, I have lost complete respect for you both and I am glad you are losing. I cant wait until we vote in North Carolina.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Mike

    Let's face it: The only reason Obama is getting the pass he's getting is because he's black. Would a white candidate ever have gotten this far on so puny a record? The media and voters have been buying this notion that Obama is another JFK or Bill Clinton. It's time for a fact check. John F. Kennedy had six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Bill Clinton had 12 years as a governor and was president of the influencial National Governor's Association. Obama has had three years in the Senate and missed most of his votes. We're in love for now with the story of a black man who is capturing our imaginations, but that story line will not last until Nov. 5 and Republicans will have no problem asking the questions that the media refuses to ask now.

    January 8, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. stan pitts pa

    Sorry slick willy after that breakdown, the world is laughing at AMERICA IF WE VOTE FOR HER! SHE IS NOT PRESIDENTIAL MATERIAL! TOO WEAK! Time to take her home!

    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. MIKE



    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  12. mikeyee

    Its easy to call someone a liar than being honest with first impressions. During the time Clinton was president, he raised the minimum wage twice and businesses thrived during his years in office. It was an economic dominance time for America. Now with the current issues at hand, someone is needed to make changes that is reliable. History always teaches what works and what doesn't. I see Obama as playing to everyone's ear; he talks the talk. But can he walk the talk? Hilliary is willing to even risk her people's reputation to overcome her opponent. Her actions in the past and now speaks one thing: She wants to bring change, not promises.

    Too many times presidents bring promises and not change. I myself am a hardcore republican, but I am voting Hillary for 08 because I think she has the willpower and can stand her ground as a leader. Change is really needed to help America before its too late

    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Criticizing the media is one thing but dictating to the media on what you want them to say takes on a whole new aspect. I'm surprised at Bill Clinton taking this approach in Hillary's defense and personally as much as I like the Clintons', I don't like this.

    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Bill Clinton is an adulterous rat. His wife has no experience to speak of. I am voting for Mike Huckabee.

    Boy, the first black president is sure showing his true colors. Now, Now, Bubba.


    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Just give it up Billary....positions on Iraq wouldn't even be required had a strong policy on the Middle East and terrorism been put in place by the *ahem* Bill Clinton Administration. All the smoke & mirrors that created the artificial optimism in the economy was taking all of Bill's time, so terrorists largely went neglected to to do as they please.

    So, Bush had to do something....Hillary drank the kool-aid....and Bill Clinton is swallowing a bitter pill that is only attributable to his woeful failure as a leader.

    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  16. Tim

    tBill Clinton is right,this is a fairy tale. What change is Obama talking about? Obama is more hype then substance. He only sayswhat people want to here. Poeple need to wake up and see through all of this. IF Obama wins the primary. We will have 8 more years of GOP President in the White House.

    January 8, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  17. J. Davis

    This is exactly why we don't need a female as Pres. of the US....reasons being, she's too emotional and she's not strong enough to fight her own battles, her husband is doing it for her. Is she going to cry on national tv every time there is a national crisis?

    Sorry Bill, but has it occurred to you that you are not running for Pres. in 2008, Hilary is? I love you, but she's not the one!

    Obama 2008

    January 8, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. K

    what is all this "experience" hillary keeps talking about? would you let a doctor's wife perform surgery on you, just because she is married to a doctor? would you let the broker's husband handle your money just because the broker herself retired?

    January 8, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. A reader

    Everyone seems to be on Obama but he has not received any type of criticism like Hillary has. No one has really questioned his past. Why does he cover up he is muslim? Why does he show that he went to Catholic school? Big deal. I went to Catholic school and just had to pay extra. I am not Catholic. What has he done in his first term? What has any of these candidates done? We have no idea what these people are going to be able to do when they get in office. They tell us what we want to hear. At least with Hillary, she knows what to expect. She helped Bill run the nation. Nation didnt do too bad during those 8 years compared to the HELL we have endured with Bush the almost 7 years.

    January 8, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Gil (CA)

    Former President Clinton balanced the budget and left a surplus; let's not forget. That said, Both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards bring experience and potential to the table, while Barrack Obama brings dreams and little else. Does anyone remember what happened when the last dreamer/outsider was elected to the White House in 1976? Jimmy Carter's plans were stymied by the Washington Machine at almost every turn; his was the first election in which I voted, and I endorsed him vigorously as I wanted an outsider and dreamer to change Washington. Although I still believe that Jimmy Carter was the better candidate then, and I have watched him walk the walk during the last 30 years, this time around I would much rather vote for an experienced person who can navigate Washington and not one who simply talks the talk. I support Hillary Clinton because she knows what can actually be done to change things, because she is married to the most fiscally-responsible former president of the last 20 years, and because she is a woman–talk about an outsider; she has managed to gain the respect of her NY constituents. She can work effectively for change.

    January 8, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. Bill W - PA

    When the going gets too tough for Hillary, she cries and brings out Bill Clinton.

    Boo Hoo!

    January 8, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Rafi, NY NY

    WAVE wave WAVE wave WAVE (get it? it's an actual wave).

    Karen? Are you drunk?

    January 8, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. Jim, VA

    The media bias is so blatantly obvious that this election sadly has become an American Idol contest. No one has asked what specific changes that Obama is going to bring. No one has investigated his past. The most notorious one-side network is MSNBC. It has become essentially the anti Clinton kiss Obama network. Sickening!

    January 8, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. av3



    January 8, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. New Hampshire

    If Obama equals change, then why has he taken such great pains to mimic President Clinton....everything down to his use of "Hope" is Clintonian, his swagger, his mannerisms, his gestures, but all without the the depth, skills, ideas or sincerity. Sure, Bill Clinton told some tall stories–since Obama has so far copied Bill–how do we know he won't tell similar tall stories.

    Where is the authentic Obama–he's the great pretender and its time the press and voters take a close, deep look. If we get Obama, we don't know who we're really getting because he's never been his real, authentic self–nothing more than a copy. If he can't do anything more than mimic the other greats then we don't really know who he is or what he stands for or what he'll do.

    Obama preaches a higher form of political discourse–but I haven't seen it–he attacked first and on a personal level. He didn't attack ideas or record, because that would be tantamount to attacking his own–to the extent he's shown up to vote.

    The younger voters who've taken the lead in getting him elected are too young to realize that Obama is Bill Clinton circa 1992. (They were no older than four or five at the time). Time for the adults to stop being so easily persuaded by our youth! We're supposed to lead them, not the other way around.

    People, this isn't a game, this is about the future of our country. Our country is hurting, dying, suffering....its time to get past celebrity hype and the media's coronation of its latest golden boy....so let's get real. I have a very, very bad feeling about the latest golden boy–they have almost always served to disappoint. Please take off the rose-tinted glasses America.

    Hillary has made some mistakes sure, and sure she doesn't let us "in" nearly as much as some other folks do, but she is genuine, authentic, ready to lead and has the record and experience to show she can make profound change. Obama just doesn't have that. Hillary can provide strong, decisive leadership–Obama can't–gaining consensus is not the same as strong, bold leadership–which is what our country desperately needs. When Hillary listens to questions, its clear that it isn't about her, but its about us. When Obama listens, its clear that its about him and his ego.

    Hillary is not her husband. She's stronger, more thoughtful, more compassionate. She'll make an incredible president. She's the real deal people.

    It is too early to say this is over for her. I hope she mounts an aggressive, strong fight to the finish and reveals Obama and Edwards for what they really are–two profoundly ego-centric, shallow guys who have no real vision for repairing America. Talk is nice–action is essential.

    I'm with Hillary. Hillary '08!

    January 8, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
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