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 in Massachusetts

    Hi Wilberto,

    I am real.... not on one of the campaigns. I have defended Hillary, but I actually voted for Bush in 2000 and 04. The Dems just did not have viable candidates in either race. Bush has really caused problems but Gore and/or Kerry would have been much worse. I'm sorry to say that it's shaping up that way again now. UNLESS Hillary is nominated. I would switch back to Dems and vote for Hillary. I might even vote for Edwards, but I'd have to think that one through first.

    But, if it is Obama on the boards, I WILL vote for the Republican, whether it is McCain, Romney or Huckabee. Any of the 3 of them would do much much better than Obama.

    In my opinion, Obama did this too soon. He should have completed at least one term as Senator. And he should have at least tried to make it to the Senate to place his votes. He has an abominable voting record... something like 63% I think. My concern is that he is running so quickly. Why? Is he afraid that if he ran an entire term in the Senate that he would be found out? What is there to find out? Don't get me wrong, I think he is a good man. He just does not have a clue what it takes to run a country. And why is his mother living in a shack in Africa shucking corn? That's horrible.

    For me, it is either Hillary, Edwards or a Republican.

    January 8, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. Helena B.- Memphis, Tn

    I feel that the Clintons are using dirty politics to try to bring Obama down. I think that they are doing the same thing they accused the Bush campaign of doing and that is trying to use smear tactics to win votes. But America is so tired of all of those games that the Clintons are trying to play. We do not need another Clinton or Bush in office they've been in office since the late 80s. We are tired of the same old thing. We need a new direction and we need new leadership. We need a new plan. And I dont feel that Hillary can do that for this country. Hillary is not strong enough. She cant even control her own emotions, how can she control this country. I hope that some people feel the way I feel. I'm voting for OBAMA 08!

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  3. Buzz

    Bill just hurt Hilary with his stupidity. Everything the Clintons do just backfires. I can see Obama's victory solidified already. The Clintons are out of touch. Bill cannot attack Obama on honesty issues – he's not qualified to do so. Even if the Clintons change their approach now they will continue to lose credibility.

    Now I see folks attacking Obama through devious means – his other name, his heritage etc. That is a sign of desperation.

    OBAMA '08

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. Cable King Pittsburgh PA

    Nothing new, but how did we get so nasty as a nation?

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |

    Truth is that neither Clinton is a Democrat. No Democrat would have signed a Welfare reform bill that pulled the safety net from under thousands of needy families and left black kids to sleep with rats in Chicago ghettos, or sign a military appropriationss bill that denied abortion needs to females in the services.

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  6. Adele

    I am sick of the Clintons proclaiming that Hilary should be the candidate fo choice just because she has six years experience in Washington. I thought that Obama has 16 years. Who wants to go from Bush to Clinton then Bush to Clinton. I think that the American people have had enough of the Clintons and they are simply looking for change from someone who seems authentic.

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Mike in San Francisco

    Bill, STOP. Give it a rest! Enough already!!

    I voted for you twice and still respect you.

    BUT....., you and Hillary can't see that the country is suffering from over 24 years Bush I, Clinton and Bush II FATIGUE. It's time for a new generation to lead in a new direction.

    Your presence on the campaign trail with Hillary only REINFORCES policies of the past.

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. isoprene

    Good Job Bill.

    Finally there is someone who speaks the truth. Lets do reality check for Obama. He is a fake. Wow Obama supporters of Hope and Change? You cannot stand the truth, so how come you can bring the change. Also what a politician. If not the nominee, he will be the independent. Lets wake up America and Stop the false hope and lies and fabricated change. Lets STOP OBAMA.

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. TheTruthHurts

    It's just sad. Even if everything Clinton says is true, it's sad that they can be no more effective than to blast Obama with obscure criticisms not supported by actual voters who would actually be the ones who could be sympathetic characters.

    I like Bill, Hillary, Edwards and Obama and it's sad that Obama seems to be the only one that can consistently take the high road regardless of what daggers might be thrown. Obama may have evil staffers doing his bidding, but it still says alot that the candidate hasn't felt the need to stoop low.

    January 8, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. nikki

    I just can't believe how obama's campaign seems to be just fluff and nonsense . Has he been pressed for serious issues? he seems to be a new wave preacher talking up crowds but there is nothing concrete to fall back on!

    January 8, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. Dee

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

    Hmmm...I don't know Bill...Every fairytale I've ever seen...always has a happy ending!

    January 8, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Arshad

    Mr. President, we all trust your words. We all remember your assertion with a pointed fingures on TV screen, "I did not have s-- relationship"

    You two are obsessed about power. It's all about you, not about anyone else. Look how a whole generation of yonger people have been inspired by a candidate, named Barack Obama. People who are running for President, they all are good, smart people. No of years in washington is not enough. If it was, Al Gore, John Kerry would have been president. Biden and Dodd would lead the nomination. But it;s not. It's a blend of wisdom, judgment, character, ability to inspire people about a building a better future. Senator Clinton is one fine, accomplised senator, no question about it. But may be people are looking for something different in this election. She is a good candidate. But Senator Obama may be just a much better candidate.

    So you can lie all you want. You can scream, she can cry all you want. You can twist his record, send e-mail about he being a muslim plant or a drug dealer. All this will do is will make you a liar one more time, will drag you down from the respect democrats show to you. Let;s face it. Hillary is not capable of drawing independent vote. Without them she can not win in general election. Does not matter how experienced or formidable candidate she is. The strategy you are adopting is making one thing clear, you will destroy the most electable democratic presidential candidate for your wife's ambition. A former American president, the most popular democrat in the country, I thought, was better than this low level of distortion.

    January 8, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Jon, Lantana

    Lets see here. I am very disappointed in Obama supporters in General. Every post you see on here from one of his change disciples, you see bigotry, hate, and downright lies to make their candidate look better. Take a close look at all of these blogs and you will see. Look at how many investigations have been against the Clintons and how many of them resulted in a charge, NOT A ONE. You Obama supporters play in to the Republican lies and playbook, by using baseless accusations as a way to support your person. If Clinton was a man you would not make fun of her stoic and solid personality. Yes, she is a woman, but she doesnt have to be all pretty and frilly to be a woman. She acts just like any other politician out there. I think the major reason you resort to lies and nasty nasty nasty rhetoric against her is because there is a major flaw with Obama, he is NOT qualified. Albeit I think he is a great guy, but lacks the experience to get the things done that he is touting. Lets hear some actually specific ways you will influence change instead of touting change, change, change, change. Every president has brought about change in one way or another and is a cop-out for him. Put more scrutiny in all the candidates instead of relying on false promises by Obama.

    January 8, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Martin, Clarksville, TN

    If Obama's campaign is a fairy tell, I guess that makes Hillary the wicked witch.

    Anybody but Hillary in 2008

    January 8, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. Nancy O

    Change – the time is now and Obama is the one!!

    blah blah – what experience does Hillary have, 8 years in the senate? Or is she trying to tell us she was running the country and not Bill? If that's the case then nothing will change and she was a sleazy president.

    I've tried to like her but can't find anything honest about her – she has no integrity.

    She took money from a fugitive, tax evader and traitor WHO her husband pardoned. Does Marc and Denise Rich ring a bell? If not, google them. Wake up America

    Besides does anyone see a pattern here – Bush Sr.1989-1993, Clinton 1993-2001, Bush Jr. 1999 -2008 and Ms. Clinton 2008 – ??

    How can it get any worse???

    January 8, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Bill, Milwaukee, WI

    Go Bill!

    It's about TIME someone told it as it is...

    Let NOBAMA go INDEPENDENT or REPUBLICAN or ILLINOIAN; his WIZARD OF OZ fairy tale will never get me to vote for him!

    NOBAMA: the ONLY DEMOCRAT who thinks the MATRIX is REAL!

    January 8, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. James Warren

    Barack Obama reminds me of Elmer Gantry amd a used car salesman.

    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. Nice, Houston, Texas


    These Power Mongers WOULD DO AND SAY ANYTHING TO GET BACK IN THE WHITE HOUSE. I mean.......... ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    WE DON'T WANT YOU BILLARY, its the 21st century.


    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. Sick and tired

    Wait. . .the Clintons aren't crooks? Didn't they just return a bunch of dirty campaign money?

    Anyway, so the point of that speech seems to be that there is no difference in Clinton's and Obama's voting records. If they're the same, then I'll still take Obama, thanks.

    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Christine Tynes, Virginia Beach, VA

    Bill: SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! You and your silly, corrupt wife had your chance. You have some nerve to speak of liars and half-truths. What the heck did you and your wife do during the time that you were in the White House?? Yeah, don't think "liberals" didn't pay attention and start digging deep to find all the crap the two of you pulled during your reign. The Republicans weren't the only ones paying attention.

    Funny how the gloves are coming off now that Hillary isn't the automatic shoe-in you thought she would be. Its time to go forward, not backwards... and while I don't think Barack has everything he needs to do this job, I'm sure he will somehow gather everything he needs. And you know what? The American people will help him do it!

    It's too late. Your time is done. Go retire and start being a husband to your wife to console her in her time of need. 🙁

    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. let's be real

    Slick Willy isn't so "slick" anymore is he? Stay out of this, man. You're making your wife look bad.

    Though I support Hillary, I do believe this move is very stupid. If negative campaigning hasn't been working so far this year, what makes you think it will work now? It only repels potential voters from voting for you. This move will inevitably increase Obama's lead to a point where he will have won by over 10 points again. Speak about how your wife can also be of change, not about how Obama "changes views" during the war. Most people are not convinced about Clinton's association with "change."

    Obama's main weakness is inexperience. Other than that, I really can't say there's another weakness he has. Yes, Obama promises change, but can you really trust someone with very little experience to bring this change? As the saying goes, it's easier said than done. Talk is cheap; unfortunately, people all around, including this forum, are buying the crap. Remember, we as Americans voted for George Bush in the first place and look what happened. Don't make the same mistake again based on words. Actions speak louder than words, and right now all I can see from Obama are words. Show me the experience please.

    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. Akilah Hughes

    Gimme a break! Bill Clinton was great in office, but he's not running. People obviously want Barack Obama more than Hillary Clinton. Let her fight her own battles Bill!

    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Pete

    "It's time for the Baby Boomer generation to step aside. I like Bill Clinton but it is time for us to move on. I am tiring of the 60's generation dividing this country over past battles. We have important issues to deal with and the boomer's self-absorbtion is getting old. Mrs. Clinton, get out of the way, stay in the senate and let Obama unite the country!

    I totally agree with this comment.. the boomers did great things in the 60s.. but they have become what they used to hate in our current times

    They are ripping this country apart...... because they all still hate each other

    January 8, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. Michael

    This may be a cavil, but you would think a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale School should know "one feels bad," not "one feels badly." Can't this preening narcissist at least be familiar with English usage?

    January 8, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Terry

    Take a back seat, Bill. Hillary too. This wave of true support for Obama is way beyond the manipulative and calculating politics that control your every move.

    January 8, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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