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. James

    Bill one commet for you 9-11 shut your mouth

    January 8, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  2. Madonna Regan

    To All Media,

    WHY do you people hate Hillary Clinton? Is it because she is a Lady and more intelligent than you are people? Why ALL of you, when I say ALL, I mean, CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX, MSNBC MEDIA people leaning toward Barack? Is it because like you say people "likeable" but being likeable does not mean he will make a good president. Do you people realized that he is not as bright or intelligent as Hillary? Have people watched your own hosted debate? Barack could not answer questions as intelligent as Hillary. HE IS INEXPERIENCED! Is this the kind of president you want to lead? YOU PEOPLE TREAT HILLARY VERY UNFAIR!

    Madonna Regan
    Wife and A Mother

    January 8, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  3. land of lakes

    When is the press going to do their job? Thank you, Bill, for doing it for them.

    This is the most one-sided coverage on a political candidate I have ever seen. But it’s not going to work; we are committed to voting for the Senator from New York!

    January 8, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. hjones

    who is running you or the mrs you had your turn already.

    January 8, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. Artie

    If they can't take the heat from Obama, what would they do against the Republican attack machine?

    January 8, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Emily

    I see the Obama Cult is alive and well. What a dissapointment!

    What exactly is it about this guy that you can't accept any honest criticism? Does he walk on water or something? Someone writes great speeches for him. He commands and audience...and then what? Is he going to speech his way through everything?

    Check your facts before you come down on Clinton for saying the truth!

    January 8, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. doug

    Fact) Bill Clinton cannot tell the truth.
    Fact) Bill Clinton says Hillary's the most qualified to be President.
    Conclusion: Hillary is not the most qualified to be President.

    January 8, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Wilberto Jimenez, Monmot, MD

    Gbryant –

    "Why not bring up the background and the middle name Hussein."

    This is a statement in very poor taste. Why don't you just come right out with it, and accuse Mr. Obama of whatever it is you're trying to insinuate.

    And no, I'm not an Obama "fan".

    January 8, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    This answers my question of who is Bill Clinton "really" campaign for??? The answer is Barack. If he was really campaigning for his wife he wouldn't be acting the fool like this and making untrue statements – Bill Clinton is a much smarter politician than that.

    January 8, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. RWR

    I was going to comment but instead will commend the following for having clear visions of the Clintons......Scott, Flem, Brian, Dr. Roy, PW, Jr., TK, JCH, BJ, Ron L., Dalton, Jeff.

    A few others, Andres & Josh, are delusional.

    Everyone have a great day, and maybe we'll get something done in 2008.

    January 8, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Kate


    January 8, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. CJL

    Who needs comedy writers in Hollywood when we've got these characters for laughs? Writers couldn't make this stuff up!!

    January 8, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Annie

    The difference in Hillary's and Obama's message is this-Hillary is telling the Democrats to ask what the country can do for you, and Obama is telling the Democrats (and the Independents and Republicans) to ask what you can do for the Country.

    January 8, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. amy R, Iowa

    Obama has nothing to hide. That is a problem for Clintons and their establishment who have secrets and manipulations as part of their plan. So they try to come up with the spin of they don't know where Obama stands on things. Obama's stand are no secret. In fact, it seems the Clintons have tried to copy a few for themselves. Obama's Blueprint for Change out in the open online for all to see at http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf

    January 8, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. Denise

    Listen to you people. You sound like a bunch of 7th graders. What ever happened to reason and common sense?

    Based on your comments the Obama supporters are hypocrites. You are all for his message but by evidence of your scathing comments you aren't putting the message into practice. Which lends weight to the argument his campaign and supporters are more interested in talk than action.

    As for hits on the Clintons. There has never been anything proving they are crooks. The independent counsel spent years and millions trying to make the case against them but couldn't. Unless YOU can prove it I suggest you practice what Obama preaches; CHANGE and stop hammering them on something you 'think' .

    As for hits on Obama. How can we hit on him? No one knows anything about his record and that's largely because he has escaped the media's scrutiny. Up to now his campaign has been all talk that makes you feel hopeful. John Edward's speeches give hope too but no one is talking about him like they talk about Obama. Let's face it, if you honestly believe the media has no influence on the outcome of elections then you are someone new to politics and frankly that's what scares me. All the first time participaters that have no clue or have no desire to research the candidates on their tangible merits. Voters who take the easy route and vote based on emotion and not on facts.

    January 8, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. Daus

    Mr Clinton

    Let your wife fight or compete for herself against Mr Obama

    January 8, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. tuttifrutti

    Who's running for Prez? It's about time the Clintons get their just desert. I wonder if the wives of the other candidates will speak out when their spouses are attacked? The Clintons are upset since they thought Hillary was a cinch to win the candidacy for the Democratic party. She's weak and she is showing it to the nth degree. Thanks for NAFTA.

    January 8, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. Anne

    Poor Bill...he wants back into the White House so bad he can taste it! So close and yet.....so far.

    January 8, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. Phil Memphis, TN

    Wow. God forbid anyone say anything negative about Obama. What makes him exempt? Pointing out that he has voted exactly the same as Hilary on the war, while he tries to make a case that he somehow is right or different and the others are wrong seems like a reasonable point to make.

    Then he is criticized for campaigning for his wife? I believe the other candidates spouses and family are doing the same thing. Because he was President he somehow gave up his right to support a family member, or for that matter any candidate of his choice? Puhleeaassee

    I am still undecided and leanig away from Clinton or Obama and towards Edwards, but stop with the "how dare he" comments.

    January 8, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. Cheryl

    Bill Clinton has the right to say anything that he wants! He has been at this for years he is not a fool. The press is biased to Hillary, they paint her in a bad light because she is a woman. The way she was ganged up on in the last debate was awful, but did she buckle and cry then no! Because she is a strong woman and that is what we need in the white house! I can not believe that more women are not standing up for her! Where do you as women want to end up on the totem pole very bottom? The fact that we would even consider electing a black man before an experienced woman makes me sick! By the way the republicans want Obama thats why so many of them are walking into caucuses and registering as democrats to put him on the map so they can beat him!!!!!!!!!!!! It"s called a strategy the same way that they got Bush elected through the church with the abortion promise. vote CLINTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Eric

    The only reason people flock to Obama is because he is black.

    January 8, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Heidi

    What I don't understand is why are we hearing so much out of Bill? We don't hear all of the other candidates spouses putting in their thoughts on the campaign trail. Is this how it will be if Hillary is elected, Bill putting in his thoughts EVERYWHERE? I can't stand her, but add him on top and I feel nauseous.

    January 8, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  23. De Juan

    I hear everyone talking about change with Obama, but I have not heard anything from Obama. Where does he stand. If you still have the same congress and senate, then what changes can he make. Talk is cheap. I see all the blogs and wonder if anyone knows how congress works.

    January 8, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. Jojo

    Who is Obama?Whe does he come from?What did he change in Illinois state Liegislature?If I remember,he voted "Present" almost 19 times;which mean that he couldn't make decisions on important issues.When asked,he said that how people used to vote there.So why didn't he bring the same change he's talking about?
    Please,don't let the mass media influenced the election;they just need a story to talk about.Please don't let republican choose who they want to run against.Please,look at the issues and where the person stands.
    Yes you hate Hillary or Bill,but they may be the only hope for democrats to win in November and Republicans know that.
    Will you give this amazing country to someone named "HUSSEIN"?Somebody you don't know but who talks sweet as honey?Can Obama explains to voters what he was doing in Indonesia?If he says school,does he mean that there's no better schools in the US?He wants to change this country;for what?Where are going?what is it going to bring that we haven't seen?
    Please voters,think.Yes think before you cast your vote.Don't just dream;wake up.

    January 8, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. ppgallini

    If Obama won the nomination (which I dont think he will), and I'm an Independent, I will vote Republican or move to Europe.

    My worry is that Obama's lack of experience and wide-eyed views of how to get things done (i.e. unrealistic – and even Edwards agrees with that) will create a world war, a nuclear attack on this country .....or worse. He's got NO IDEA how to run a country . Oh yeah – and no experience either.

    January 8, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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