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. Nancy

    I'm sorry, Which Clinton is running for President? Bill or Hillary? Hillary says she "can lead from day one" is she unable to get to day one on her own? OR does she need her husband to fight her battles first?? Is Barack's wife sticking up for him too?? You had your chance Bill STEP BACK.

    January 8, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Brennan - Seattle, WA

    People complained for years about how "young" people wouldn't come out and vote, how they wouldn't get involved in the process and how they were not "interested" in their country. Now Obama has gotten them interested and excited for a new direction in this country, they come out and they become active in the process and vote, and now we get gems like:

    "hollie January 8, 2008 12:55 pm ET

    We need to start raising the voting age…….end of story."

    The generation that told us to get interested is now mad that we don't vote their way.

    Obama and other younger politicians are the future of our country. My generation is disgusted with the devisive, hate filled politics of the recent past and we will vote accordingly. I used to want, to become a politician and recent history has turned me away from that, but Obama returns the idea to my mind. Every generation has a pivotal moment where they wrestle control from the previous and I am not afraid to say that I HOPE this is ours.

    January 8, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. slinkymalinky

    The International Herald Tribune reports the Illinois senator has become huge in Germany, where he is being compared to the much-loved John F. Kennedy.

    The Berliner Morgenpost ran a headline this weekend calling Obama, "The New Kennedy." saying, "The Black American Has Become the New Kennedy."

    And an editorial in the Frankfurter Rundschau ran with the headline, "Lincoln, Kennedy, Obama" ... "hope and optimism are the source of the nation's strength."


    January 8, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. Love Obama but vote Hillary

    Obama talks so much about hope and change, As a US senator and as IL state Senator what change did he bring about. His words ring hollow.. with out the track record.

    See how the Republicans will bring his race, his ancestory and his way too liberal stance out in the open during general elections.

    Democratic party hasnt learned with the debacle of 2000 and 2004 , both times they elected candidates who were not electable .. one because of his personality and one because of his flip floping.

    I really like Obama.. and wish he could be the president instead of Hillary but I will say that aint happening.. even if he gets the nomination.

    Clintons will not campaign for obama.. there will be split in the party.. Obama can not perform in debates.. the republican machine will make mince meat out of his campaign .. wait until the primaries are over.. another Karl Rove will emerge.. and put up the unbeatable coalition..

    Only the battle hardened Clintons are the right people to counter this..

    Remember General Election is a whole new ball game..

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Azar

    Poor Bill. I voted for him twice. Unfortunately, he abused his power while in the White House, the Democrats lost the majority in the Senate and the House, and his administration was responsible for the division in the country. I do not think that Hillary will do better than her husband. Hillary belongs to the old guard. We seriously need a fresh start. Obama has the vision for the future of America, he has very good judgment, and he will bring us together. Further, he will work with us to help make America a better place for all of us. Look at the voter turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire. Do you really think that if he were not running, so many people would come out to vote? Think very hard before you put him down.

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. kamenwati

    Bill, please keep talking. The more you open your mouth the more people you drive away from supporting your wife.

    All you Clinton lovers out there, you ever stop for a moment to think why the Republicans were able to take over Washington after the Clinton presidency? The fault rests with Bill Clinton. His self-indulgence and deceit allowed the Republican thug machine to claim the high ground. Clinton's perfidy compromised Gore's ability to run an effective campaign, and made it easy for the Republican election stealers to do their dirty work.

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. jack, ny, ny

    I agree with Bill. Obama is telling fairy tale to all those naive americans. He got no plan. He is just coping stuff from Martin luther king and JFK. This guy is a complete sham just like Bush.

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. Trey

    This race is not about gender and not about skin color. It is about setting a new direction to lead the US. Obama has put forth a strong message that tears down politics of old. The Clinton team is frustrated that their name alone cannot win the election and unfortunately they are choosing to play dirty politics. I anticipate Obama will stay positive as it is his optimistic message that has carried him this far. Hopefully the Clintons can play fair and not divide their own party.

    I have shifted my support from McCain/Guiliani to Obama partly due to his powerful and authentic message of change. I also feel other independents like myself are doing the same.

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. Crystee Stigge

    The press is once again hiding the facts. ABC's 20/20 portrayed the Clinton campaign as using "Push Polls" in Iowa against Senator Obama. I am a Clinton champion, and I did more reporting then they did. I received a very negative Clinton "Push Poll" and immediately demanded to speak to the manager. I was given an 800 number to call, upon doing so I was told that the account was from "out of state" and they could not give anymore information. My request for "change", do the job that needs to be done as reporter. Treat the canidates with the same respect and the same issues. Then let the people decide, not you.

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. Democrats will throw another one away

    Obama just talks; Hillary will fight.

    Pres. Obama will talk about universal health insurance; Pres. Hillary will fight for it.

    Pres. Obama will run away from the fight; Pres. Hillary will WIN it.

    That's why Republicans hate Hillary so much. She fights and she wins. And the side she fights for is the people's side and not the Republicans's Wall Street side.

    Let's face it, everyone has faults (even Hillary), but only Hillary can win in November. And Democrats aren't losing anything by voting for her over Obama. She is just as idealistic and passionate as Obama, but she can get the job done. She is a progressive Democrat who couldn't show her colors in the 1990s because the REPUBLICANS CONTROLLED CONGRESS! So stop giving her this bum rap about being "ineffective" in the '90s. She proposed national health insurance, for God's sake!

    By the way, you folks and your antipathy towards "going negative" are a little naive. I'll agree that attacking someone for what they did 30 years ago is wrong, but it's 100% fair game to attack someone's RECORD and POSITIONS ON THE ISSUES (or lack thereof). How else are you going to know the weaknesses in a candidate's ideas? George Bush isn't going to tell you the problems of this ideas. Barack Obama won't either. Only their opponents will point out the problems. There's nothing with "negative" campaigning of that type.

    January 8, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  11. aware

    Bill is right on target! Much of the media has fanned the flames of sexism for stories/bucks! Obama will fade as people come to their senses. America had a love affair with Bush too. Unfortunately, they elected him twice.

    January 8, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. DD, New York

    REply to BJ: It is in todays news (CNN's website too) showing obama's grandmother outside a shack in Kenya. That's how I know!

    January 8, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  13. Bill

    I cannot understand why the media or the other candidates have not challenged Hillary Clinton's claim to 35 years of experience. Being married to a cardiologist does not qualify one to perform open-heart surgery.

    January 8, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. von

    Whining about Obama saying that he is comparing himself to JFK and MLK is something that he did not say, but obviously you feel this way about him.

    Do yourself a favor and drop out of the race because you cant beat greatness.

    January 8, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. Tom Smalley,IOWA

    Give me a break bill clinton,A fairy tale ?,seems Hillary was sobing about the fact your time in the white house was the worst ,and the damage done and scandels that she is finaly seeing the american people REJECT YOU as a first man in the white house? She thought she could get in and some how RIGHT a WRONG for how your 8 year term and what it stacked up to be ? Or what it didn't stack up to be? the DISGRACE you brought to the Whitehouse, From the day you got off the plane in Iowa her numbers have gone done every day. Where were you when I and many others wrote the White house when Oklahoma government was not Playing Fair to the citizens of that state ? Or should I say who else was in the oval office with you when we Pleaded for help? Look pal every one thinks Hillary needs to say she is sorry for this so call War vote? Have you Every really sat in front of the American People and say YOU ARE sorry for the DISGRACE you brought to the OFFICE? One thing also you should be honest and tell every body you are greatfull to the YEARS before you took OFFICE for the Great Economy you benifited for those years? Be a Man billy, Seems your Wife "IS" not ready to be President on day 1 ? Why all the staff change today ,thought she is ready? and now she really is for change and is changing allready and she has not won one yet? I wonder she may have got the office if she left you? If a person puts up what you did to her ? what will she herself put up with in office?

    January 8, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. ms joy

    One day the Hil is crying ok fine! Now today Bubba is trying to beat everybody up.
    Get over it if she looses it was because she was suppose to. what Bubba think's he can save the day by beating folks up. Forget about it! Suck it up and keep on moving. and what is this suppose to make folks vote for the Hil I don't think so I think it's a turn off! One more for the Bam!! LOL!!!

    January 8, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. Naba

    Personally , I think that show of emotions by Hilary at this time was kind of fake, and in no way related to how much he care about the ordinary people.She almost teared up not because of her love for America, but ultimately for the love of her political dreams which seems almost shattered.
    I mean, come to think of think of it, She will never have show this emotion if she was winning as anticipated.
    She didnt have no choice than to show emotions on TV, its the only way she can counteract the Obamania tidal wave sweeping accross the electorate.
    Tears for votes. !!!! Go Hilary.

    January 8, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. BionicWoman

    I am sick of the media portrayal of BozObama as if its the 2nd coming. I am fed up with the Hillary haters who are disguising their hatred of women leaders. I saw the debate in NH – on one side you have 2 guys talking rhetoric and promises with no details and nothing to back them up – and on the other side you saw 2 adults with experience in life and wisdom.

    How could anyone trust this guy to handle Iraq? This is getting scary. This election is not about domestic issues and changing America. Oh, the kids can say so, but as adults who have lived a little longer – we really must get control of this situation because this election is really about a new direction in Iraq. Its about healthcare and the economy.

    Do we really want to take a chance on loosing healthcare after finally getting someone to do this for us? Those kids don't care about healthcare. Its the adults who do. Its the adults that have to pay taxes and mortgages. These kids are screwing up our lives because they want to vote for a Pied Piper. And the media is helping because they are no longer journalists, they are tabloid writers.

    January 8, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  19. Brad

    Obama Hussein needs to be shown door....

    January 8, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. go hillary

    To Jr in CA – HILLARY – 35 years experience. Read the entire sentences she uses. She mentions child poverty and has been working on that for 35 years since she graduated from Law School and worked on the Children's Defense Fund. Meanwhile she has worked on many other things. There, now you have to keep your promise and vote for her.

    January 8, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. Wilberto Jimenez, Monmot, MD

    Michael –

    On your English usage diatribe: Perhaps Bill did mean it this way. The mechanism by which he feels is bad, not that he himself feels bad, i.e. that he is unhappy. It would correlate with someone who doesn't equate oral sex as "sex".

    January 8, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. tim

    Obama has done nothing of substance. He is just a windbag. Please elect somebody who has been a proven boss.

    January 8, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. dawit isaac

    What a shame for a man who blew his chance for greatness – alas for lack of judgement and character! to have the audacity to critique the esteemed Senator from Illnois. Please Americans let us not hear from this Clinton – Bush clans again once and for all.

    January 8, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  24. Chris- Ohio

    To the poster who suggested that we need to raise the voting age

    Maybe you should go fight in Iraq.

    January 8, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  25. yvonne jackson

    I would like to know more about Senator Obama,where did he come from and what is his true political record. What has he done or attempted to do for the country? when did he do it and how long has he given his life to the political arena. He speaks of change can he go deeper as to what he knows he will be able to change. He speaks of change and dances across the stage,but lets go deeper,how about his experience. As far as Senator Clinton is concern she has given her life to the american political arena,so be she is a woman yes,but she is a strong ,out spoken and dedicated woman,full of compassion. We have seen through the years her stick to resolve,even when she was under the microscope regarding her and President Clinton she did not fold,she stayed. I think this says a lot about her ,not being one to bail out when things get messy. Lets have some more answers and question about the Senator Obama.

    January 8, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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