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. Ken in RI

    Look, I have tremendous respect for Bill Clinton as a politician. He did many, many things in office that were terrible for the country (go here if you've forgotten: http://www.alternet.org/stories/72336/ ). But he's not being a smart politician now. The buzzword is "change," Hillary's trying to leverage that buzz, and Bill is just making everyone think that we're headed back to 1992. Furthermore, he is a more compelling speaker than his wife, and an overall more engaging person. He's going to end up getting more media than her because people prefer him to her. Which is not going to help her campaign. Yes, he should be working for her campaign in an advisory capacity (read: behind the scenes). But every time he gets up in front of TV cameras, he is stealing her limelight. He should let her be the star of her own campaign.

    January 8, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. RealityKing

    HillBillary has just re-instated James Carville and Paul Begala as their new head mud slingers. Now watch as the politics of personal destruction switches into high gear, reminisce of yesterday past..

    January 8, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. tim

    It is unfortunate to notice how much panick has exasperated the Clinton campaign. Very embarrassing too for Bill to come and speak on behalf of his wife...why can't she stand up and say it herself...

    Dirty tactics in a vain attempt to shield the vague and show of emotions betting it would carry you to the White House.

    Stay away, Bill...you are only going to make matters worse than they already are!

    January 8, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. Christina

    Obama is covered too much by republicans and democrats. The aim is to knowck down Hillary. After that republicans will have another President. Barak Obama shift his position many times, especially for the war.

    Media is worst than artillery. Media is deciding who will win and the way the media is positioned - who win the republican nomination -he is the President!! Full stop!!

    January 8, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. Cowen

    I think Bill Clinton needs to step aside and let his wife do her own work on the campaign trail. If there is anyone for her to blame for lagging in the polls it's her husband. It makes both of them look petty and foolish as they attempt to ruin other candidiates who just so happen to be ahead of Hillary on the poll counts. If Hillary really is the change maker she so often refers to herself as, then people would SEE and KNOW the CHANGES she wouldn't have to go around reminding everyone of all the "great things she has done already". The time has come for our Country to get the leadership it deserves. A leadership for ALL people and not just the rich and famous. Barack Obama is the person who can deliver. So what if he isn't in his 70's or 80's and doesnt have ALL the experiences of the world...We all have to start somewhere. We need a President who can speak out and motivate the other leaders in Congress to follow their promises and to remember the people who elected them. I believe Barack Obama will do that.

    January 8, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. NJ

    I'm sorry but even Obama's ideas of change are just fairy tales. do you people honestly believe he will be permitted to implement them? There is Congress, lobbyists, etc. while they may sound wonderful, I just do not see how he will be able to deliver.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  7. Arshad

    He opposed the war in public in an anti-war rally. It's public information. He predicted the outcome of Iraq war exactly it turned out before the war. It;s documented. His judgment made him go to public and voice opposition to the war in the middle of his Senate primary. Hillary;s judgment made her follow Bush blindly and authorized war. That's the difference, Bill.

    Now once your wife and others made a bad call, sent 160000 US soldiers in the middle of a war (they did not go there by choice, your wife Hillary and Bush and others sent them along). Bad jusdgment and bad decisions have already been made, right or wrong. Don't you think a US senator has obligation to support the troop in war zone regardless of how bad the decision was to begin with, until the soldiers can return safely. So voting for an unnecessary war showing poor judgment and supporting fund to stand behind troop in the war zone is not same thing, Bill. If he did not vote for these funding in senate, you and your wife now would tell everyone, Senator Obama abandoned US troops in the middle of war zone with funding their need. He is driven by what's right thing to do. You couple is driven by what make your resume "look" stronger so that you can keep making american people fool.

    What has been started by Obama, are not going to stop by so called campaign strategy or record distortion or attack campaign, planned destruction of opponents in a systemetic way. Obama is beyond that phase. You can keep trying of you think you even have a remote chance. One last thing, both of you will bite your tongue and speak in Obama's convention and support his candidacy and campaign for him eventually. So stop this drama.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. James

    Where does Bill Clinton get the nerve to criticize anyone? He was the biggest embarrasment to the presidency in history! At least I doubt any of the candidates will play around in the oval office now, and cetainly won't outright lie about it.
    Ol Bill isn't a + for hillary, he's a liability!

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. De Juan TEXAS

    The media is attacking Hillary as well as the Republicans. They all want Obama to win the Democratic election, because they he can not win the Presidential election. Hillary can carry the south. Obama can not. I still have not heard what he stands for.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  10. Duop Chak, Colorado Springs, CO

    Bill Clinton has shown frustration and he also failed to show his political skill in this particular speech, hard to believe—well, things can change very quickly.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Carol Pettipher

    Thank goodness Hillary Clinton showed human emotion. I am still waiting for someone in the current administration to do the same about the damage, collateral and otherwise, of the past seven years.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. Florida

    It's sad to see Bill Clinton, a man whose life and presidency were built on hope, decry his natural successor.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. frieda

    It is important to look past the rhetoric and analyze the needs of diplomacy and governance for the US as it faces a critical audience globally. The message that Clinton is trying to impart, in my humble opinion, is one of pragmatic analysis of the world political body and the challenges facing humanity today. I urge all of you who have commented at an emotional level to refrain from emotion and become critical thinkers in the face of such dangerous times. It matters little which man or woman is a better orator, but rather which man or woman most embodies the characteristics and statesperson skills to navigate the body politic of the world. We cannot resort to ethnocentric diatribe at such a critical time. Please look rationally and pragmatically at the world at large and realize how different we all view our world and how difficult it is to embrace all views.

    January 8, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. Bukky, Balt MD

    So the tactic has changed to Hillary being more sensitive and Bill doing the mud slinging.... Hmmm nope not gonna work.

    We all new that as soon as Obama won one Mud would come from the wood works. Sling away... you'll just look like a bully beating a peacenik

    January 8, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. amy R

    Who is the one lone person who keeps repeating that if Obama wins the nomination that they will vote Republican or move to Europe?

    Repeating the comment won't make a difference to Obama. Especially since Obama is the only person who can with the general election anyway. So good riddance. Enjoy your stay as an expatriate in Europe.

    January 8, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. Scott, Royal Oak, MI

    Bill and Hillary = Bitter Betty and Weeping Wendy

    January 8, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. Barbie

    Wow, Bill is a little testy about Hilary losing now to Obama and appears desperate to get back in the White House at any cost. Hilary has done some good things but she does represent the past. We must look to the future and if we are going to stop the bleeding in the US with all out serious problems we must truly have a leader to unite Red/Blue politics and Black/White/Yellow and Brown Americans. Obama seems to present a fresh approach and I think we need this now more than ever.

    January 8, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. Joanne McCann

    I don't think anyone disputes Hillary's ablity to be President. I think the bottom line difference between Hillary and Barack is who will unite us as a nation. Unfortunately, right or wrong, people either love or hate the Clinton's there does not seem to be any middle ground. The Republicans spent 8 years trying to bring Bill down to no avail. But they still spent millions and wasted a lot of precious time on trying. I don't want to go through that again. Sen. Obama seems to instill hope, integrity and unity in people. He inspires them to want to act, to be part of the process, and to take some responsiblity in the outcome. That is truely the only difference in my opinion. We are at a place in our countrys history that is calling for us to unite as a people and make the United States of America great again. In all my 42 years I have never gone to see a politition speak. I have never cared about the primary and have felt, ever since I could vote, that I have voted the lesser of two evils. I want better for my children, for my country, and for world peace. Sen. Barack Obama inspired me to become involved as he has many others. All should be listening and acting no mud slinging.

    January 8, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  19. KD

    Yes HILLARY there is a GOD, but you don't know HIM

    January 8, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. Jim P. - Chicago

    As a Republican I thought I would never say this, but you're right on Mr. Bill. The sugar coating by the media of the Obama campaign is nothing short of absurd. This is what progressive liberalism has brought us, a black candidate for President of the U.S. that is beyond reproach for fear of being racist. I'm sure some middle of the road Democrats are finally thinking, "what have we done?" God help us!

    January 8, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. elly

    GROW UP!!!! Obama supporters, he might win but then he will have to govern. Let him get some experience, including campaigning, under his belt and then run. Right now Obama is being set up for failure because of his lack of experience. Then who will he have to turn to for help? Not Oprah, but the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. You all are being awfully short sighted and will be eating crow when your charmer has to call in the "experienced" ones for help.

    January 8, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Mac, Detroit

    Wow, Bill. A new low. I didn't think it was possible. Congratulations, you've completely surpassed my expectations *applause*

    Obama in '08!!! woo! hehe

    January 8, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. Karen

    I have never seen such a bigger set of ignorant people, no wonder other countries look at us and take us as a joke, that is exactly what we are, no substance, no clue, fall for anything that people put in front of us and walk around with blinders on. Unbelievable, step back and look at the big picture people, God will come down on this earth himself first, before the bible belt, rural america and southern americans will vote for Obama, keep dreaming this is clearly going to spin us right into another 4 years of republican politics, it's just slipping out of our hands as we speak, idiots!!

    January 8, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. AJ, IL

    Bill Clinton is becoming the equivalent of Elizabeth Edwards. Let's shout and try to belittle the opposition as much as possible. Spouses stumping for candidates show focus on the person they are supporting. Tell the public what makes them good enough to become president and a little bit of relevant personally history that voters can connect to. This is what Michelle Obama has been doing for Barack Obama. Occassionally giving some details of the "would-be" policies of their spouse but mainly focusing on selling their spouse to the American public.

    For a former president to get so negatively involved in campaigning for their spouse is disappointing and disheartening.

    OBAMA in '08!

    January 8, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. Shannon

    That's right, Bill! You can "Give me a break!" There's so much that could be said about the Clintons! And they are lucky that no one has stooped to the levels that they have. Desperatiion! I had some respect for the Clintons....but the past few months have shown a really new light. Catch up! Figure out how to really reach the voters. Negativity just wont' work on us!

    January 8, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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