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. Eye Opener

    First of all, as an unbiased observer, I find it disgusting that people cannot simply express opinions without name calling and derogatory remarks, milestones of intelligent and civilized discourse.
    Secondly, I find it extremely naive that the American Public, the same voting public who have demonstrated an almost equal divide between republican and democratic ideologies, the same public who do not see eye to eye on the issue of separation between church and state, and the same public who still grapples with the issue of racism to this day after slavery was abolished in the late 1800's, would be so trivial to think that this election is about personalities.
    With all the crucial issues facing the country today, from the economy to foreign policy, immigration and healthcare, regional wars and the global economy, we should be more concerned about electing someone with the right credentials and abilities to return the glory to this once proud country of ours.

    January 8, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Gbryant

    Look all you Obama fairy tale supporters.


    January 8, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Lee

    Thanks for saying what is the absolute truth, President Clinton. Obama has been given a free pass long enough. The man has not been vetted and the media is already making far-fetched predictions.

    If the sheep that are following along to the bleating of "change, change, change" don't wake up now the Dems are in for a rude awakening once the Reps get a hold of Obama.

    Obama cannot even develop his own platform, he's stealing it from John Edwards! The Boston Globe and L.A. Times have both done stories on it recently. If the man has to steal the intellectual property of another candidate to have a campaign, how in the world do people expect him to run a country?

    Obama has not represented his own constituents well. He has been absent from voting more than he has been present, which is a sad statement all on its own.

    Voters do your research instead of just following the crowd!!

    January 8, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Fred

    Well all I can say is I am glad you can turn on the tv, see an Obama rally, see White,Black,Hispanic, etc come together for something positive, while so many people here , hide behind the internet, with their hate, fear and doubt. Some of which clearly are closet racists, who can label a man solely on his middle name. If Hillary is counting the support of that kind person, then more power to Obama.

    January 8, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. get truth guy

    All the medias were biased to Obama since this election coverage, that's underandable since most of them are librarors, they don't like someone like Clinton or Ramany... I watched the last Saturday night debates, media hosts obviouly biased to Obabma, asked the questions like why people not like you (Clinton) but Obama, that's totally unfair! Charlie even said last a few presidents promised something but never delivered to counter argueing Clinton's "false promise" from Obama... Is that the debate host should do as the fair middle man? I am sick and tied on the media 'cause they never promote godd things to our socielty all they have done were negative things. This Clinton-Obama thing is just a best example.

    January 8, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. joeland7

    OBAMA ROCKS – the people of Little Rock are glade that the Clintons left. Bill is upset that Obama has more charisma than he. Good that Obama is running or else I would have to vote for Huckabee.. smile... OBAMA ROCKS LITTLE ROCK

    January 8, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. DB

    It's time to say goodbye to the DLC. It's time has come and gone. Stop trying to defend a dying ideology, President Clinton. Democrats need to be Democrats, not Republican-lites. Stop trying to destroy another candidate simply because he is not DLC.

    January 8, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. Dissappointed

    I just lost all respect for Bill too. By the time Obama gets the nomination, he will be as hated as Hillary is. Perhaps, forgetting about all the Clintons–not just Hillary– is the best that can happen to our country.

    January 8, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Graham

    how in the world can you make the prediction that an obama presidency would lead to a world war or nuclear attack on the US?? absurd.

    January 8, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Tony, Tulsa, OK

    John McCain will be our next president. Thank you very much Obama supporters for not caring about vetting your candidate ahead of time. The media honeymoon will end, and then who do you think the American public will vote for, a heavily experienced man named John McCain or a newbie named Barack Hussein Obama? I realize you live in fairyland but please try to be honest with yourselves.

    January 8, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. Coby Texas

    All the things that everyone is accusing Barack of is really negative. People are worried about his family in Kenya. ??? So freakin what. I'm yet to hear him go negative in his campaign other than defending himself against vicious Clintons. All the Clinton jock riders are pathetic. You know Barack represents a positive change, whatever tactics he uses are just that tactics, which is what every candidate in the race right now is doing. I keep hearing about H.C. experience outweighing Obama's. Are you freaking kidding me. If I was married to a attorney for 20 years, does that allow me to practice law? no. Stop hating on this positive man. Clintons and all supporters are starting to look pathetic.

    January 8, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. Scott

    Wow, is this how a statesman and former President acts? Bill, how about showing some decorum.

    This blather about how the press has been beating on Hillary is ridiculous (especially when it comes to CNN). Nobody, with the exception of a small article in the NY Times last month, has QUESTIONED her "experience" claims. It's as if reporters just buy into them prima facie.

    In the debate Saturday night, when highlighting what SHE (not Bill) has actually accomplished, she chose Healthcare as her example of what SHE has accomplished. Did I miss something or was that an abject failure?

    I'm an Independent (and former Republican). If Obama wins the nomination, I will strongly consider a vote for him. I would never vote for Hillary. She has shown in the past 4 days that she cannot stand up to the heat of a campaign. How will she react on "Day 1"? It doesn't get easier after New Hampshire.

    January 8, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. well-wisher

    This is from a man who lied to the entire nation, committed a perjury and was convicted of it, and then impeached! To expect any truth from his wife is just as unrealistic as to expect any truth from him. People in this country forget (and forgive) liars and politicians too quickly. The Rome is truly burning.

    January 8, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Jesse M.

    Clinton said:
    "What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that?"

    I don't know about the rest of Clinton's accusations, but this one is pretty unfair. Obama apologized for the memo which used that line, saying that he hadn't seen it before it was sent out and it didn't reflect his views, calling it "stupid and caustic" - see http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Jun192007/foreign200706198289.asp?section=updatenews - and regardless of whether you believe him, the "senator from Punjab" line in the memo was based on an earlier joke made by Hillary herself when speaking to an Indian-American audience, when she said in March that "I can certainly run for the Senate seat in Punjab and win easily." (again, see the linked article)

    January 8, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  15. Jay Graham, Dallas, TX

    Republicans want Obama to win so that they can pull fresh dirt on him. For Clintons they have not got anything new left to bring it on. For the last 15 years so much has thrown on Clintons that people are tired. That is why media under the influence of GOP gets Obama into limelight. He will be crushed in general election if McCain is their nominee. Democrats wake up!

    January 8, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. Bill, Chicago, IL

    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.

    Buh bye – enjoy France...

    January 8, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. J Williamson Buffalo, NY

    Go Bill! I'd vote for you again in a New York minute! I'm glad the campaign is finally taking the gloves off -people will always take a muted response as an affirmation, as you well know. Godspeed!

    January 8, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. Richard

    What a sleezeball... sounds like he's getting a bit shrill. What happened to Hilary's touting her 'everyone is after me.... boohoo.... because I'm the leader'

    January 8, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. pjonathan

    Running to redeem a father and now, a husband, is a story worth writing.
    Much has been written about George W running to redeem his father's "failure" to "go to Bagdad".
    Some has been written this time around about Senator Dodd running to redeem his father's failure-ethical lapses- and Governor Romney running to redeem his father's failure-his brainwashing comments.
    The press has been nibbling around the edges of Hillary running to redeem Bill and herself. That story, however, is the most intriguing of the bunch.

    In addition, an article written about all of these "redemption" runs would probably convince us that voters should never vote for a presidential candidate who is related to a president or presidential candidate. I think with just my information it is fair to say that redemption runs lead to poor judgment in the political decisions of a campaign and in presidential decisions, clouding both. An experienced political writer or writers would be able to fully research and present clearly the results of that research.

    I think that Hillary Clinton would still be leading if Bill Clinton had been kept in the background. What I am seeing and what I believe the press is starting to report is that Hillary's race is all about Bill redeeming Bill and Bill's legacy and Hillary redeeming Bill, Bill's legacy, and Hillary's legacy. Obama and Edwards have been clearly stating for a long time that their presidential race is about America or about the middle class or about the other America, not about them. Hillary in NH is just starting to say that her race is not about her. But she just said that the race for her is very personal, suggesting policy but in reality much more telling.

    January 8, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. J.Mahone

    I am an African American and would love to see a Black man in the White house. Trust me this is not the one. The media and everyone else has given him a free ride because they don't want anyone saying they are using the race card. Wake up America he sounds good but I love this country enough to tell you he's not the one.
    Just don't blame it on us when you began to see the light. This is the White mans choice and African Americans are excited with the idea.

    January 8, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. Pict63

    What a hypocrite, what about the following fairy tales?
    "I never had sexual relations with that woman"
    "Define sexual relations"
    "I never inhaled"

    January 8, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Abdul JanMuhammad

    Hillary is unelectable because of her hair. Let's face it.
    Obama 08, baby!

    January 8, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. sean c

    Excellent posts guys !!!

    Speaking of 50k/per hour speaking engagements.

    That Bill bit about – " I CAN'T MAKE HER MALE "


    So they will say. All across this country, with their NEW book /media deals.

    I think we head this off Now !!! Because, I do not want to hear their "STORY" told over and over and over and over..... Again !!!!

    In this country, we just have not got used to the idea of embracing outright deception, deceipt and dishonestly. We strongly dissaprove of Hillary, because she can not pass this most basic of tests. – PERIOD !!!!

    January 8, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. OBAMA is a republican

    Ah, the republican dogs are here again, touting for OBAMA because OBAMA is another Republican, a trick by CHENEY.

    WE ARE SO TIRED OF REPUBLICAN TRICKS. We want our life back, our GOOD LIFE we had when BILL CLINTON was president.


    January 8, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. Arcas, NY

    It's in the interest of the Republican party for Obama to win, and Romney or Cain will win even stronger then last election win of Bush over Kerry.

    On the other hand, even if he wins, with a Judiciary in the hands of the Republicans, a split Congress and Senate, and with an inexperienced president(as opposed to Hillary who knows the inns and outs of Senate and White House) for 4 years nothing will get done in US, and after that the Republicans will win again.

    I know Obama is cool and all, but this is not a popularity contest otherwise let's have Ali G run for president and I'll vote for him, at least he makes me laugh.

    The truth is that Obama was demolished in the ABC-Facebook debate when Hillary told him that he was lying when saying about fighting lobbyist organization, since he himself did lobby for OIL(there goes your green dream of a clean planet) and one of the campaign officials of his campaign lobbies for PHARMACEUTICALS. Obama said simply "That's not true". And what does Mr. Stephanopulos say after the debate ??? That "Edwards stood out" ! This is a joke, since Stephanopulos shouldn't even be allowed to make opinions on the Clintons after he was snitching informations from the White House to Milloshevic, a war criminal.

    January 8, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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