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. Roger

    To you Hillary supporters, who think you're helping to make Hillary's case by bashing Obama - for me, this isn't about what Obama is, but what Hillary ISN'T. She has no REAL experience. She isn't a decent, honest human being. All she's done for the past several months is use lies, deceit, and fabrications to try to weasel her way into power, and now that she isn't being automatically coroneted president by the American people, she's losing her mind, and blaming everybody but herself.

    She's just as disingenuous as John Kerry and Al Gore were, and if she's the Democratic nominee in 2008, then the result this election will be the same as it was in 2000 and 2004. Furthermore, as a Democrat, I simply won't vote. I won't vote vote for the Democrat, nor will I vote for the Republican, I just won't vote.

    I'm sick of using my vote simply to give the green light to liars who take the United States political process for granted. I'll either vote for a candidate who I believe in - who I believe will deliver change, who won't be a war monger, who won't support "free trade agreements" that sell out American jobs to cheap third world countries on behalf of their corporate backers– or I simply won't vote. Period.

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


    January 8, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  3. Truthspeake

    The problem as I see it is that Hillary has become a true "poliician" and she had my vote and confidence up to the point where she wouldn't change her stance on her vote for the Iraq war. Somebody gave her very bad advice about that. Just like the bad advice she adhered to yesterday with getting emotional which will ultimately boomerang on her. And now Bill is mudslinging. After the Bush years and all the damages done, this country needs someone who will unite us and who won't be just another politician with empty promises. Truth be told, this time around, I'd prefer someone with little experience, after all, it is so-called "experience" that has the US in the turmoil its currently in both here and around the world. Let the healing process begin...we need to take back our country!

    January 8, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. get truth guy

    I don't like both (Obama or Clinton), but I hate the media, they are bunch of crooks... If Obama Hossin is elected are we gonna be shileded by his deal with his commerades, not fear attach in next year? again I don't trust this guy, he is a pure politician, he flips his positions all the time when he needed. I rather to live under Bush's not rosy but true promises.

    January 8, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  5. teddy orlando fl

    OMG Bill Has finally lost his mind HRC needs to go

    if they try to fight it they will drag down the dems

    HRC time for you do something presidential

    Bow out

    Obama is here now and any underhanded dirty tricks will just hurt the dems

    time for you to go

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

    ppgallini – lack of experience? He is a senator, not really sure what else you can expect. Sure he wasn't married to a president and he's not 90 years old like the rest of the candidates, i don't see how this makes him any less qualified than the other candidates. His positions on most of the topics that I care about are pretty similar to Hillary's, the only difference is he hasn't sold his soul for campaign money, LIKE EVERY OTHER CANDIDATE HAS...

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

    Mr. Clinton,

    The reason Obama is being potrayed by the media as hero of the democrats is simply put in the following ways.

    1. Economy is not at is best, Businesss including the media organizations do no want to pay additional taxes and nor do the people of USA.

    2. People would rather have a president who will not raise taxes and make the military establishment rich by spending and increasing the deficit under the hope that organizations will hire more if they are not taxed and are profitable due to economic wars such as the one going on now.

    Does is sound true. I am sure you and many would agree in part.

    After all a country dominated by a particular color is never going to vote for a person of another color from the minority.


    January 8, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. Dee Ward Mena, AR

    Someone has to stand up for Hillary since the press is certainly backing obama. I hate for him to do this as so many people think it reflects badly on the Clintons but gosh, give them a break. CNN has been terrible to Hillary, Fox has been more fair. I can't believe that CNN has not read the blogs criticizing them for their over coverage of obama and their negative coverage of Hillary. If Hillary loses it will be because the press gave the election to obama. He has done nothing. He says he was against the war from the beginning. That is easy to say when you didn't have a vote. When you are in there and have to make a decision you have to make a decision, when you are talking about it you can say "I WOULDN'T HAVE VOTED FOR THE WAR" Easy to say when you didn't have a vote. Go back to Kenya where your black heritage began. By the way, they say you are going to call Kenya and see if you can help. I know your black heritage is from Kenya, does that mean that if Kansas has a tornado, you will call Kansas where your WHITE heritage is from Oh yes, I forgot you are a black man, not a HALF BLACK/HALF WHITE...since you don't recognize the White part of your heritage because then you couldn't run a a black candidate.

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

    I never imagined I would see Bill Clinton in this mode. I'm sorry. It's sad, it's bad. Not to mention he is distorting Obama's positions. Long ago I'd wished Bill Clinton would stop stumping for Hillary and just retreat and go write his memoirs like a good former president because his presidential exaltation was diminishing day by each day he was out there for her, looking desperate. If there's anyone the media has given a free ride it's been Hillary, all the way through up to the Russert debate, and even then. But at some point one's true colors must evolve, and so it is only Hillary herself who is causing whatever effect today because her own true colors have brought her there. And if Obama is a 'fairy tale' then is our former president telling the American children that fairy tales are bad?

    January 8, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Joanne McCann

    Abe Lincoln was a 2 year Rep. of the house before becoming President and he united this country. JFK was a young wide eyed Senator with little experience if you all remember and asked us not what our country could do for us but what we can do for our country. It is that time again. Not to sit back and let business as usual prevail.

    January 8, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  11. Daniel Peebles

    Dear Bill and Hillary Clinton:

    I am losing respect for you more and more as the days go on. The ring is slipping from your fingers, and all you can do is attack a man who has inspired more people in the last few months than you did in the entire 8 years of being president.

    Let me say it again:


    How about Hillary's experience?

    Are we better off because of all her experience?

    She LOST the battle for universal health care.

    I am really SADDENED to see the arrogance and the desperation of the Clintons. They are both losing their minds.

    Bill Clinton is losing the respect of millions.

    Thank you.

    January 8, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  12. Marcus, SF CA

    This is soo irratating! Why couldent California be 1st to VOTE?? I cannot wait for 2/5 so I can vote for Hillary.

    January 8, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  13. Tom Davie

    ...........I am still waiting for someone to tell me about H.C.'s 35 years of experience. I am still waiting after 6 requests..............

    How about you just go to Clintons Biography.

    Being first lady of Arkansas and of the country doesnt mean you sit around ironing and cooking.

    While its not 'voted into office' experience , its still political experience. Dealing with issues and trying to get things done.

    Its also regardless if you are sold on Obama. It wouldnt matter if she had worked together with Jesus Christ himself, you would find a way to bash it down.

    January 8, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. oldster

    Yup, you are Mr. Integrity Sir. Except for that part about the intern, and where your dink was during your tenure as president.

    January 8, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |


    January 8, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. Scott

    Darren in MN and all the other "young people/dreamer" bashers,

    You might want to check your demographics a bit more carefully. I know the Hillary campaign wants to portray things as if it's "just those immature college kids" who are voting for Obama.

    She was defeated soundly by everyone UNDER 50 in Iowa. The ONLY demographic she won was voters over 65. I know "40 is the new 30" and "30 is the new 20" but come on. In fact, it sounds like something you'd hear on a grade school playground when you say "if you don't agree with me, you're immature."

    Look at the numbers, don't just swallow the spin. It's precisely because of tactics such as these that people are turned off to HRC.

    January 8, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Freedom of Speech

    This is the church that Obama goes to. Read the 10 point vision on this web site


    January 8, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Eleanor

    wow How tacky and disrespectful of Bill Clinton to come out and call Obama a fairy tale!!
    I have always repected Bill Clinton but he needs to apologize for that disrespectful remark just b/c Obama has been ahead of Hillary.Obama is a respectful politician with good character and qualities and had as much right to throw his hat in the ring as well as Hillary
    Bill needs to go back to speaking engagements
    Perhaps American is rising up and finally saying enough of Clintons and Bushes
    The country has had 20 years of one or the other!!

    January 8, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. kid101

    obama/edwards or vice versa. you're the odd woman out Hil. 3rd wheel yet again. Hubby can't save ya. You thinnk Obama is slick for running for senate and promptly president? You did the same thing in NY, just took you a lil more time...

    January 8, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. Michele

    It's about time someone questioned the media's "fairytale" take on Obama. The media needs to start focusing on where the candidates stand on the issues that MATTER to the United States of America. Who cares that Obama can give a good speech? A speech is just talk, not action. I want to know how he is going to act on the issues, so far I can't tell. My vote is still undecided.

    January 8, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |

    Though I am an independent and have not decided yet whom I would want
    as our new president; I totally agree with President Clinton about Obama.

    I am sick and tired of the media, yes the media not reporting all things.
    We seem to live in a nation that only remembers events by rote.

    I want the truth and the whole truth reported by all the media outlets.

    "Lets not go for "Dreamers but Realist" After Bush our nation can not stand
    another mistaken fool to run our country. It is going to take more work than
    ever to give our great nation the status it once had and Bush and his cohorts
    threw away.

    And by the way I would rather have a president that listened to the polls than one
    that proclaims he does not. This tells me that the people that he (she) represents are not important and are too stupid to know what they want and what is good for
    them. We can all see where that has gotten us with this idiot of a president.

    January 8, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Jenny

    The President is absolutely right. Never listen to someone' words without take a look at what that person has done. A dream will never come truth with just simply "talk." We do not want to be miserable for just dreaming. Also, let give at least some respect to the people who had, have , and still serving the country, serving us.

    January 8, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. josh akron oh

    scott January 8, 2008 12:39 pm ET

    Go away Bill.

    You are a crook, a liar , and the list goes on !!



    So much a crook, that hundreds of million dollars later, all Ken Starr found was a blue dress...and perjury.

    Yea, whatever man...Look at what this loser president is doing in office now; if his actions are not worse than perjury for oral sex, I'd like to know what universe you're living in. Clinton was a popular President, and remains so.

    he's speaking the truth...Obama and Hillary's voting records are identical; look them up:

    He's refused to take a stand on the Iraq war...Period.

    He didn't even show up for the Iran vote.

    What's more, Bill Clinton toughened sanctions against Iran in the mid-nineties, whil Dick Cheney cheated American law by creating an offshore subsidiary so Halliburton could continue doing business with Iran. Hillary is consistent with that action; Cheney is not, i.e. make money from Iran, then blow them up.

    January 8, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. The Craziness Continues

    To: Cable King Pittsburgh PA January 8, 2008 1:37 pm ET

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

    When? You're reading it on this board. When the Clintons, and the Clintonistas, got in power. The Clintons, Carville, Begala, Blumenthal, et al. It is was never about the good of the country, it is about them holding onto power.

    Reagan used to go at it with Tip O'Neil (Dem -SOH) on issues all the time in the 80s, but he also said at the end of the day he could sit down and have a beer with him cuz they genuinely liked each other.

    Poiltics was just politics back then .... but the Clintons took it to a different level and it has never been the same.

    January 8, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. jed

    Maybe someone's already posted this, but Hillary is the one that jokingly said she could be Senator in Punjab: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/memo1.pdf

    I think Bill is twisting statements a bit here.

    January 8, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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