January 8th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
12 years ago

Bill Clinton targets media coverage of Obama

Watch Obama react to Bhutto's death
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. Von

    I like Bill and Hilary Cinton, but my God, they have become so pathetic... Hilary 's "show of emotions" was designed to do what?? The presidency is not a prize, it is the choice of the American people to give to whom they want So Bill go retire somewhere, and Hilary if you want to win this, stop, and I mean stop attacking Obama.

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

    Yes, I may have shot back hard at Bill, but the simple facts of the matter are that he is lying– again!

    Now, with that said, yes I am a real person, not a "staffer".

    To all of those who assert that Obama has no chance or that the repulicans are switching sides to vote for Obama– simply not true. Yes, there are in fact many people who have gone against their own party affiliation, but they are making this choice based on solid opinions of the candidate for whom they have chosen to cast their vote in this democratic process. To understand the multitude of reasons why they have done this, perhaps you should listen to the reasons these folks have cited when doing so.

    To all of the non-believers and "ye of little faith"– Obama can win the preidency this fall. I was in Springfield, Illinois last February. It was amazing to me (someone who has been around politics all my life) to see so many people braving the sub-freezing temperatures just to hear this man announce his big for the whitehouse. I have never seen such an event and probably never will again in my life.

    Where the Clinton's and all other dis-believers have failed to do is calculate exactly where Obama gets his support. He is the anti-establishment candidate. When he ran for senate, he he ran against the mighty "Chicago machine", yet he won out against them. Here again, he is running against a party machine– the Clintons who have the support of the DNC. For many Americans, he offers a refreshing choice to make a difference because they see an outsider with a chance. For all of Obama's eloquence, his speeches are inspiring, but that is not the sole reason why he continues to gain support.

    From the beginning, Obama promised to make this election about the AMerican people, not about himself (or any other individual for that matter). This is why he has been snowballing. In order for the Clintons or anyone else (think republicans this fall) they will have to figure out a way to combat this phenomenon. Presently, it appears that it will be difficult for anyone within the establishment to accomplish this!

    January 8, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. RG

    The "senator from Punjab" thing is old, and it was not only NOT condoned by Obama; it was condemned by him–that's something that's been well documented, and BC knows it. Obama has bent over backwards to keep this sort of thing from happening again.

    "The Clinton campaign was justifiably angry, and seized on the episode as proof that Obama had abandoned his vaunted "politics of hope" and had offended Indian-Americans in the process. Obama was furious with his staff. "Some of my roommates in college were Indian and Pakistani," he told NEWSWEEK. "I had to call some of my best friends and explain that my campaign wasn't engaged in xenophobia." Obama held a come-to-Jesus meeting with his senior aides at his Chicago headquarters and vented his anger. "If you're even going close to the line, you better ask me first," he recalled saying. "That was the most angry I've been in this campaign."

    Also odd that he thinks he media has been unfair towards them and courting Obama. Up till now, it's been nothing but the opposite; in fact, the long-running joke is that CNN is Clinton New Network. But this is just the nature of the beast, and candidates just need to roll with it. The bitterness here is unprofessional. He, of all people, should know better.

    January 8, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. Sam Jr.

    I don't think any one person in the office can make a difference whether it is Obama or Clinton or Edwards!!

    ITS THE NETWORK THEY BRING ALONG TO THE OFFICE THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. (Thought that was a no-brainer until I started reading some comments here).

    By far we have had some of the most prosperous years under Bill Clinton's watch regardless of what he did in his personal life.

    By electing Hillary, she too will definitely bring in the right network of people with the right kind of experience.

    Obama lacks the experience and no matter how feel good his words may be, by voting for him, would be a mistake as he will be sure to crumble in the presidential elections to the republicans. And the republicans know it.

    Obama is a nice guy. But nice guys finish last.

    January 8, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. Linda Pacifica CA

    Thank you Bill! Please continue to stand up for Hillary. She is being unjustifiably attacked by Big Business! God Bless you and Hillary for standing up for America!

    January 8, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. Cole

    This race is over and now its starting to get ugly. The Clintons are completely falling apart. I'm just amazed at these elitist Clintonian liberals who continue to disparage Obama supporters. I know where Obama stands on the issues, and I know where Clinton stands. The fact of the matter is that I dont need to agree with Obama on every issue. I just want a president who is open, transparent, and wants to involve everyone not just those who are completely aligned with his policy views. The fact is that for a long time too many Americans were disinterested in the Political process and ignorantly allowed the extremists in both parties to consolidate their interests and hi-jack both parties. The time has come for this to end, regardless of whether Darren from Minnesota likes it or not. Obama has the abilitiy to unite, to lead, and to inspire this country. IT's time for a change, a change for the better. OBAMA 08

    January 8, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. David

    GET A GRIP AMERICA! If you would have heard her speak last night, there would be a hands down victory! All this anger, is just not American. The Clintons have done more for this Nation and I voted for Bush twice now, and regret it terribly now. Even if she does not pull out a victory tonight, the COUNTRY is ready to speak and I cant wait. This guy from Illinois has NO and I repeat no International experience, and never in my life would I see a celebrity like OPRAH get her nose into politics. She has used her media empire that I feel is just down right wrong. Hillary, STAY STRONG AND GO GET EM!

    January 8, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. James D.

    Media bias against HRC? Give- *me*- a- break- Bill.

    Major commentators for CNN...let's see...Paul Begala, David Gergen, and James Carville. ALL THREE WORKED FOR CLINTON!

    Carville will VERY likely take over HRC's campaign next week. Carville has casually said on TV he has given her campaign advice recently, etc.

    Lame Bill. The megalomania of the Clintons is being revealed. Scary...and a bit heart breaking for me. I used to love them.

    January 8, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. Steve

    Obama is a wolf in sheeps clothing. Wake UP all you sheep!!
    I will have to vote Republican if he wins

    January 8, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Alan Gill

    America will stand or fall depending who they put in the White House,a candidate who keeps making promises the public likes to hear is not going to save America. America needs a tough experienced politician who will do what is needed for the country even if the measures are unpopular.

    January 8, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Den

    Well, I thought it wouldn't be over till super-Tues and that Hillary still had a chance. Though slim. Now I read this tirade from Bill and that confirms it. The true Clinton candidate is Billary. Now I know for sure this ship is sinking.

    January 8, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. josh akron oh

    Roger: 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

    Roger, backup your words...what evidence do you have that proves Hillary is what you say she is? You don't even know the real Hillary; you listen to lies propagated by the Media. I can point out several lies just in the past few months alone, that add to the negative persona created for her.

    If you don't vote, don't complain after the election.

    January 8, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. Donna Kassman

    The major television "show hosts" need to report the news and keep their "personal" opinions about the Presidential Campaign to themselves. You learn directly or indirectly what side the host is on (they try to influence the public). Their job is to report the news...stop slanting news reports, keep host opinions out of the mix, and be FAIR. The American people are smart enough. Then the analyst should do their jobs.

    January 8, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Walt Smith

    Let's get real, Ex-Prez. No body got pissed off when it was your time for a fairytale, when you were the kid from Hope, Arkansa, when you became a fresh face in old politics. Now Barack has the same shot and you are giving these hypocritical shots as if no one knows the entire truth.

    Let's stay real, Americans. The way to salvage this country is not to be Red or Blue but to be American. America must come first! This is all Barack is saying and the young people of America see the wisdom it carries. It does not take experience to know this, it takes vision. It does not take a Washington insider to do this, it takes someone willing to work with every one, in or outside Washington to bring about real change. Barack is prepared to do that and America is ready to change for the better.

    This is not emotion, this is plain common sense.

    January 8, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Robert Wagner

    I agree with Bill. The GOP agenda and their media machine are promoting Obama because he is their only hope of retaining the White House. I'm sorry but Iowa and New Hampshire are not good examples of whether or not the United States has become color-blind and the southern states that have a history of being racist have a lot of say of say in the General Election. Getting their biggest threat out of the way early is a simple task thanks to the Republicans who claim themselves to be Independants. Wake-up people the media is the Republican Machine and it is working. Obama is a great man but he is NOT electable.

    January 8, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. Jacque Bauer

    Clinton Toast: Two slices, very burnt and very bitter.

    January 8, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. Linda Pacifica CA

    Obama is not experienced enough to run the country. He will be abused. I do not feel safe with him as our President. His rhetoric does not impress me. there is no substance to what he says.

    January 8, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. Che

    she bullies when she's up in the polls, then she cries like a baby when she's down, or throws a temper tantrum like a two-year -old. Sorry, Hill, but not every democrat likes you, not every woman likes you. She claims to have 35 years in government service...there are housekeepers that have scrubbed toilets in Washington for longer, and I am sure that there are "escorts" who can claim 35 years in government service . All she has done is ride on Bronco Billy's coattails, then claiming his ideas as hers...wonder whose idea it was to give Vince Foster a "going away present". Would like a scandal -free White House for a change, and am tired of the bush-clinton-bush-clinton years ...hard to believe that the last president we had whose last name wasn't Bush or Clinton was Reagan...almost 20 years of the same faces...maybe that's why even Ron Paul is looking better to voters than Hillary. Someone, anyone is better than a Clinton.

    January 8, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. John New York, NY

    A bitter angry man.

    At least he wouldn't tear up when asked about his hair.

    January 8, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. M Lowe

    Give it up Bill !!!!!!!!!!!!!(Mr. X-President)

    Hillary is not you. You were a great president and still are. But Hillary is not you. She is running her experience of 35 years. What experience? First Lady?? All candidates need to support whom ever gets the nomination for the Dem. Party.
    If its Mrs. Clinton, fine, so be it. But if its NOT, so be it.
    Don't slam the other candidates just because your team is down in the polls.

    Hey, lets bring this country together.

    United we stand, divided we fall.

    GO--O.......BA.......MA 08

    January 8, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Darryl

    Go ahead and elect Obama. Eight uyears ago you elected Busch and ruined the country. Go head and put Obama in and finish the job. He stands right there and says he believes intaxes and well raise taxes and give breaks to big money. You believe Busch's bull why not Obama's. Four years from now when your in the next depression. You all will be crying I didn't vote for him. You guys bash the Clinton's, but look at the facts. The only time this country had great growth and progrees was under him. Take the blinders off

    January 8, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. Jim


    Please stop this. I love you big guy. I think you were a great president. But every distorted/untrue word you utter out of the Republican play book makes my respect for you, what you accomplished in office, and what you have accomplished since slip just a little bit.

    Hillary lost Iowa. She is going to lose the Democratic nomination. It is time to get behind the Democratic nominee. Having a Democrat that isn't your wife in office is ten times better than having a Republican in office, particularly if we have to choose from this pathetic slate of loser Republicans.


    January 8, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  23. Deputy Dan

    Why do so many of you have your head stuck in the mud?

    I'm not in favor of Hillary because she voted for Bush's war in Iraq and if she couldn't see through the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Powell lies she isn't smart enough for the job; and if she did see through them what does it say that she voted for the war and continues to vote to fund it?

    Obama talks a good talk but he wasn't even there to vote against the war. He can say he didn't vote for it but he didn't vote against it either. What has he done to stop the war? Didn't he say in an early debate that "all options are on the table when it comes to Iran" (including nuclear weapons)? Where is the change in that?

    Americans want change but they keep going back to the same kinds of politicians to get it so they won't. Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are all opposed to the war and would get us out quickly. Yet not many Americans are supporting the candidates who would really give us change.

    The elections are rigged. The last two presidential elections were stolen. Google Greg Palast and check Google video and YouTube for him as well and you'll find out exactly how it was done. Don't you think they have perfected the technique by now?

    There are too many powerful interests who want this war to continue. You know who they are. Some of them even own television networks as well as being defense contractors.

    If you think one man or woman elected president is going to change things you're sadly mistaken.

    The solution includes total public funding of national elections to get ride of the heavy influence of big business and having the courage to throw out all of the bad politicians of both parties. We elected Democrats in 2006 to make change but they've done very little. Our health care system sucks, we are #37 out of the top 50 countries in quality of health care yet ours is the most expensive. We are spending billions each month on the war which cannot be won militarily. Trillions of dollars are missing from the Pentagon, Billions are missing that were shipped to Iraq in cash (in $100 bills) - where did that money go? Our system is riddled with corruption and the politics of greed. We desperately need at least one more major party. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are going to save our country. It's too late, Bush/Cheney have done so much damage we will never get back to the country we had just a decade ago.

    January 8, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  24. GEO. B

    Barack Obama is a great word merchant and many are drooling over his slick rehtoric. No way should he be the leader of the USA or a coalition of countries that look to us for help. When it comes to budget, war, economy, world affairs, global warming, health care etc, etc Obama hasn't an ounce of knowledge or experience.

    January 8, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  25. Jean, Park Ridge, IL

    Instead of name-calling, why not dispute the facts that he stated. Hopefully people will wise up and realize we are a country at war and need someone with some experience in office. Instead of accusing Hillary of voting in favor of the war, why not state the whole truth – in favor of the war given the information she had – which was false.

    January 8, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58