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. lws

    Hilarious and sad that people like Rick Abrantes are still cutting and pasting chain email fwds. Hilarious in that it shows how much more seriously we Americans take email fwds than documented fact. Sad in that is makes that part of the R base look really dumb...embarrassing for the rest of us.

    January 8, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. Neil

    All of you Obama lovers who I believe are just Bush lovers since he has the same rhetoric that Bush had when he ran can start packing your bags and move to Kenya and mountains of Pakistan. CHANGE? What about reform? What about EXPERIENCE? Do you want another Bush that will just wing it? Or maybe you want Obama to choose a Vice President who will run the country such as Chenney has done for the past seven years and why? Because Bush had no experience. Wasn't he the President of reconciliation and compassion? BLAH BLAH BLAH If Obama gets the democratic nomination then you can be SURE that the Republicans will keep the White House. He talks a good talk and so did GW but it's more then talk that makes a good President and especially a President that will represent our country in a way commensurate with our stature in the world. I hope Bloomberg throws his hat in the ring so we can have a true INDEPENDENT if that's what the country wants and also a candidate that has a chance to become President. All of you kids who barely know how to balance your check books and pay back your student loans need to take a step back and analyze the situation instead of being overtaken by a smooth talking emotion appealer dreamer. I want the US to be the US again and Obamma is not the candidate...SORRY.

    January 8, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. Frank Jackson

    Ah Bill Clinton...I sure wish the 22nd Amendment wasn't preventing him from running again !

    Go Hillary...we need you both!

    January 8, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. Jerry

    "I spent 35 years fighting and working for change." – Hillary

    Now THAT'S the biggest fairy tale.

    January 8, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  5. Matt

    Obama has the credentials (Illinois Senate, National Senate, University of Chicago Professor) and the experience (Hillary inflates hers to more than it is worth and degrades his) So it is obvious that ..beep..beep...beep.. the Clintons are dumping out their garbage and fear mongering. I am sick of these fear mongers, I have looked at the Obama take on Economy (excited about proposed 0% capital gains tax on startups and innovation), Health Care and the War. Hillary CANNOT unite us, whereas, I think Obama has the moderate smart positions that most americans can agree with, no matter their party affiliation. If she goes against McCain, she may lose. But if Obama goes against him... lights out, McCain is too old.

    January 8, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  6. RCH

    Well, well, well ... the old and real Bill has decided to re-surface ... let the bashing begin, huh! What will we be hearing next from either he or Hillary? Will it be another "I did not ... I did not ... I repeat, I did not ..."

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  7. Bill

    Will someone please pull President Clinton aside and remind him that we needed him in two months to assist whomever the democratic candidate is, whether it is his wife, or Obama, or Edwards. But now it might be too late. When good old fashioned blue dog democrats like me are openly calling for him to go out to pasture it is sad, we could have used his skill and intelect in the upcoming election. It appears he has lost sight of virtually everything that is important and is in danger of becoming just another has-been.

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. concerned...

    I like Obama, I really do. But I am afraid to hand him our entire country. His talk is pretty, no, beautiful. But you could elect anyone then- say, my husband, my father, my neighbor. But we need more. Obama's time will come, and that is in the future after he learns more government and foreign policy, after he practices a bit more– then I will feel he deserves to be at the head of this country... hands down.

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |

    Most Georgia women will be voting for Obama. Clinton you just made it worse for Your silly evil wife. CNN Better tel the world and the nation that we have decided to support Obama. We are tired as a nation of things being done the same old way in Washington. Things have to change. Bill go rest sir.This is Obamas year.You can not force us to love Hillary.We are several thousand strong in Georgia, and our vote is for Barrack.

    Women groups in Georgia.

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. alli2

    This conversation shouldn't be about who's right and who's wrong. There are issues here that everybody keeps blowing off. Bill/Hillary or Obama, female, black, bald or ugly-it doesn't matter.

    We are a country at war. We are a country in the throws of finacial instability. We have citizens without healthcare, citizens living below the poverty level. We are the Mayflower for every "visiting" nationality. Our schools are no longer considered competetive in the areas of science and math. We are a vulnerable target. So yes, experience might be something you would consider as a requirement to run this country. And yes, as citizens, we should demand to know the speifics of how these issues will be handled.

    All of us need to be voting based on information and specifics. I'm afraid the media, as an information base, encourages emotional participation. You can see it in the frenzied, reactive faces of the frontrunners and their supporters. You can ar it as people say they prefer one candidate over another because they want change. Hell, we all want something changed in this country. But I'm not going to vote for any candidate who has the "right buzzword" until they can tell me with a reasonable amount of certainty how they're going to handle it. Then let me make an informed decision. Words have no meaning without substance. And that goes for all candidates, democrats or republicans!!

    As soon as we, the citizens, stop screwing around with empty negative rhetoric , someone might actually hear what the candidates are saying through all the BS and media projections. I truly believe the caucus' and primaries give the media job security and months of entertainment .

    Educated, informed apathy is sad but just as sad, and frightening, is zealous, educated but uninformed participation.

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. IndependentDemocrat

    I'm a (was) big supporter of President Clinton even after his scandolous behavior in the WH; however, his personal attacks on a fellow democrat is a new low, un-statesman-like and even if Hileray were to get the nomination I would have doubts supporting her now. Maybe her winning the nomination is the true fairytale – hey, yesterday is gone it's Obama's time. Is the media's purported lack of scrutiny of Obama's record another 'right-wing conspiracy'? Get over it you guys had your time and Hilery shopuld be thakful that she got a seat in State that she had never lived until she decided to run for the seat all the time knowing that it was a stepping stone to the WH. As a blackman I always felt that you were our 1st Black President but maybe that was another fairytale...please stop before we lost all respect that we blacks had 4 you and were the main pillar of support...finally a blackman is not judged by the color of his skin but by the content of his character...and judgement.

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. Dan ~ Longview, WA.

    Where is Ron Paul CNN?

    Huckabee was on Leno, your handlers said "JUMP"!

    Ron Paul was on Leno, your handlers said "stand down".

    As a citizen of the USA I demand equal coverage of all of the cantidates from all media outlets!

    Go RON PAUL!

    January 8, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Joelle, Milwaukee, WI

    James January 8, 2008 1:47 pm ET

    Bill one commet for you 9-11 shut your mouth

    Dear James,

    911 happened under King George's WATCH!

    Furthermore, he was brought up to speed, warned, warned, and warned... however, it was HIS DECISION – As the DECIDER – to do EVERYTHING in his admininstation 180 degrees from how Mr. Clinton did it!

    We all know how WELL that WORKED...

    January 8, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Linda

    I view the Clinton's as sleazy politicos. They and Mark Penn believed they could
    buy the presidency, just like GWB. Hopefully, those times are done and people are more hip to the fast talking insiders. Tho, it doesn't seem to get a lot of press that Obama took the 2nd most pharma and insurance money after Hillary, more than all the rest of the field. I find that disturbing. He is not an open book and he is not a populist.

    January 8, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Sun in Texas

    Obama has fooled so many of you for the longest time. He starts off by going around saying he "I didn't vote for this war." Of course, he didn't he was not a US Senator. He was a STATE senator and therefore, not eligible to vote. He was not privy to that information. But I wonder what he would have done if he had been in the hot seat. It's always easy to say what we would and wouldn't do–but when we are actually faced with the sitution we do not know what we will respond the challenge life gives us. In the past few months, he's rephrased it...now he says "I opposed the war." So did I and millions of other Americans! But he made sure he "implied" he had acutally voted b/c he knew there are a whole of voters out there that wouldn't know the difference. He's mislead you–especially the young voter. Don't belive me on the vote–look it up.

    January 8, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  16. David

    It's not about hating or fearing anyone; and it's not about length of experience. It's about re-embracing American values of hope over despair, tolerance over hatred, community over selfishness, courage over fear, intelligence over dogma.

    "Warren" and "Michael Guinn" are right: Clintons served well in resisting our slide to fascism; now embrace the movement for Obama: it's the hope we and you kept alive the last 35 years!

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. Hallerberg

    Actually the press HAS checked out the facts on this one–see http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/01/obama_and_iraq.html . There you will read that Obama has been consistent on the war. The one hedge, which seems to be what the Clintons are using, is an interview before the 2004 Democratic Convention when both Kerry and Edwards were the candidates, and both of them had voted for the war. Even there, the full quote is ""What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made." Sounds like consistent opposition to me. And, as someone who worked for Bill's re-election as a foot soldier and who had a Hillary08 sticker on his car already in 2005, I can hardly express how disappointed I am in their current campaign. I am moving toward the "anyone but Hillary" camp.

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. Jehowlind

    I'm not a Hillary supporter. But having said that, Like it or not, Bill Clinton has lost more intelligence than Barack O'Bama could ever learn. Period. But, he can't run for President. I don't think Hillary would be right for the United States as our President, and neither would O"Bama. Being President should not be a learn-as -you-go situation. Why is it that we can't get anyone with enough intelligence and forethought elected as President??? Because the whole election process is shot to hell. People who genuinely should be considered as viable candidates can't get their messages out. The media is biased and completely useless.
    The sound-bite mentality of the moment is what we hear. Blah Blah Blah, just like the teacher on the Peanuts Cartoons. On the Democrat side, John Edwards MIGHT be able to handle things with the right team. As for republicans, I like Ron Paul. At least he hasn't flip-flopped on the issues, and believes we should realize the Constitution is an agreement we have to ourselves. You should read it sometime, along with the Bill of Rights. Government should stay out of my personal life, my paycheck, and not try to be my doctor, either.
    Obviously, we can't give time to every single person who'd like to be President,
    but there has to be a better way. The 2-party system is broken. Democrats should be running away with this thing, but they can't get out of their own way.
    Republicans have become greedy, self-centered and ignorant and arrogant, just like that idiot we have for a President. Thak god I never voted for him....
    He has squandered our good name in the world, our war debt is crushing us, the dollar is sinking faster than the Titanic. His lying, disgusting arrogance has caused us untold misery, caused the deaths of thousands of our finest soldiers
    so he could get Saddam.....Gee, that was a fair trade-off. If you still don't get it, then let me spell it out for you....George Bush and his lying V.P. Cheney fixed the facts of the war around their agenda....ever heard of the Downing Street memo? Google it and find out. Why do you think Colin Powell got out??He knew it was all bull***t.
    Anyone who is stupid enough to think Saddam/Iraq had anything to do with 9/11
    is stupider than Bush....and that's not easy. But hey, all you Bush voters got exactly what you deserve.
    Like I said, The government is broken. They have become a huge monster, taking more and more from us. Our money, our civil-liberties, our good name. All Gone. Thanks, Bush.
    So, let's go out an elect some feel-good politician with no experience, who thinks he is MLK re-incarnate. Oh, yeah, don't forget, if Oprah likes him, then he must be just what we need.
    Keep it up, America. Keep shooting yourselves in the foot. Sooner or later, you'll wind up shooting yourselves right between the eyes.
    This is our home, and we have the right to decide who gets to come in, and how we want to spend our money.
    Wake up...We've been asleep far too long.

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. James

    Bill is correct. ... the media has fell in love with the thought of a black man getting the nomination and possibly becoming the president. Now that he is the frontrunner, let's see how the press views him.

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. Skip Sponheim

    Let me get this right, if I could.......Mr. Clinton is talking about somebody else and he's using terms like, "The biggest fairy tale I've ever seen", or words to that effect?

    I thought Mr. Clinton was the one that fulfilled that catagory when he question what "it" is...............!

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  21. Shirley

    It is amazing how Barak Obama is not being held to the same standards as Hillary Clinton. Hillary appears to be required to explain her emotions, her competence and her will in one short breath. On the other hand, Obama can simply say the words change, change and change and many uninformed Americans cheer. What’s up? People, stop making decisions based on your emotions. Hope is somewhat of a chance, something you muster up. Faith is true belief. Do you really believe that hope trumps experience? If so, good luck.

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. Linda Pacifica CA

    It is quite obvious to me that Republicans want to run against Obama. There is a reason why they are so threatened by Hillary. Think about it. She is better than Obama. No offense to Obama. He is a nice guy, but not well prepared to fix this mess of a country that Bush has left the next President.

    January 8, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. l egoti

    Hillary's experience (just shy of 2 senate terms) is LESS than Obama's. Sorry, but being First Lady for 8 years, even if added to her resume, is still roughly equivalent to Obama's terms in IL legislature and US Senate combined. The "experience" pitch of the Clinton's is PUFFED UP.

    Likewise the "agent of change" pitch. If Hillary were a true agent of change or our "champion" as she claims, she would have initiated and fought for meaningful legislation and fought the GOP obstructionists these past years under Bush - but she has not. Instead, she has enabled Bush with bad votes while Bill has sucked up to the Bush family.

    Hillary is a follower, not a leader. I repeat: Hillary is a follower, not a leader.

    Clintons are desperate and it shows. Rants by Bill and poor acting by Hill.

    Both Clintons are "me, me, me" candidates. Neither has a vision for America or the courage to carry it out.

    Instead, Hillary has a "personal investment" in staying with a sex-addict spouse for political and financial advantage. Now she wants payback for the emotional suffering she bargained for when she hitched her life to Bill.

    Sorry, but this voter ain't rewarding her for her poor choices in her personal life or her political life.

    January 8, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. Ryan D'Amato

    I love Bill Clinton, and have to say that I wouldn't mind having his wife running our country... He was a great president and he would surely be leading her.

    I was trying to make my pick for 2008 today and I thought i was going to be leaning towards Hillary...

    However I cant understand why the media isn't covering Ron Paul.

    The more they ignore his presence... the more I'm starting to want to vote for him...
    It really bothers me in our Country we have a media who's scared of the issues, just like the rest of the Republican candidates.

    I didn't learn anything about Ron Paul until I went online... its not fair at all, he has a real shot at winning.

    If people really got to hear his message it would be a whole different ball game.
    !-RON PAUL 2008-! Google him its apparently the only way to get a fair and balanced picture of the real issues.

    January 8, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  25. J

    So easy to judge, lest we look at ourselves with a pure heart. We are electing a human being here people. No one is perfect. Everyone lies. I personally don't care what a candidate does with his/her personal time. I don't care what his/her husband/wife did years ago. I care about what the future President will do for our great nation. All of us, every single one of us, experiences LIFE. Stop the name-calling and judging. Share your thoughts like intelligent human beings. This isn't kindergarten.

    January 8, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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