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. Mike San Diego

    Oh the clintons are in Panic Mode.......I'll bet the farm if Hillary loses they get a divorce in less than 3 years. They have no need for each other anymore.......

    January 8, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. Marilyn Smith

    I have to agree with Bill Clinton, it really does appear to be a snow job by the Media to make Obama look squeaky clean. I find that just too good to be true. People had better wake up and see Obama for what he really is, inexperienced and not ready for the job.

    January 8, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Michael

    I agree with Bill too. Obama is a good talker, to those naive Americans, especially to democrats and independents about the change that they want. He seems a fighter for all Americans.

    Wake up, people. Show American what he did good in Illinois. Experience is not everything. But without experience, it's nothing. American need someone can act, not talk. I bet democrats will lose again in 2008 if Obama get nominated. Some smart Rebulican like Romney will win the game.

    January 8, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  4. Tom B

    What scares the fire out of me–An untested, short on basic international skills–person running the military. If push comes to shove, Mr. Obama is no cleaner than anyone else in the current race. If we are in the least aware of how the world works, movement and change is brought about by knowing where the bodies are buried and carrying a big shovel. If Mr. Obama is put in the white house the country will be run by his handlers and the lobbists he seems to abhor. The reality: politics is a dirty business. I am espousing no one, I am fearful of another feel good presidency. Mr. Bush had the same line. Young people should consider their future not their thoughts of bringing down the establishment. Radical change without immediate improvements to replace the old leads to anarchy.

    The talking heads, pundits, whatever you wish to call them, are speaking and pushing Obama to insure the election of a Republican president in order to protect their multimillion dollar incomes. People need to remember that the big shots running the media are as smart as the guy running the garbage dump but with much more to lose.

    January 8, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  5. Obama will win North Dakota too

    North Dakota for Obama. This is another state he will surely win. Hillary cry all you want. Yall can bash Obama till the sky turns red.It will not change a thing.

    January 8, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. John Fitzpatrick

    There is something very brash and un-presidential about Pres. Clinton campaigning for his wife and slamming democratic candidates. A better role for a former president would be to remain statesman-like and in a position to support whichever candidate wins the nomination.

    January 8, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. Patrick, Bethlehem,PA

    By asking "what has Obama done" and thinking you are scoring points, unfortunately, you are showing your political ignorance. His achievements as a state legislature have been well documented.

    For decades we have been told that money / lobbyists have been ruining our democracy. Money is said to be the root of all evil. Senators Barack Obama and Dick Lugar realized that the best way to start getting rid of all evil that have been affecting politics is to start at the source – money & lobbyists. That sounds like good judgment to me. That sounds like change to me.

    January 8, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Big-Deal

    I love it.

    January 8, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. CWM

    Pretty cheeky of Bill considering the candidate who really has a gripe about media bias is Edwards. He is the ONLY Dem leading all Republicans in head-to-head polls and truly has the best chance of winning.

    Let's face it. Hillary or Obama versus a Republican would be a great story (first woman or first african-american) but would probably, unfortunately, result in a victory for the Republicans again. But the media would get rich on the increased viewership so they want one of those two to win.

    Considering the lack of national coverage of Edwards, he is really making an amazing showing.

    January 8, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. DRS

    How pathetic, Bill. Just because Obama has matched your wife in terms of money, power, intellect, and savvy, you decide to malign him. SHAME on you. I know that you want Hillary to win, but your disposition is certain to make her lose. I think Obama is the best thing for this country. As to the person who is questioning his Kenyan backgroud, do your research before you speech. As the old addage goes, "it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

    January 8, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. Liz Wetzel

    Bring Clinton days back, when everyone can buy a house, no war, no debts.

    DOnt vote for a another warmongering Republican, arent you tired of them yet?
    Dont vote for OBAMA who is another Republican trick. You know why the republican markets OBAMA by creating websites like Girl for OBama or having young blondes say she likes OBAMA.

    Prove to them the Democrats are not stupid. Dont be tricked again by the Republicans. REmember the election that Bush stole?

    January 8, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. RBaker

    PS- To those of you who said you voted for BUSH – especially 'twice'.

    Sorry but since you've already demonstrated INCREDIBLY bad judgement, YOUR judgement/opinions might be wrong, again...

    How could anyone vote for Bush TWICE? If you think it's a good idea to invade countries left right and center, then you should really think about YOUR opinions a bit better...

    January 8, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Bridget

    This is very funny. All of the original commenters felt sorry that Bill would stoop to this level. Then, finally, the Clinton campaign became aware of the story and read the comments. At that point, a steady stream of negative remarks about Obama (some of them attempting to sound intelligent, others just pure racism and hate mongering). Forget it, lame political flacks, people are not that stupid. Let's not waste any more time with these comments. I think we all know what the real story is; it doesn't look favorable to Hilary and makes Bill look a bit hysterical.

    January 8, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. BG

    The Republicans are going to have a field day over Obama being for the war and saying he agreed with Bush. It's bad enough he wasn't even in the Senate for the vote on Iraq and claims he was against it, talk is cheap. Then he votes while in the Senate to fund the war, giving Bush a blank check. Not good. I doubt they will go after his Muslim background, his pro Bush pro Iraq funding is going to sink him alone.

    January 8, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Gavin Indiana HRC

    We have to wave off the clouds....

    Kick the balloons out of the way....

    Dust off the confetti....


    It's really disturbing that OBAMA SAID THERE WAS NO DIFFRENCE BETWEEN HIMSELF (Obama) AND BUSH! Not to mention is dangerous flip flopping on the Patriot Act, Health Care, and what about abortion ?

    Obama is a nice guy Im sure, but his record is starting to show all the discrepancies and gaps.

    We need a President that is ready ON DAY 1 – who has proven change, who will continue to change and lead....We need SENATOR RODHAM CLINTON !!
    HRC 08'

    January 8, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. CN

    Now that's the pot calling the kettle black. It make my day to see drop your drawers Willy upset. Pleaese continue CLINTOON.

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. Dave, Evergreen CO

    Not only is Bill Clinton going to help get his wife defeated but he's going to destroy his own legacy that he has been working so hard on over the last 7 years. It's like watching Willie Mays playing for the Mets in 1973; sad and depressing to see your old heroes hanging on past their time.

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. Janet

    How Hillary claim she has any experience outside of being a senator in a state she had only visited until she got this wild hair to be President? She was the First Lady who barely had a security clearance. She visited foreign countries to kiss babies and have tea! Her health care reform bill died! The rest of her time was spent trying to ignore Bill's infidelities. I'm still trying to figure out what experience she's talking about. Why doesn't the media question her about that Bill?

    And, talk about fairy tales, you surviving an impeachment is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  19. rabblerouser

    Hillary has proven to be the most experienced of all the candidates – her record and achievements are out there if you know how to do the research (the vote smart website is a place to start). But the media have always hated the Clintons and tried to bring them down, but couldn't. Now the media's manipulating everyone by inaccurate reporting and shoving Obama down our throats, while telling us every day how far Hillary is falling behind.

    It should be a no-brainer that the toughest job in America (maybe the world) should go to the most experienced person, not the least experienced person. But since Americans have grown up on Hollywood, we are easily manipulated by charm, looks and few fancy words.

    Hillary isn't as charming as Obama, but then again, she's a woman and different standards apply to her. She has to be tough, but when she is, she's not likeable Sadly, it may still be a man's world after all.

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. Jeff from Jersey

    Obama is the very definition of the word disingenuous,a title he shares with Romney and Giuliani.He has lied from the very begining.

    Hillary Clinton has more experience in her pinky than Obama has in his whole body.Hillary made an honest effort to change healthcare in this country.That is a very,very important fact!Hillary Clinton has had her successes and made mistakes but they have been the mistakes of someone that has been trying to change things.She is the one candidate of both parties that had made a sincere and honest effort to stop the status quo and improve our country by helping the hardworking american people and those that need help the most,not just here,but around the world as well.She totally "gets it" that America and americans are now,like it or not,part of a global community,a concept that far too many of you just aren't capable of grasping or would just rather not.

    Obama and even Edwards are guilty of NOT making mistakes because until now,neither one has honestly tried to DO anything.That is the worst mistake of all,aside from voting for either of them.At least Hillary has the guts to try!

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. Clae Shy Winter

    Reference to Candy's response on CNN about Bill Clinton campaigning for Hillary. Note to Candy Crawford:
    Don't let the oppositional comments about the bad effect of Bill on Hillary's campaign fog up your thinking and comments in response to. The people who haye them are still angry about Bll and/or Hillary and will remain anrgry. The people who loved the admknkstration, wkill always respect Bill and Hillary and their administration.

    Yes, their administation. The people who say she did not have that much involvement and influence can not also negatively wrap them up as a dynasty. to be avoided.

    The oposition would love to go up against a newcomner Obama who with all his charisma and philosoph=y does not have a track record of accomplishments.

    Are we asking less of our presidential candidates than we would of a new CEO?

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. Karen

    To Lee Chang from Canada, welcome. I sincerely apologize for our pandering media and the hatefel, spiteful, malicious bloggers they attract. If you want some serious discussion, try the Wash Post, etc. There are still a couple of serious places to get a rational issues discussion. We are a miserable lot, aren't we.

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Robert M. Reidy N.Y.

    Someone should lead these two old horses back to the stable.

    The stallion can go out to stud and the old gray mare ain't what she used to be...

    January 8, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Andy

    It has been interesting British papers about individuals who try to leave the Muslim religion and about polls which show that a huge percentage of Muslims believe that an individual should be killed for leaving the Muslim faith. Once a Muslim, always a Muslim to many throughout the world. What is the view of Muslims worldwide ref. Barack Obama's switch in faith? It is a religion of peace for so many, but often only if their doctrine is followed and not questioned; only if their religion is not cast aside. How would his change of faith affect his ability to negotiate with dogmatic Muslims or terrorists indoctrinated to despise those who do not follow the Muslim faith, especially those who have left it?

    I don't believe that whether one is a woman or a person of colour would be of such importance in Canada. It is unimportant, really, altogether. The main issue should be who the individuals really and truly are and where they stand on issues, if they, indeed, know without others telling them what to say such as spin doctors, speech writers and the like. Who, really and truly is Obama? Who, really and truly is Hillary Clinton? The infatuation with Obama is rather like, it seems, the valedictorian who is one by popularity rather than substance, but is there because he could generate the support of the school population who really doesn't care at all about ideas, just popularity. Hitler rallied youth, the population, also, so a fan base does not necessarily count at the end of the day/have a positive outcome (not that Obama should be compared to Hitler, just that fervent supporters aren't always thinking about issues, just following the crowd). I haven't checked, but was Obama in the military anywhere? Would he have been or just changed countries to avoid it? I know Hilary wasn't, but I am questioning, here, Obama.

    How is Obama going to affect change when he has to encounter those who disagree with him? He can't just offer platitudes and an outstretched hand. What if, for instance, the miliatary refused to follow his command? What would happen then? What if he fractures government into factions who refuse to work with such an inexperienced person trying to lead them? The population may be coming out in droves, but perhaps those in government will start missing sessions as he did when he apparently didn't turn out to vote. Was that working in the best interest of the people when he didn't show up (or is that incorrect media info?) I don't know all the details of his life or the ins and outs of American politics, particularly. However, I am riveted by the astounding choices Americans make ref. leaders and the process to get there. George Bush with little worldwide political experience?? (although smart enough to oust the real winner who has gone on to greater causes). Obama next? There was the same kind of rampant following when the Dixie Chicks stood up and spoke out against the war when the public vilified them – and now the public is blindly following Obama? It is like the wave, this way and that. Incredible. If he wins, he may, in fact, be the greatest leader the U.S. has ever had, a wonderful leader who can help to change the U.S. economy and the world. I hope that the public is clear about who he is, what he stands for, and what he is capable of, though, and they question him hard and long, as they should be all the other candidates. What a magnificent chance for change, though – and how exciting that he is causing so many to get out and vote – or is that partly the media doing that? When the media fixates on individuals, it really fixates leaving many others who could be front and center off to the side. Watch what you are watching, also, not just who.

    January 8, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. Penny

    I'm delighted to see Bill Clinton take on Barack Obama's record. Obama claims to be the candidate for change from the usual Washington scene. Doesn't everyone?
    And anyone with a grain of sense, knows we ALL want a change, so that's a non-issue in my book. Obama hasn't proven himself and it frightens me that so many young people/independents are approaching this election as a popularity contest and not the opportunity to elect someone who can reverse the damage done to the USA in the past 8 years. One rally for Obama said it resembled a football pep rally! Sen. Obama is a fine man and may make a great president...someday! He is very charismatic. So was my second husband and he turned out to be a liar and a cheat!
    I can only hope someone can reverse this trend toward "pulpit politics", which is how I characterize Sen. Obama's campaign speeches. I get the feeling I'm in church when I hear him speak. Nothing wrong with church, but I don't need a "feel good" message or messenger in the White House! This country needs a leader not a cheerleader!

    January 8, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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