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. Anubhab, MA

    I don't understand why people are having difficulties to choose between Obama and Clinton. We know they both have the same message about change, but people need to understad that you can not bring change with words. You can touch peoples heart, make them emotional but you cannot run the country with words. Just by saying that we need change, time is now; is not going to do much of a job.
    What we need is somebody who wants to make change but also has the experience to do so. I like Obama but he does not have that experience like Clinton to bring that change. He is motivated but lacks the experience where as Clinton has experience and desire to make change.
    Its like hiring a worker in a company, who do you want? One who says i will work hard and bring change or somebody who says i will work hard and bring change because i have done so before and have records to prove it. When you become the president you dont have space to make mistakes. You cant say "OOPs my fault" and get away with it. Not to make such mistakes you need to know what to do, which is done by having experience and Clinton has that.

    January 8, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. DBeeson

    I normally vote republican but at this moment I would vote for anyone as long as it keeps Billary out of office. We have had way to many years of the Bush/Clinton/Bush group running things down. Although as a military member I feel that no matter who wins we (the military) will be left holding the bag we need someone with a new idea of how to do things and BILLARY IS NOT IT!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Amos

    Wondering, really, if AMERICA is TRUELY READY for a female such Hillary and or for a neger such Barack to lead in or on United States of America ? ? ? ! ! !

    So, tell me. Anyway : I am with and for both,


    January 8, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. JUNE


    January 8, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Liv Manto

    Hmmm.. let me see..

    In one corner, there is Oprah with Obama, dancing.

    In another corner, there is Hillary with an ex-president who is probably the best president ever – No debts, no war, everyone can buy a house during his time.

    Get a grip democrats, those who speak for Obama are probably republicans who knows Obama is easy to beat.

    Dont be swayed by the clones of Ann Coulter and O'Reilly. The republican party pays for this campaigners by the extra dollars you pay for your gas.

    Dont be tricked again.

    January 8, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. Patrick, Bethlehem,PA

    David says: "All this anger, is just not American."

    I suppose it is okay if the anger comes from the Clintons

    January 8, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. JT

    Just like Obama it seems his supporters can only respond to criticism of him by attacking the person making the charge, rather than answering the claim on its merits. Politicans usually don't attack their opponents while ahead and that is a good thing. I have no problems with attacking one's opponent when necessary, as long as the attacks on accurate. But if you can avoid doing it, you should. And if you are winning without doing it there is no need to. Every word Bill said was true. If any Obama supporter would like to actually refute the substance of his argument I would welcome the attempt. But this deflection is pure politics, the kind Mr. Obama claimed he would change.

    And to the person who claimed that Bill said Hillary's campaign wasn't negative, he didn't say that. He simply said if her's was, then so was his, and the media should cover it. I am sick of how Obama's supporters make everything about the opponent and allow Obama to get away with being a total hyporcrite and a liar. No one can criticize Obama for things they have done, but he is free to criticize them for things he does.

    January 8, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. jim, netcong nj

    the clintonistas really believe they are deserving of the presidency whether or not the people want them. reminds me of the song 'tomorrow belongs to me' from the movie caberet. i am a baby boomer, about the same age as hillary, and i say we have screwed the country up enough, let the youngsters take over, before we make things worse.

    January 8, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. Tate

    People keep talking about Obama's lack of experience, but look what alleged experience got us Bush....we are in war and coming into one of the worst recessions ever and this was an "experienced" president. I'm ready for change
    someone who wants to work for change, somebody who views this nation differently and will fight for the average person. Call it a fairy tale or whatever you want Bill, you guys thought Clinton was a shoe-in and it ain't happening.... Oh when the house of cards fall down....

    January 8, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. Hanayaka

    Personally, I would like to see what Obama will actually DO about the Iraq War. He makes glorious claims that it's not right to be there, but during the NH debates pretty much spat out the same exact thing Hillary had already said. We all know that he said he was "against" the war, but then voted to fund it. Um, hello?! Obama talks real big but never actually says what he's going to DO. Quit painting pretty pictures with your eloquent speeches and design some real plans.

    Edwards, you are my hero!

    January 8, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Margie, Atlanta, ga

    WHy don't we ever learn. This was exactly how George Bush won 2 terms. Look at what he has done to this country. I like Obama but he lacks experience. He cannot learn on the job. Not at this time. What is wrong with experience?. The rest of the world has to have experience for any top job.
    Hilary has been bashed enough and uo till now NOBODY has given me an intelligent reason why she is not right for the job. If the democrats are not careful a republican will win the white house.
    As for Edwards, he needs another $400 hair cut. He wants Obama to win so that he can be VP, fat chance. I hope we get a Clinton/Obama ticket. That will definitely be CHANGE.
    Good luck to them all. Good luck to America.

    January 8, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. get truth guy

    If Hossin Obama is elected, I will move to other nation. This is the worst we could see if the greatest country on earth is in the hands of Hossin Obama...

    January 8, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. rob

    1. Hillary is toast. It's over.

    2. Bill's stock is dropping fast. The Whiner in Chief? He's seems quite reckless, and now is whining like a spoiled 14 year old.

    Obama is twice the personality Hillary is. it's over.


    January 8, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. toosad

    Obama made his woman cry...gotta let him have it now

    January 8, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Beatriz Rosado

    Bill Clinton not onlly has the right to help his wife campaign he has an obligation . Nobody complains when the wife of Mr. Obama does the same. Give me a break!

    January 8, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. carmi

    Go Hillary!!! Can't believe the media is focusing on Barack winning........WRONG

    Think about it: he is so inexperienced...!!!

    Thanks for reading

    January 8, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. Michael

    Has Bill Clinton officially lost his mind? I used to be a great fan of his, but his actions on this campaign trail have led me to believe his desperation to return to the White House has clouded his ability to see what is really going on in politics today. I think it's time for Hillary to bench him before he continues to cause damage to her campaign. And in regards to Mark Penn.... the man has made a living studying micro-trends, but failed to see the MACRO trend that is the desire of the American electorate to be inspired to take action towards building a better future for themselves and those around them. Their arrogance caused them to miss the big picture....AGAIN.

    January 8, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. Jack

    It's pretty funny to hear a Democrat complain about a biased media.

    January 8, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  19. megan

    For you people who endorse Obama, how many of you voted for Bush? Thanks for the last 8 years! At least Hiliary has some experience, and for those who ask what experience, start naming Obama's accomplishments.

    January 8, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  20. Mike

    "This is a statement in very poor taste. Why don't you just come right out with it, and accuse Mr. Obama of whatever it is you're trying to insinuate."

    The whole "Hussein" discussion is a code-worded cloak for the N-word. The racists need to just get on with it and start using the N-word to describe Obama instead of playing these little word games with us. C'mon, let's hear it, say what you mean, not this little "he's a Muslim" toe-touching game. Go ahead and get it out in the open, OK?

    January 8, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. ratt

    For all of you blasting Obama for no substance a simple trip to his website will provide a 64 page synopsis of what his goals are. Before you criticize it might be a good idea to do a little reading.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. Suzi

    Good for Bill! What he said is correct, and also if Obama or his supporter cannot deal with the realities, then Obama cannot stand a chance in the real election ... the Rep will tear him apart.
    Right now the media is worried about the back-lashed from the large Obama's supporters, should the media say anything "negative".

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. lulu

    Billary, you had your chance in the WH; you sullied your nest and legacy. Your "interning" has left a very bad chapter in American history. I am ashamed of your presidency. Shut up and go AWAY! You cannot win this election for Hillary, who is after actually ****running****! Her mistake is keeping you around; you are excess baggage.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  24. Keri-Texas

    If Obama wins get ready for the Manchurian candidate. I have a bad feeling about him. Really what has he done to be qualified for this job? He'll become the world's puppet, Washington insiders will have a field day with him. At least I know Hillary has stood up to the Republican machine many times and won. At least I know she has some fight in her and doesn't just act like an overgrown lap dog.

    I dare say, if Obama gets the nomination I'll vote Republican for the first time in my 62 years.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  25. Vic Novosad, Sugar Land, TX

    To Willowood and others who distort history: It was NOT Bill Clinton who put George Bush in office. It was all the voters who refused to see the writing on the wall because you were so enamored with his hypocratic faith-based speeches and empty personna. With one hand over his heart, and a person who could not pronounced a word consisting of more than one syllable - sixty percent of the voting public became mesmorized and swept up by appearance and conservative talk show hosts - put George Bush into office - not once but TWICE!

    What the voters got in return from this man whose ignorance of everything presidential and world leadership was a war in the Middle East sacrificing almost 4000 of America's finest, corporate tax cuts and high-rising fees and soaring prices. He abandoned the U. S. Constitution in favor of underhanded betrayals of what America stands for, and a standing in the world from which we may never recover. ALL OF THIS WAS DONE ON THE ADVICE OF AIDS WHO THIS INEXPERIENCED PRESIDENT TRUSTED TO RUN THE COUNTRY'S BUSINESS BECAUSE HE DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT WHAT THE PRESIDENCY IS ALL ABOUT.

    America wake up! You're about to send in a George W. Bush clone who will surround himself with the likes of Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales and George Tennet, who will take him down the path of destruction. If you want to continue George W. Bush's presidency, vote for Barak Obama. Otherwise, help elect Hillary Clinton, who has put her political life on the line for all Americans.
    Finally, to those of you who continue to say she's lying about her 35 years of service to governments, you are wrong. Go research her and you will learn that this woman is telling the truth.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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