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. Aaron

    Charles T from VA, you might be correct and then your argument falls apart. I don't think Hilary is stealing anything right now she is getting her butt kicked so you can't really make that claim. However, it is likely that Obama runs as an Independent if he doesn't get the nomination, of course that does two things, one it ensures that Hilary will lose, two it ensures that he will lose. We saw this with Ross Perot and Bush senior.
    So lets assume that Obama does get the nomination, he hits the campaign trail looking for a strong base to build off of and finds that Hispanic's (a large portion of the Democratic base and growing) won't vote for a black guy! The republicans who are running no one of real interest (except my boy Ron Paul) win the election hands down because in the end the Christian Conservative right always shows up. The Democrats have totally screwed themselves again, hope you are ready for 4 more years of some crazy religious republican.
    Your very thin silver lining is to hope that Republicans (such as myself) get irritated enough to start throwing their votes to a Libertarian or Conservative Independent, because it won't be going to Obama.

    January 8, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    To Willowood:

    The Clintons had nothing to do with Jet-Pilot being installed in the White House.

    Both elections were riddled with voting irregularities that are just now being investigated.

    How else would you explain 184 precincts in Ohio in 2004 casting more ballots for Bush than there were people living in those precincts, let alone registered to vote?! And, ironically, when the vote totals were "corrected" later, the amount of overcharge for Bush was exactly the same – 3,303 votes in precincts north of I-70 and 2,002 votes in preceincts south of I-70.

    January 8, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. Independent voter

    I understand that a "CHANGE" is good! We need to be very careful and not rushing into a change if we can not be sure if it is an acceptable change. I hope that americans take time to consider a careful analysis of individual candidates, especially on each person's proven abilities to do good politics. I worry we let our emotion ride the tidal wave of change and ending up as a witness of our own destruction. Do your own research, cultivate your own decision, stay focused, and do not let prejudice guide your soul.

    May the best candidate win regardless of race, sex, and party affiliation.

    January 8, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. Patrick, New York,Ny

    GO BuBBA!!! BILL CLINTON ALL THE WAY>>>This whole thing so far has been a media hype free pass for Obama and THe CLintons are so under appreciated and demonized for all the hard work they have done for our country.

    January 8, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  5. ZOI

    Thank God someone finally stands up and comments on this. Obama is full of contradictions and promises for change when he mentions no action plan. We all want change, yes, but WHAT EXACTLY is he going to do to make change??? That is the question I need answered to even consider him. And as for Hiliary, for those who want to know her great record, if your wondering so much, you could simply look it up, or watch the debates. Where have YOU been? This is not a popularity contest people, this will be The President for crying out loud. Those of you who see it this way really need to grow up. You need to Really Think about the future.

    January 8, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX


    Put down the hookah before posting, please!!!

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. Ryan, New York, NY

    Gbryant January 8, 2008 1:24 pm ET

    Ryan in New York:

    That is exactly what I mean. A person's upbringing should be out in the open. Like has been said before, if it was anyone else that the media was not sugar coating, he would be on a watch list.

    You've got to be kidding. First, it has been out in the open, far more than it ever should have been. Every Obama-related on this Political Ticker gets at least one moron making some reference to his middle or last name (like we're in 2nd grade) and people are always calling him a Muslim. It's you people who are more concerned with what race or religion a candidate is that need to be on a watch list.

    Second, it's pretty pitiful when the best thing that the Hillary Hit Squad can pull out is his ethnic background, something that he had no part in creating, unlike all the issues that Hillary's created for herself through her oustanding "experience."

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. Jim

    Why didn't you ask these questions during those 15 debates Mr. President?

    You have let Sen. Obama trumpet all along assuming that your wife is inevitable, now that you are losing you suddenly are blaming the media. Give us a break, we all know you are a smart politician but your time was then and Obama's time is now!

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. Del LaBelle Boise Idaho

    Please someone make a list of ALL the things , in the 35 years, that Hillary has accomplished. How has healthcare improved in New York since she has been senator, or anything else for that matter? They pull out from the deepest black hole of American politics that they wollow in when they are losing. Glad they're gone , free at last..

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  10. Melissa

    I think Bill Clinton was an amazing president (personal issues aside). But, I'm hoping he can not get too bitter as Hillary begins to fade out of the limelight. In my dream administration, we could have Obama as President and Bill Clinton as peace envoy to the middle east. Oh yeah, and Al Gore as Secretary of State. So, watch what you say Bill. Remember, at the end of the day, we're all fighting for the same cause, aren't we?

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  11. Amy

    America has simply decided to turn the page away from the Clintons and the 90's. And Bill and Hillary simply don't get it. They are so disconnected.

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  12. E.L.T

    To all you ignorant types... do your research!!!

    People are with Obama because they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Quit bringing up his race, his middle name, or his absentee father. He had NO control over those matters. I suppose I would be equally justified by pointing out that Bill's middle name is "Jefferson" , and I should be able to equate him with slave-owning Thomas Jefferson? As for his family being in Kenya in poverty, do you know the relationship between them? Just becasuse he acknowledges his family does not mean they have a good relationship. We all have family we have had strained relationships with. For the jerk that commented about his mother being absent on the campaign trail... SHE DIED IN 1995!!!! For the jerk that asked what Indonesia has to do with anything... his mother married an Indonesian after his she and his father divorced.

    For the record, Obama's elected time in public service (Senate as well as other elected positons) is longer than Clinton's. Hillary has only been a senator since 2001. If Obama's elected time before becoming Senator doesn't count, then neither should Hillary's time. 7 years in any other job wouldn't even make her mid-career if you want to look at it that way. To paraphrase a good, yet true statement, JFK, MLK , Harriett Tubman, were all inexperienced.. Taken one step further, Jesus was inexperienced... so Obama, you're in good company.

    By the way, Obama continues to be scrutinized by the media. They just realize that America at large needs that breath of fresh air he brings...

    more to come folks...

    January 8, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  13. Bryan

    I find it interesting that people who voted for Bush, knowing that he had never left the country and had no international experience, are now changing their narrative and attacking the same ideals they so strongly fought for in the prior two elections. It didn't matter that he ran an oil company into the ground, failed at running a baseball organization, and left Texas as the most polluted state in America. The difference here is that the country is speaking out against the political establishment. Hillary has gone into attack mode which is exactly what this country needs to move away from. Bill Clinton is embarrassing himself with these sweeping statements. I think he was a brilliant president, but if Hillary becomes President, that will be 28 years in a row that a Bush or Clinton were in the White House. Hillary only fuels the partisanship!

    I also find it interesting that people keep saying Barack Hussein Obama. I'd like to ask these people to tell me Huckabee's middle name...or how about McCain's?

    January 8, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. Joe Vanderbosch, Appleton, WI

    Thata boy Bill, finally someone telling the truth about this flake, Obama.

    January 8, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  15. Chris

    Barack is now more than a candidate, he is a movement. It doesn't do the Clintons any good to throw mud at a movement. If she wants to get her campaign back together she needs to embrace the movement, admit that Barack is a star and then make a solid case about why she's better. This negativity is backfiring big time. I'm no Clinton hater, but the basic is this– it's a far more powerful thing to be FOR something (a la Obama) than to be against something. Hillary started this whole thing just railing against Bush, and Obama started it railing for hope. It doesn't take rocket scientist to understand why Obama is bringing people to the polls.

    Meanwhile, I think it's time Bill starts to think about his legacy a little more. Does he really want to go down as the white guy who was trying to rob us of the first possibility of a black President by going negative? He may embrace the idea of being the country's first "black President," but this guy is the real deal. And Hillary could have a long career ahead of her even if she doesn't win the nomination. She should consider if she wants to be the person who throws mud at what could be the next American Presidential Icon. The Clintons need to think a little more big picture, in my opinion.

    January 8, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  16. js

    I would like to know why someone doesn't speak out about Obama's
    Muslim background. He says he's not Muslim, but his dad was and his
    grandparents were. This country does not need to elect a Muslim for
    president of the UNITED STATES. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

    January 8, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. Steve-O

    Yikes! The wheels are really coming off the wagon.....

    January 8, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  18. Darrell

    Bill is hurting his wife.
    What experience did Bill have in washington as Governor?
    1992 - he had – none.
    now it is time for change,

    not more of the same.

    January 8, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  19. E.Fortune

    What would it take for Clinton to run as Obama's Vice President?

    January 8, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Glenda

    I'm not buying the Obama hype. The media has made him the darling. If you listen to the people of his state he's done nothing for them. The last time this country voted for change we got Jimmy Carter. Not voting for Hillary either. There is no one out there to vote for. I will have to choose the lesser of two evils when election day rolls around. I would rather have experience than smooth talking fella who can convince people he can CHANGE America. Only when the people of this nation rise up and say they've had enough will you get real change. You think Obama's the answer? I have a nice little bridge in Brooklyn that's for sale and it looks like I have a long line of fools willing to buy it. Wise up people.

    January 8, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. Mike

    Listening to Obama speak reminds me of listening to Martin Luther Kin Jr. speeches. They create goose bumps! It's time for a change and it's definitely time to get young Americans to speak up and vote! Good for Obama and I hope he wins the nomination!

    January 8, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. Joanne McCann

    Bill Clinton did an amazing job for the economy and deficit for us, no one is disputing but he also embarassed this country more than any other President except maybe Nixon. If Bill were running this would be a very different discussion. But he is not.

    January 8, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  23. donald

    Now that Billy boy opened his mouth I will support Obama. I am sick of lies, special interest groups, and lobbist, and clintons

    January 8, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  24. David Han

    Media can be deadly misleading if it has bias or missing antthing. Pls report what Obama has done and who he is. I am a foreigner, even in my eyes, I think his stance on Iraq war is a bit qustionable at the first place. Change is dirty world in election and can be used by tactic talker. Good luck America and God bless those who are hard working.

    January 8, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  25. Dave

    Gbryant – gene – S in Texas – Monte Brown, New York, NY – Roy C.

    I'm starting with this list of HRC supporters. Please support your votes with intelligence, and not mindless dribble and answer these questions for me. If you you know nothing about HRC except what other people tell you then say that. Read about her supporters and the legislations that she supported in their favor. Research her voting record and see what she actually voted for.

    "Again I askā€¦Can a HRC supporter please tell me what legislation has HRC drafted that became law or that was rejected, or what is her record on voting on each legislation that was drafted under her term, and her reasoning for voting the way she did as senator? Please tell me what other offices has she held besides being, one of many women that screwed Bill in the white house."

    By the way, I do not support OB or JE either because of their voting records or lack thereof to provide substantial votes that appease me, and not just the special interest that finance them.

    In addition, I ask the same from Obama and Edwards supporters. A great majority of posters speak the same mindless dribble that Bush supporters speak. People challenge Bush's intelligence, but it seems to me he is taking your tax money and making himself and his friends rich...so who's the dummy! HRC will do the same...

    January 8, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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