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. Michelle

    TO PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY READ THIS (YOUNG AMERICANS, NOT CANDIDATES): One year from now, when this is all over, and our future continues to grow into the hands of the "young people" for generations to come and train up generations to come – who are "fired up" for change – here is my question: REGARDLESS of what President occupies the White House (because I know that your every hope and "dream" in life is not pinned to one human or political office), what is YOUR PLAN to change this country/society for the better – from where you live today?? Please help us understand because a year from now, that is where we will be. Thanks for answering.

    January 8, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. Nelson, Colorado Springs Co

    well it has just begun for Sen obama hate and discontent, it apart of running for the president. Now Mr clinton is being player hater

    January 8, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. Carol B., Maryland

    He seems to be talking from experience. Experience is sometimes a bitter lesson. ALL the candidates need to answer the tough questions. All this frenzy and expecting someone to be the great Swami, Messiah, or Mephistopheles is a bunch of shallow pabulum.

    January 8, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. donald

    There's no crying in Politics. lololol

    January 8, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Shannon

    If what Bill says was true, HIllary would have been using that quote against Obama over and over at the debates! Bill has used this distortion before.... you are getting tired and are embarrassing yourself Bill! Have some self respect. Americans aren't so stupid!

    "Obama was being asked to criticize Kerry and Edwards for their votes.

    He declined, noting that perhaps hypothetically if he had been in the Senate at the same time as them and seen these intelligence reports, he'd come to the same conclusion they did.

    But from his vantage point outside the Senate, the case was not made and if he was given a chance to vote based on that, he'd vote "no" for sure."

    January 8, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  6. watching and waiting

    The problem for Mrs. Clinton is that one cannot be the seasoned politician that she claims to be (thirty-five years of experience) and then turn around and claim that she is an agent of change. This problem is compounded by the fact that she has her husband, the former president, campaigning for her touting her "experience" which just reminds the voters why they want change (change from the divisive politics that characterized the Clinton years as well as the many mistakes and bitterness of the last eight years under President Bush).

    Obama may not have that much experience but then who really has any experience to be president? It is a position like no other in the world – there is no apprenticeship that one can serve and there is no school that one can attend to learn how to do the job.

    I am not a member of the Democrat Party though from time to time I do vote for Democrats at the local, state and national (Congressional) elections. Having said that, I might be compelled to vote this year for Mr. Obama should he win the nomination and the Republicans choose Romney, Guilani, or McCain. The American people want a change from the partisan politics that have made any issue almost impossible to discuss in a reasonable way. Mr. Obama and Mr. Huckabee have tried (Obama I think better than Huckabee) to remain above the sordidness that has characterized elections since the involvement in Viet Nam.

    Clinton is an intelligent woman who undoubtedly feels strongly about many issues. However, intelligence, gender, and eight years as a guest in the White House do not entitle her to the presidency. She needs to tell her husband to stay home; she needs to figure out how to appeal to the issues that male voters care about; and she needs to ditch the old Clinton operatives that she took on today (Carvel and Begala – two masters of the down and dirty politics if there ever were masters) as well as those Bill Clinton helpers that hae been directing her campaign thus far. She needs someone who is going to be honest with her and tell her no. THere is little hope that that will happen. One further thought – if she were to get the nomination, who could she inveigle to be her running mate? That would definintely be a non-job, much like ThomasMarshall's tenure as Vice-president was when he served under Woodrow Wilson. That position would be a deadend job for any aspiring politician as he/she would be marginalized because Bill Clinton would be her laddie of choice to go out as the representative of the President.

    January 8, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. Undecided

    I'd never vote Republican but if the Clintons keep this type of campaigning up, I'll stay home rather than vote for Hillary, and I know quite a few people who've said the same. Keep it up, Bill and Hillary, and you won't make it to the WH, anyway. This is just the first part of the race and, if you succeed with the nomination, you will NEED Obama supporters and you're in process of alienating them.

    January 8, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. mimi

    I would like to know about these 35 years of experience...?! Doing what?
    In that case I have 34 years experience...at what you might ask...being alive. I'm 34. So vote for me!

    You watched your husband be president, so now you can do it?
    That's the equivalent of a housekeeper having worked in the white house for 12 years saying vote for me, I have experience because I've seen, served, and cleaned up after heads of state. I need details lady.

    She had 8 years to work on that healthcare plan of hers when Bill was in office. If she didn't get it done then, why should I be impressed with her plans now?

    And I'm sorry I don't believe the croc tears and the 'personal' comments. What, she had it hard growing up in comfy Park Ridge IL? boo hoo...Gimme a break! What I know of Park Ridge IL is that Obama better had not been caught there at night.

    Sorry but the old guard has had their say. It's time for someone to regain the respect of the world. Wake up it's not Woodstock anymore. It's time out for old white men and their wives telling everybody what's good for them. You see where it's gotten us this far. Don't be bitter, just watch democracy at work.

    Isn't this what you guys marched for so many years ago?

    January 8, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. Ken Harris

    When is Hillary Clinton going to run on her own merit and stop riding on the coat tails of her husband? She is not now nor has she ever been entitled to be president just because Bill Clinton was and/or is such a beloved figure in the democratic party. America is waking up to the fact that Hillary Clinton will do whatever she has to in trying to get to the Whitehouse; put on a phoney accent, turn on the tears, crank up the woe is me rhetoric, and none of it with a fraction of the thoughtful sincerity Barack Obama portrays 100% of the time. As for the Punjab thing Billy-boy makes reference to, a little research will quickly reveal that Barack had absolutely no idea that a misguided staffer would do what they did. Say what you want, but he has run a consistently clean & positive campaign and the Clintons are only showcasing their own pathetic desperation now that things haven't turned out to be as preordained as they and/or others thought they should be. She can cry all she wants, but thinking young Americans are realizing that the experience she so proudly touts is the real fairy tail; the same brand as that possessed by the rest of the experienced establishment professionals that have screwed this country up so thoroughly and for so long. She will have no chance of restoring our standing in the world, Barack will. She will make no headway in bringing both sides of the aisle together because too many from the GOP hate her, Barack will. She is a divider. Barack is a uniter. Americans have not so easily forgotten about the obvious disdain she felt for the military when Bill was president. The list goes on and on and on. We need something fresh and new and Hillary isn't it. So the whole experience argument is bunk...pure and simple! Barack is thoughtful, intelligent, and inspires people to be and vote better than they are. It is my feeling that when combined with a well-crafted cabinet, these are the qualities that will propel this country to greatness once again...

    January 8, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Melisa

    Is anyone aware that the Republicans also support Obama to win the nomination? Does that concern anyone? If Obama wins the nomination, democrats can pat themselves on the back for delivering the general election to the Republicans. Think people!!!

    January 8, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  11. AlanB

    Can you imagine an election with no Clinton or Bush in the Presidential foray? I can and it sounds exiting. I have nothing against Hillary, but it is time to put someone in the White House that has not been corrupted by partisan politics and narcissism. This is not about Democrats versus Republicans. It about doing what is best for America. Please support the vote for change.

    January 8, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. Carroll Johnson

    This whole "change" thing that obama has been riding on is crazy. Its very clear that Clinton was leading change probably back when obama was in diapers. Hillary was able to make change when the parties where at constant odds. Can u imagine what accomplishments she can achieve for this nation if she's elected and the house and senate are on demoncratic!! Change then would become reality and i believe Hillary can do it. Besides Bill has her back and i know i trust him...even if he did have an affair. So dont half the country except we didnt find out about it.

    January 8, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. Lu

    I heard the press saying Obama was a drug dealer? ... No one know anything about this guy... I think he's all talk and no action..

    January 8, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. Frank

    Who is the candidate? Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton? I am not interested in listening to Bill Clinton. This consistent and irritating tag team action is changing my prospective vote from hillary to obama.

    January 8, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Farah

    Obama showed he has the character, ability, the will, the knowledge to become one of the best President, the first best president in the first century.

    I love Hillary, but Hillary could not, and could not accomplish nothing comparing to what Senator Obama could do.

    January 8, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. Carroll Johnson

    And dont forget that obama has a lobbyist in NH. I know cause thats where i live!! So special interest groups for obama scares me like privitization...hmmm sounds familiar dont it Bush.

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

    Dear husband of Hillary,

    You bettter pray to God your wife gets the nomination or whatever time you spend together with your wife will be sheer hell.

    I don't know how I can say this, but I feel for you.

    Happy New Year

    January 8, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  18. Chad, IN

    The really sad thing is that Bill is correct. Obama seems like he's gotten a pass when it comes to a close look by the press. If you can look past his cocky attitude, smooth elocution and repetition of his "change" mantra and examine his experience and his voting record, you can clearly see the man isn't quite what he says he is.

    Regrettably, since Hilary isn't doing as well as everyone thought, it's just going to see like sour grapes.

    January 8, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. Jack

    Republicans throughout the land are quitely celebrating at the thought of Obama being nominated by naive democrats.

    January 8, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. Tom Naples

    As a spouse, Mr. Clinton is questioning more about his wife’s opponents than should be allowed. As a former President, I cannot recall in my memory ANY former President stumping for a candidate by criticizing the opponent and the media’s coverage of that opponent. What gives this man the right? Is it because of who he is? Well, in a court of law, witnesses with questionable morals and motives usually are knocked down. What the media should be doing, if it wanted to be critical of EACH candidate is to ask the HARD questions about the scandalous behavior and involvement of Senator Clinton while she was earning her vast experience through osmosis. Look, most of the country CANNOT stand you OR your wife. Time for a reality check. It's called democracy in action.

    January 8, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. Sharon

    Bravo! Bravo, Bill Clinton.
    It's about time someone got ticked off by the media's unfair and unbalanced campaign coverage that has let slippery Obama slip by with his cliche speeches. That includes you, CNN. Obama's got a lot to hide in addition to his negative voting record, drug use and that arrogant attitude. The cowardly media has embarrassed itself by drooling over Obama. They don't ask Obama the tough questions just like they failed to ask Bush the tough ones before the iraq war. We all know where that got us. I'm a registered Independent who always votes Democratic. If Obama is the nominee, I'm voting NOBAMA and looking elsewhere for my candidate.

    January 8, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Karen, NYC

    He sounds bitter. Who is he angry with? The American People? Oh that's right, I guess he's upset because we didn't follow the Clinton's playbook script to allow the entire family to become President regardless how outdated their message is, how corrupt their 2 White House runs were and how disconnected they are with other Americans.

    Maybe they should buy a small island and crown themselves King and Queen. That should feed their overblown egos enough to Shut Up and Sit Down!

    January 8, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  23. dave


    January 8, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  24. Robert E. Eldridge, Jacksonville, Fl

    Obama did not win Iowa and he likely will not win New Hampshire, either.
    Sixty-two percent of Democratic voters voted for someone else.
    Go figure.
    Too early to raise the right-hand and swear...
    I think so.
    Hype not substance.

    January 8, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Beckie


    Bill Clinton is wagging his finger and looking in the camera again, telling America "his fairy tales". Need we remind you Mr. Clinton you were impeached, the White Water Scam, and the finger pointing in the camera about what went on in the Oval Office. How can you even be on the campaign trail holding your head up? Mr. Gore didn't need your help either. Remember?!

    Yes we can forgive but not forget when the finger wags again....

    Why wouldn't America want change? I don't know who our country needs but it isn't you!

    January 8, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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