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. Dianne Greer

    Go sit down and calm down! Why are you and Hillary so angry?

    January 8, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  2. Sandi Gilbert

    I've been a politically involved citizen all my my life and I don't recall, in the past 40 years, seeing ALL candidates, regardless of party, look as tired and in need of a few days of sleep. I've listened to replays, on the news, of remarks made by , again ALL candidates that were unnecassary, rude and/or curt.

    The only issues we should be talking about are those of our nation and its citizens and the numerous problems we all face. Our world is very small and it is past the time for all of us to face the fact that we need each other and if we-the-people don't start correcting the error of our ways and clean up our "needs" and take care of our enviornment, economy, education of all, food for all. "Our" problems will only get worse.

    January 8, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. J

    i'm so disgusted i wanna puke. obama is the end of the democratic party...turn out the lights the party's over!

    January 8, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Karen, MN

    On another note, if the choice is between Obama and John McCain in general election. I will vote for McCain.

    I don't like risking the country in the hands of an inexperienced rookie. Although I've been a die-hard Democrat for ever.

    January 8, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. scott

    I love Bill Clinton and his wife. Would have loved seeing them in the Whithouse again. BUT I see where this is going with Obama and I am excited and I love it. At 46 years old I haven't felt this hopeful since 1992 when Clinton was first elected.

    January 8, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |

    Bill Clinton sound like he has lost his mind Obama stance has been the same all along .Iowa was a rude awakening for Hillary of whats to come America is ready for change & healing.Obama has the tools to rerpair it.

    January 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. Sherry

    Don't be fooled by anyone, folks. Make your own decision. Do your own research on individual candidates!

    DON"T BE CHEATED BY SOME SWEET WORDS! OBAMA sounds good but is he or will he be? NO ONE can say! EVERYONE is saying maybe we need someone different. What if he is worse? What if he brings disasters to America? We are facing so many challenges right now. There are so many uncertainties in America right now. Our country is almost a mess now! We can't risk of any more damage!

    Clinton may not be the best Choice. But we know they won't bring disasters to America!!!

    January 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. joe

    When Clinton came to NYC when Democratic-elect Dave Dinkins was in trouble in the polls in his mayoral re-election v. Giuliani, he had this spin– 'I can't help but believe that where a Republican leads a Democrat in the polls in a city that is 5 to 1 Democrats to Republicans, that there is some racial prejudice behind this'. He ignored the fact that Dinkins was elected to begin with in this 5 to 1 city and that Dinkins' problems in the polls were his 4 years of incompetance. So here Clinton is, accusing Barack of underhanded campaign tactics. Of all people, the Clintons accusing others of sleaze. And that the media is too soft on Barack. Please Here in NYC, the NY Times has a continual lovefest with Hillary. The editorial page downplayed Barack's win in Iowa with the theme "it's begun'– in other words, we mustn't conclude anything from Iowa, it's only a starting point– Hillary will still win.

    When the elections are over, if there is nothing left for the Clintons to aspire to in politics, I suggest Hollywood. they've got great acting talent and great connections with the moguls there who contribute generously to Hillary. I'd say they have academy award potential, esp. Hillary. An absolutely brilliant, convincing and compelling actress.

    January 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. William Rodgers

    The Republicans are masterminds at winning elections. They tell their constiuents what they need to do to get a Republican nominated and it is this. You change your status from Republican to Independent allowing you to vote for any party, then go out and vote in the primary for the Democrat that you think wouldn't win in the General Election, making it a shoe-in for the Republican candidate. Illegal, no. Underhanded and unethical, yes.

    January 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. Gary

    Crying on T.V.,and now you have your husband lying again.. please enough is enough.. my GOD!...

    January 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Neil

    The biggest fairy 'tail' in recent American politics was a disgraceful philanderer from a state with ASS embedded in its name staying (among other things) in the White House for a ridiculous 8 years, taking credit for whatever good happened during his tenure (Hell, he even made some key corrections on my Ph.D. dissertation) and his (in)significant other, who has a law degree, is a feminist, but did not have the conviction and strength of character to say "The hell with you Bill" because she saw his coat-tails to be a sure ride into the upper strata of American politics.

    What a joke!

    January 8, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. andy

    I do care who wins and i hope that the the guy who wants to blow us up and destroy us does not see the USA again as a candy ass country, my god people get some strength!!! Im a democrat I don't like war but see the writing on the wall ! so be careful for what you wish for! I wish we could be an america with all there types in are white house democrat , republican and independent! ! But I see that you are for people who want for them self and not the country to bad and so sad ! maybe bloomberg should run!!! if you had stopped and listened to the forum on cspan maybe your argument would be different but todays person buy on impulse !! etc. cars , houses rings, music, presidents !!!

    January 8, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. BrY

    Almost everyone that has commented on this thread is proving Clinton correct – The media tells you who is the good one and who is the not-so-good one… and you all parrot it. Start thinking for yourself.

    January 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. William J.

    The Clintons are way off base here. They are uncharacteristically out of touch with the prevailing sentiments of the American people. Perhaps ten years ago Bill would have had a more significant audience willing to accept his comments, but it's becoming more and more clear that the Clinton's time in American politics has come and gone. America has moved on, and I think the American people (and certainly Democratic voters) will regard Bill's trash talking Obama for what it is: an act of desperation. Hillary's message is not getting traction, and voters are demanding a lot more sincerity than can be generated by focus groups or advertising consultants.

    It comes down to whether a candidate is a political horse-trader or leader: The Clintons are horse-traders; Obama is a leader. A leader will beat a horse trader every time.

    January 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. CE, Wisconsin, USA

    I kinda like fairy tales....Besides her position on Iraq has been a nightmare and we all know you were opposed to this war from the start.


    A two time Bill Clinton supporter for Obama

    January 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Kan

    Mr. Clinton, don't get too low for your high standards. Let go. Don't get absurd for your wife. Everybody knows Hillary is no Bill. Just because she is a Clinton does not mean she needs to be automatically elected over others.

    Since Hillary herself cannot appear too negative, her husband has decided to take on that role. Very sad Bill Clinton has to get down and dirty. Let go Mr.President, let go.

    January 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. carolh11

    Watching the afternoon fêtes on MSNBC during NH primary today. It's lookin like the Clinton's are bringing out ALL the party dogs on the networks to help bring down Obama! Albright, Beigh, etc.. Who's next . Carville, Begala? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and from the looks of it, it's beginning to look like a well attended memorial service.

    January 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. DC

    Bill Clinton, you are not helping Hillary's campagain, when the former President of the United States said "I did'nt have sex with THAT women" its a disgrace to you and Hillary. GO OBAMA

    January 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Paul - Columbus Ohio

    I think Bill and Hillary just need to quit politics and fall back in love with each other. A few back rubs, some chocolate and some red wine.

    She would cry less, he would complain less, and our country would be the better for it.

    Come on Bill, Hillary, think about it.

    January 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. memyself

    What a bunch of lies are being posted here about Obama.

    His mother died in 1995 of Ovarian cancer. It would be kind of hard to have her by his side campaigning or living with his family. Claiming some kind of high ground for Clinton because her mother lives with her and Obama's doesn't is a hateful twisting of the truth considering that the man's mother is dead.

    His grandparents are quite elderly with health issues and have said they don't want to be in the public eye. Obama is demonstrating the best possible family values by honoring their wishes.

    There was an erroneous report a while back about the school Obama attended at age 6. The AP then sent reports to actually check out the school and here's what they reported: "interviews by The Associated Press at the elementary school in Jakarta found that it's a public and secular institution that has been open to students of all faiths since before the White House hopeful attended in the late 1960s." After attending this SECULAR school for 2 years, he went to a Catholic school until the age of 10, when he moved back to the US and lived with his grandparents.

    Obama has never been a Muslim and belongs to a congregation of the United Church of Christ.

    January 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. Louis, New York

    as usual, Bill didn't tell the truth. I highly suggest anyone who wants to take this and think he is right, search the truth for themselves as i did. Bill only took part of what Obama said and twisted it to make it look like he was flipping on the war.
    To Obama's credit, he did not leave our troops without equipment when it was his turn to vote for funding, because that is exactly what happens when you vote against funding troops in the field. You leave them there without equipment.

    All Bill did here was more spin, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Clintons, the Internet has them beat, their lies and spin can't go without being uncovered in minutes through a decent search engine.

    Atleast Obama is truthful, whereas everything that still comes out of the Clinton's mouths is fabricated or twisted to their own goals. We don't need to hear that nonsense anymore, we need politicians who can and will tell us the truth. Oh how refreshing that would be.


    January 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. AB

    i need help understanding the Obam-enon. seems if you like obama, there are very few reasons not to vote for hillary clinton.

    i understand the desire not to have a clinton or a bush being the only people to occupy the white house since 1988. i do think it's damaging, especially for young people, to perceive our democracy as being run by just a few political families. (i guess i don't think "likability," whatever that means, is a good reason to vote for someone.)

    on almost every other point, she trumps obama. their voting records in the senate are 90% similar, but she has proven her competence at promoting progressive causes for 35 years and has also done a far better job in the senate. he might very well be able to prove the same and display a great record one day, but shouldn't we let him be tested before trusting him with the highest office?

    the repeat player game also tends to advantage past players in negotiation. and a nuclear, unstable pakistan is really what the next president will inherit.

    the mayor of LA was in NH canvassing for hillary, and he said, "hillary clinton is more seasoned and a better decision-maker now than bill clinton was in 1992." and i believe that. i see it as a unique opportunity for us to get someone who is maybe more ready than anyone in our lifetimes has been to do that job. and to get someone the republicans have already thrown everything they possibly can at. it's going to be an ugly general election.

    as for change, obama has a lot of the same people, too. one of his campaign managers worked for ira magaziner. a lot of them worked for kerry. another was a pharma lobbyist. maybe 25 out of 1000 jobs in any new administration go to people who proved themselves via the campaign; the rest will go to a lot of the same people they would go to if hillary won. part of the reason washington is immune to change is the same people shuffle in and out all the time, and they change over a much longer cycle than 4-8 years, regardless of who's occupying the highest office.

    the presidency is the one job where having experience can be counted against you. it's very odd. someone explain the excitement to me, please! because if he wins the democratic nomination, i'm definitely going to be out there making sure dems take the white house back, and i'd like to be enthusiastic.

    January 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Marianne Beasley

    Right on, Mister Bill ! Say it ! I'm with you, Babe. Hillary and Bill, all the way.

    January 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Wood Kanampiu

    Who is this guy again?
    Is it the Bill Clinton who was once the president of the United States of America?
    I thought he left office after his second term?
    How many times can you run for the presidency in USA? Excuse me I always thought it was twice at most. But the guy talks like he is actually the one running for the seat. May be him,Hillary, and Chelsia are the trinity. No wonder Hillary counts her husband's experience as her own's.
    Sorry Hillary. Americans expect you to fight it out on your own else you step down for your husband. But I still doubt if your guy has anything for Barack Obama. In case you missed it, it was said OBAMA IS NOT JUST A CANDIDATE BUT A MOVEMENT.

    January 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Pam, Indianapolis, In

    My forthcoming vote for Hillary Clinton was never because of Hillary. It was because of devotion to Bill Clinton. The crap from Hillary and Bill over the last week and specifically the last twenty four hours have pushed me to vote for Obama!

    Your bitterness, your lies and your hypocritical rhetoric are a shame....

    For Bill; Remove the post from your own eye before trying to remove the thorn from someone else's.

    For Hillary; Well.. you still have not learned to listen anyway ;so never mind!!

    January 8, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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