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. jan

    You Obama supporters are off your rockers.....what on earth do you think Obama is really going to accomplish? If any of you think on President can possibly end every screwed up mess we have right now you have to be crazy....he's a bag of wind and I thank Bill for pointing out the blatantly obvious.....the media is an absolute mess covering these primaries. Go Hillary.....we need your over the top attention to detail and ability to actually do what is neccessary to make something happen.....no just simply smile and say 'I'm gonna make everything better".

    January 8, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. carolh11

    Let's all remember here, this is POLITICS! They're going down swinging, and swinging with a hard left as brutal as they can! Hillary was the front runner, the coronated candidate by the party, and treated as such for a very long time. Shocked and stunned, this is the only reasonable political retaliation they think they have. If for one minute they thought a little beyond the "play", they would realize this is the exact politics that the people are voting against.

    January 8, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Kmgross

    Why does it have to be a "fairy tale" for Obama? Because he's black? Does white America think that the position of President of the USA is only for them and its only a "fairy tale" for blacks.

    January 8, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Del

    poor losers, surely no one is really surprised. hilly-billy have spent their adult lives wollowing in the deepest blackest hole of American politics. Carville & Begala hold the extra set of keys to that hole. I'd like to have a hilly-billy shut-up button it would be worn out by now. Just like they are. Can't wait until we can be concerned ans interested in American politics and not have to see those faces or hear that name . I would still like to read the list of her 35 years of accomplishments. I wish the media would have her answer questions about her past. they have given her a cake walk. So why are they crying ? They have hit Romney and Huckabee on their religion big time. Some on Obamas. why not hilly for the lack of any. Going into a church and sticking a Bible under your arm for the cameras does not a christian make, no more than going into a garage makes you a buick.
    They are frauds to the bone.

    January 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Priscilla

    After the crying scene and the bashing from Bill. I have definetly made up my mind. I am not voting for Hillary. When you really think about it all this experience has got us just where e are today. I beleive Obama can bring them all together (Dems,Rep,Ind). Hillary I know that you have passion but what you are demonstrating is just what we would see if you were President. We need to get away from that. Thank you for showing me your true colors.

    January 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Slownomad

    I've been a Democrat my entire voting life. I've worked at the polls, I've walked precincts, I've made calls, I've donated money. In every election since 1980. And nothing has pissed me off as much as the Clintons and their "entitlement" mentality this time around. I've had it with them. It's all about them and "their party". Clue time, Bill. It's not "your" party!!! It's not Hillarys! It belongs to Democrats and you just can't stand that we might kick your tired old butt to the ground. Haven't you done enough already to hurt the Democratic Party? Please, just go away!

    January 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. R. W. McSween

    Hats off to Bill Clinton. I do not know what special interest is backing Obama but they must have deep pockets and a lot of influence in Washington. That in itself is not unusual or surprising as that place reeks of incompetence, lies and half truths. The youth of this country are making a big mistake voting for change when they have no clue what change he will make. I am sick of hearing about his chrisma. I think that is a poor basis for president, as well as I fail to see what charisma or good looks he has. Clinton was the best president since Kennedy and I hate hearing Obama compared to Kennedy. Clinton left our country in the best shape it had been in for years; no deficit, good foreign relations. Has everyone forgotten that. Bush has destroyed our nation and now the youth wants more of the same incompetence and lack of experience. I would feel a lot better having Hillary Clinton as president in these trying times. SHE COULD TAKE OVER ON DAY ONE AND NONE OF THE OTHERS COULD. WAKE UP AMERICA BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

    January 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Kate

    Bush Senior = 4 years
    Bill Clinton = 8 years
    George W Bush = 8 years
    Hilllary Cliton = 8 years
    Jenna Bush = 8 years
    Chelsea Clinton = 8 years

    Long live democracy!!!!!!!! ..

    January 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  9. Mohinder Suresh

    It's interesting how folks don't even know what Obama stands for. They don't care. Apparently, he has a high likability rating, and when your support comes from the readers of people-magazine (as in, folks that have never looked inside an issue of Time magizine), it's quite obvious that this nomination more closely resembles a high school popularity contest than a serious election.

    January 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Y. Parker

    I am not at all surprised by the sudden downslide of our nations former First Lady of eight years, and neither should anyone else who has read all the available information about her and her husband on the Internet (The Clinton Years, The Clinton Murders, and Who Killed John John), as well as all the books about her by respected and credible authors. I do not believe that anyone with this knowledge could ever vote for a woman surrounded by so much suspicion, wrong doing and coverup would draw enough votes to become president, and I also believe that this is the main reason for her downfall.

    I predicted from the very beginning that Hillary would never be president, and that if the Democrats wanted to win the next presidential race, they had better come up with someone more likeable and credible....a candidate they could really trust and respect...and it looks like that person just might be Obama!

    As a frequent blogger on the Internet, I can also see how opinions of others and the sharing of information has a strong effect on how one will vote in the elections. Because of the availability of so much credible information, information one may never know about unless someone tells them about it or refers them to (there are so many links to these informative sites) that can really influence people and even change their minds. So I really believe that the blogs written by others can have a huge bearing on the outcome of any election. For example, I wrote a blog during President Bush's campaign in 2000, "I Smell Something Rotten and It's Not Coming from the Whitehouse" that eight or nine hundred responses, and which I believe had a strong influence in helping him get elected. There were many others as well....and as long as there is an Internet...and there are bloggers....many will flock to read and share their opinions and information with one another.

    January 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  11. Micah, Phoenix AZ

    Why do people think, that because Obama is a good speaker, a man who can inspire, that means automatically that he has taken no positions or stances on the issues? That he has laid no specifics out on the issues. People, do some research before spitting out untruths. He has been speaking policy for YEARS......


    January 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. Kate

    Bush Senior = 4 years
    Bill Clinton = 8 years
    George W Bush = 8 years
    Hilllary Cliton = 8 years
    Jenna Bush = 8 years
    Chelsea Clinton = 8 years

    That I say is democracy 😉

    January 8, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Larry DeVito Mason NH

    Hey Bill, give ME a break, give US a break, and be gracious in defeat and not sound like a spoiled child. Get real.

    January 8, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. Mark C, Asheville NC

    Buh–bye Bill! Buh-bye Hillary!

    January 8, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Erica

    Would you let the wife of a surgeon operate on you? Hillary apparently would.

    January 8, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  16. Casey, Minneapolis, MN

    I don't understand how people can equate the Clintons with the Bushes. When Mr. Clinton was in office our country was in such a good state: we were respected around the world, the middle class was going, there was actually a plan for people to get off of welfare and contribute to society rather than burden it, and we had a surplus. I just don't understand why people are afraid of trying to go back to that.

    I don't claim to know much about politics, but I know that life wasn't too bad back then.

    January 8, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |


    January 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. MK

    Clint, watch meet the press. Tim has asked Obama all the questions you mentioned. I was ok with the answer you get.

    January 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. RofLA

    Pres. Clinton taking up for his wife? Now we see who will really run the White House! When she is losing...he comes from behind the curtain. Let Mrs. Clinton fight her own battles–if she knows how. I can't believe he blames the media when the media has been rough on all the candidates. Mrs. Clinton said she's running on her experience. Maybe she should use it to stand up to the other candidates.

    January 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Jane Terra

    Obama has NO experience. Hope can't pay my bills. Hope can't lower the price at the pump. It is time that his record is out there by the press. They have given him a free ride! He coudn't vote for the war cause he wasn't a Senator....he didn't vote against the Iran resolution because he was out campaigning. He couldn't make it back to Wahington, but he could slant it as an act for war.

    Bush promised to unite people.....how has that gone so far?

    Wake up all you dreamers.

    January 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Brian

    Obama should look familiar to Bill. He garnered the same treatmant as president.

    January 8, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. denise

    if the clinton's go after obama, do they think that the blacks are gonna be with them.if they send the smear crew out after obama ,do they think that it well split the party,that the young will follow them.they might get the dem's. party nod for pres.but at what cost.for the gop's to win.and the party to be forever split.

    January 8, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  23. mARILYN

    Clinton be cool. Obama might choose you for his running mate. Just don't dig any ditches.

    January 8, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. james

    They all are the same, none of them are worth voteing for...Im just staying home.

    January 8, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. Matthew

    Hey, I have an idea – how about Hilary runs, and wins or loses, on her own merits rather than with Bill's help? I don't understand why there appears to be a general acceptance that it's fair that Hilary's campaign depends so fundamentally on the active, daily participation (as opposed to the mere support or endorsement) of one of our generation's most effective politicians. If she's capable of acting as President, why isn't she capable of running a campaign that doesn't rely on Bill?

    January 8, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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