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. Judith Simpson

    I agree that the media has given Obama a pass by not asking any hard questions of him . I have no idea what this big change means he doesn't say what kinds of change and how he plans to get them thru the other branches of goverment. Are you afraid to press him on anything because of his race and you don't want to be criticized for being unfair to a black candidate.
    Also I am getting to the point I don't want to watch the situation room as your views are one sided. I started watching CNN because they used to present all sides but that does't seem to be the case anymore.
    Thank You
    Judith Simpson

    January 8, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  2. Arun

    I guess it all depends on the definition of "is"...of course, Romney's not really sure about "saw" either, so they both could be pretty sure about what they ... are "aware of..."

    To that end, I'm surprised with as early as this campaign season began, we haven't heard more "rabble rabble" from Bill Clinton. He's just now getting in his groove...his wife is spooked and he needs to get more on the offensive...

    But, even aside from that, it boggles my mind that every time a candidate's positions reflects that of a population (especially a majority) that candidate is criticized. THE WHOLE POINT OF THESE ELECTIONS is to pick someone who can adequately reflect the WILL OF THE POPULAR SOVEREIGN (all of us voting types) to the outer world. So what if Obama's position changed with public opinion. That's exactly what I would expect him to do...what is popular...WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT.

    January 8, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  3. Mo Unity

    Wow! Would you all listen to yourselves. This is exactly what Obama doesn't want to happen. Save it for the opposition. OH, wait, if OBAMA were the nominee, there is no opposition. There is no us against them, only us. How beautiful is that?

    January 8, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. Ginny C

    Bill Clinton is absolutely correct in saying you have given Obama a free ride. You are becoming like the Fox channel more and more. I am starting to believe that we get better and more fair coverage from our local stations.

    We just had 8 years of inexperience and incompetence in Washington. This country can't afford another 8 yrs of this. Obama has had no foreign experience at all. What is wrong with people? Wake up before it is to late!

    January 8, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Alice

    Bill Clinton is correct in his opinion about media coverage. This coverage has made Obama a king and Clinton a lost cause because of a win in Iowa. Where is Iowa. Are we nuts. We need a qualified leader. We don't need an intern.

    January 8, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Kmgross

    Everybody is talking about the media this and the media that – the media is WHITE! The TV is WHITE! The magazines are WHITE! Go figure!!

    January 8, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Patrick, New York,Ny

    Bill CLinton is the best....goo HILLARy 08!
    Dont forget what they did for us in the 90s....8 years of peace and posperity


    January 8, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  8. teresa

    Every one wants to jump on the negative train that they seem to think Hillary is on, Not I. I read up on Barrack Obama, I read his books, listened to some of his speeches and tried to discover what it is so fascinating about him. I agree he gives a stirring and inspirational speech. But as Mondale once said" Where"s the Beef?" As for John Edwards, I cannot find any major corporation he challenged as a lawyer, only small businesses and I also found he took a chunk of the money awarded to his clients and put a few small companies out of business. An ambulance chaser isn't what I deem as the right man for the job. So I feel the Change to my party is between Hillary and Barrack. Recently, some people say if Hillary wins it scares them and she would be weak on security. Hillary for the last sixteen years has been pushed, beatened, slandered, shoved, poked, swore at, cheated on, publically humiliated by Bill, criminalized and accused of just about everything bad the republicans and now an ambulance chaser and a smooth talker can lip out. STILL SHE STANDS. Now that is strength. We know her from inside and out and back again. We cannot say the same about Barrack and smiling John. And if that is not enough, let us take Barrack to his word and listen to him, read about him and learn to understand him. And so I have, Most was inspirational and connected, until I read about his church, Trinity United Church Of Christ ans it's leader Dr. Jeremiah Wright. And I wondered why no media picked up on this. I reccommend all your listeners to research this area about Barrack. He speaks of forward with change, Dr. Jeremiah Wright speaks of Black THeologly and the raising of the black people. I tried hard to find it not to feel prejudice, but as I listened and read, I soon felt Barrack is the messenger. A change, where equality will suffer, especially women. I can compare his speeches and Dr. Wrights speeches to those of George Wallace and the Klan which supported him. We know Hillary can be a tiger, why isn't it we an't see the wolf beneathe the same old white shirt and black suit?

    January 8, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. Munachi

    Thanks Bill. Before now I was undecided, wavering between Obama and Hilary. After your rant, I am now decided in favor of Obama. You have just conceded defeat. If you ever want to see the democrats back in the White House, join the OBAMA MOVEMENT.

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  10. Alice

    Obama and JFK? What's the connection. Please.

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. valerie mccray

    The Clintons are old school news I am a no mom who can clearly see if you look at the big picture. To be a great leader you have to start off leading from the beinning.Obama talked about change and clearly that is already happening look at the candidates thay are all talking about it now. He has already made change thay all followed his lead wheather they took it upon them selves to use it negitively or positively.That is what makes a great leader someone who who can stand for something and stick to it and belive in it.The Clinton are all over the place now they really can not see a way out now and from the beinning thay made the wrong moves. Change we must and change never gets old. Val Mc

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Seam, Philly PA

    Mid America January 8, 2008 4:08 pm ET

    The Republicans will eat Obama for breakfast, and Edwards would be a pop-tart.

    We shall see about that! Doubters will be eating their words for breakfast next year.

    Republicans have no clout in 2008.

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. Sky

    I wish someone would expose the Clinton fairytale.
    The great economy of the 90's had nothing to do with him or his wife.
    The economy thrived around Y2K. For almost a decade leading up
    to the year 2000, the federal government mandated that corporations, financial institutes, federal agencies, etc., become Y2K compliant. There was a huge growth solely dependant on this one temporary project which cost billions.
    No one even thought about what was going to happen when 2000 came and no disaters followed. No grid shutdowns, no factory blow ups, not one problem.
    So there was no longer a need for all these highly skilled, high paying jobs.
    Bozo could have been president during the 90's and the outcome would be the same. Now Clintons can share the blame for the slowdown that happened after the year 2000. How? NAFTA! Now thats a fairytale.

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. B. Everitt

    I too have noticed the glowing media coverage over Obama during the past several months. It’s about time for some criticism.

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. Len, Fallbrook, CA

    Last one got lost or moderated to death,,,,

    Tough decisions now the the best and most qualified two candidates on the Dem side have dropped out, namely Dobbs and Biden.


    No defined measurable experience
    No defined tough decision making background
    Never really managed/lead anything or anybody
    Can't wait to go to war with the GOP if elected, don't think we need that.
    Will raise taxes, create more entitlements, and raise taxes again
    For Illegal immigration and amnesty


    No defined measurable experience
    Promotes "change", but the specifics on what will change, and how it will change is in short order.
    No defined tough decision making background
    Never really managed/lead anything or anybody
    Votes present quite a bit, that is not a decision
    Will raise taxes, create more entitlements, and raise taxes again
    For Illegal immigration and amnesty
    Believes in God, but gets a pass on that, unlike Huckabee


    No defined measurable experience
    No defined tough decision making background
    Been unemployed for all practical purposes for the last few years
    Will raise taxes, create more entitlements, and raise taxes again
    For Illegal immigration and amnesty

    There is a trend here...

    There is a reason the senators do poorly in the election no matter what the party.
    They have minimal, if any leadership and managerial skills.
    They would never be contenders for any CEO position of any company of consequence.
    The purpose of a senator is to represent his/her people, a trait forgotton by all of them.
    In reality all they do is move money from one entitlement program to another to buy votes and raise taxes when the run out of money so they can buy more votes.
    If the Dems really want a shot at the White House you had better draft Biden otherwise you will be looking in from the outside again.

    As an independent I would not vote for any of the current Dem candidates.

    January 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Travis Sugarland, Texas

    Poor Willy. You have to feel sorry for the guy. It's all coming to an end. I'm sure Bill believes that if Hillarea would just be quiet and follow his lead, things would be fine.

    There is a lot at stake. The Clinton machine is in trouble. The effects will be widespread. I see that Bill is bringing in his boys. The problem is, much of his former staff is now with Obama. On CNN, a former Clinton foreign affairs advisor just said that she has no foreign policy experience.

    Hillarea is in trouble. Spin it all day, she needs help.

    January 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Jr., California

    I am disappointed in Bill. I expected better from him. It might be hurting H.C.'s chances. That's too bad, the Clinton campaign is starting to look desperate.

    January 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. Cody

    She voted for the war and continually voted to fund the fiasco. Deal with it.

    I love me some "slick Willy" Bill, but America wants change, not a repeat of last decade.

    January 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. Ken, Dallas, TX


    You guys are totally distracted. Whether or not the candidates live and die by the polls, clearly the American electorate does so. Does anybody respond to these topics who actually thinks before he (/she) writes?

    If you want to slice-and-dice candidates, try to find one who's failed to articulate a plausible energy policy; since not one candidate has said anything coherent about energy policy, you can go after the whole slate on that topic.

    If the American people were really fed up with demagoguery, we'd just quit falling for it. If you really want reject divisive, "he said/she said", strangle-you-by-your-heartstrings political tactics, then do so.

    Maybe the candidates are insincere; maybe they're all pandering to poll results; maybe their ethics have been overcome by the ruthless desire to win. Maybe each and every one of them knows that it's not reason to which they must appeal, but the collective weakness, meanness, the id of our people. In this, they are a faithful reflection of the American people.

    It's way past time to face a basic, ugly fact: George W. Bush's election and his presidency have been emblematic of the ethical and cultural weaknesses, the mindless self-indulgence, and the ruthlessly divisive narrowness ot the current American perspective. The Bush presidency has been just what the American people asked for, and what we have deserved. If we would elect a better President then Bush, we must first become better people than we were when Bush was elected - twice.

    Obama going after Clinton, Clintons going after Obama, Edwards going after everybody... These things are form without substance, a sideshow conducted to engage the emotions of the mentally infirm. By paying so much attention to such trivia, we prove again and again that we remain the same people who elected George W. Bush - twice.

    Democracy often fails to give us the government we want. Instead, it tends to give us the government we deserve. Will we elect the next President as a thoughtful, reasoning people, or will we elect the next President as a mindless herd, following the best look, the best sound bite, the most attractive facade?

    What do you deserve, America?

    January 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. Scott, Madison, WI


    As my mother always told me, "If you can't play nice in the sandbox with the other kids, you need leave and play on your own".

    Relax and refocus; it's just a different couple than they had planned to coronate prior to Hillar's last shellacking!

    FYI: Hillary's foreign policy experience consists of pillow talk, drinking tea and receiving a teapot for her outreach efforts. As Senator Dodd pointed out sooo clearly, "witnessing" experience doesn't count! Otherwise, Mrs. Dodd would be running!

    January 8, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. Owl

    I hope for a president who, is calm and strong in who they are, wise and willing to listen to all opinions, who believes that we must get America working right for all it's people befor trying to change the world.

    I believe we are not man or woman, we are not a color and we are not a political party. We are all first and foremost a human. (spirit having a human experience).
    I believe the constitution was created by humans who had an idea of the better good of ALL people.

    If we want Peace, we must remove anger
    If we want Humility we must remove, my way or no way.
    If we want Compassion, we must remove judgement .

    I ask that we make a decision for president, based on a spiritual (not religion) understanding, of what we want to create in our own lives, and the lives of others.

    Good Blessings

    January 8, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. caywen

    I love all this Obama drama. This is all a big Obama-rama. An Obama-rama drama. Now they have a video of his momma. So now it's a big Obama's momma rama drama.

    January 8, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. J. Davis

    This whole primary situation has shown me that it will be a looong time before a woman is allowed to break the 'good ole boy barricade' politically. When the male contenders are said to have 'laughed' at a comment, Hillary is said to have 'cackled' When the men are 'forceful and passionate', Hillary is said to be 'strident and shrill'. I have never heard anyone make fun of the way a male politician dresses. When she spoke forcefully in the recent debate, she was said to have 'lost it a little'. When Edward actually hollered, pounded his chest and pointed his finger at Hillary, while 'alliancing' with Obama, he was said to have spoken with passion. MSNBC reported that Bill Clinton said 'Well, I can't make her young, tall or male'. It was totally taken out of context. He said that in response to a question from a reporter about Obama being young, tall and a man and Pres. Clinton when on to praise Hillary, but no one heard the conversation in it's intirety because Joe Scarborough is intent on 'burying the Clinton's. The Post even saved an old picture of Hillary which was unattractive and used it on their 'PANIC" headline. And the sad part of all of this is that many women still vote the way their husbands do. A very intelligent and otherwise what I thought was savvy woman friend told me that her husband had done a 'lot of research' and they were going to vote for _______. The evangelicals will vote for anyone who professes to be a 'born again Christian'. I'm sorry, I consider myself to be a Christain and I'm ashamed of some of the things that our current politicians do in the name of our Lord. Thank you, J. W. Davsi

    January 8, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Leilani

    What she did yesterday made her look desperate. She could have been herself a long time ago but she decided to pander and be phony to the American people, As I women I am offended at her behavior yesterday and how she feels entitled to be the President, what about us the people, we want a better future and to me she does not understand the middle class, the poor or what America really needs. When I think of Hilary I think of how power hungry she is she does not care about us, she and Bill care about there legacy more. He did some good things but give other people a chance to help and build bridges, she is better know for blowing up bridges than creating them.

    January 8, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Bruce, San Francisco,CA

    Kate, thats exactly what i have been thinking about, i guess Chelsea will run on her mother's experience like Hillary is running on Bill's experience and Jenna will run on her father, George Bush's experience, we will see. Democracy in action

    January 8, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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