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. Beth

    I totally agree with President Clinton: the media is not pressing Barack Obama on any of the difficult and important questions. Why not ask him who he plans to serve in his cabinet and as his advicers? Would it be the Big O, Sharpton and Jackson? He doesn't have the background, experience, or the circle of experienced people surrounding him. Guess the media forgot that's what happened to President Carter – Carter sounded and looked great during the run for President, but he didn't have a circle of experienced friends and advisers to pull off four years of good, growth governement. Look where that got the country!

    January 8, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. Becky Larson

    I watch CNN 24/7, but am very disappointed with the coverage and comments about the Clintons. I am a Edwards supporter myself, but think that everybody is jumping on the Obama bandwagon because its the thing to do in 2008. Its good for the media becauase its new news for this campain. I think it is awful how the people cannot just make their own decission without the media forcing their comments about the canidates. Even exit poll reports can influence people and people don't need to know how other people vote!

    Bill Clinton is right and I think people should see how Obama has changed his position on issues.

    I was really not for Hillary because of one answer in a debate that I heard. Now she has shown me that she is strong, smart, cares about the average person,and yet tough enough to stand up for what is right .

    As Bill said..... I'm giving her a break !!!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. William Withrow

    What people do not realize is that although Bill Clinton has a set of political gifts which are unique and unequalled in American history, these gifts are not transferable assets. If he could and were running again, it would be no contest. However, having his endorsement or having him capaign for you is of little value. It was no good for Gore in 2000 and it's no good for Hillary now. During the impeachment, Clinton could say he made intentionally misleading and deceptive statements but did not lie, and the people would buy it. No other politician alive would dare make that statement. If he says something, it's funny. If Hillary says the same thing, it falls flat. So having Bill go on the attack won't help because he's not defending himself and therefore can't muster up that same support and sympathy.

    January 8, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  4. MJ - San Antonio, TX

    So Bill is now "crying" to the media because his wife is not the front runner. I would have ANY OTHER DEMOCRAT for President than his wife. His 8 years in office with nothing but lies. I DO NOT TRUST HIS WIFE NOR HIM. I DO NOT WANT ANYMORE BUSH'S OR CLINTON'S in the White House. Bill go cry somewhere else. This Hispanic will not vote for liars.

    January 8, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  5. fyauthor

    I think the Clinton's threw in the towel– gracefully?

    Well, at least Hilary wasn't directly involved.

    Peace & Love


    January 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  6. Dee Andre

    B.O. has completely alienated me from the Democratic Party. He's doing an outstanding job of pitting age groups against each other. Making promises of how he will "change" the U.S. and the world but never bothering to let the voter in on how he will implement his implied change in policies. I have had seven years of inexperience thrust upon me with G.W.B. My vote is going to H.R.C. – whether I like her or not – I care for my country. It is undeniable, she has 35 years exposure in the political arena, she's shrewd and saavy and will, I believe, bring to her administration diplomats and statesmen who are up to the serious challenges my country faces.

    January 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  7. Larry K, Greenville, SC

    Actually, even in the 2004 speech that Bill Clinton is referencing, Obama was against the war. The Clinton cap always leaves out the second half of the quote. Obama said that he was not in the Senate at the time, but he did not believe that the case had been made. That is what he said, transcripts are out there, but the Clintons want to rely on people just believing them and not doing independent research. That is a terrible way to do politics.

    January 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. well-wisher

    This truly is a circus, ladies and gentlemen!

    Hillary sheds a tear (or so it seemed on all major networks) and people think she has emotions. Not so. Bill is in his own world trying to erase the legacy of a liar, perjurer and simply a man who was dumb enough to get caught cheating on his wife.

    Barack is trying to sell the "change" brand to this politicians-weary country. And the Republicans are trying desperately to avoid looking like a bunch of religion-driven (or faith-driven, as they like to call it) fanatics. I ask you, my fellow Americans – do we really have a choice? I think not. The Rome is truly burning.

    January 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Hope

    I like how idealistic Obama is, but I do not feel that he has a solid and effective method to deliver change to our country based on the fact he has been avoiding answering important questions several times. Don't we need a president who is sure with what he or she is doing with our country? We need someone who is aggressive and will work really hard to make changes in this country. I think Hillary Clinton has the solid experience to deliver our hope.

    I feel that if Obama wins the Democratic party, the whole 2004 election will repeat itself! We will have a republican president again.

    January 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. Kimberly

    Can we all just get alone!!!!!!!!
    what we need is someone to do something about,

    Jobs,Education, and most important HEALTH CARE for everyone!!!!!

    January 8, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. Hill"08

    President Clinton is absolutely right. Obama has gotten a free ride from the media. What is his plan? He has not been specific on anything except his adaptation of Hillary's healthplan. I donot know how I will vote in November, but I do know I am ashamed of the American media. We had a serious female candidate and the American media has worked overtime to kill her campaign. She did not get a fair shake from this media. I hope she will continue in the primaries...and I will give financial support to help.

    January 8, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  12. Jackie Mac

    I really, really don't like Obama. I think he is arrogant and often patronizing. I cannot believe that after two states vote, we are stuck with him for our nominee. And, although I am not for Clinton, I think the media crowned her opponent and don't blame Bill for being PO'ed.

    January 8, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. get truth guy

    Obama has no idae how to run a country, not even a state, a city or county, how can he, a pure politician who was always flip-flop his positions upon his political needs, have zero knowledge of international and demestic (he thought Canada has a president is a laughing example), is being manufacturing by Media, to run this greatest nation in the world?

    January 8, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. GO HILLARY!!!!!


    GO HILLARY 2008

    January 8, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |


    January 8, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. Paul Folger

    It's the politics of confrontation all over again. Hillary & Bill Clinton have no chance of uniting this country. A true leader tries to build bridges. Obama will try and has the best probability of succeeding. I would vote for ANYONE other than Hillary, and plan to do so.

    January 8, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. Dolores DiBartolo

    I am a woman, and a senior citizen. I am so ready to support Barack Obama and have been since he spoke at the convention four years ago. He is the only candidate for change and just what this country needs right now. The Clintons need to get a grip and walk out into the sunset, hand in hand. He wants us to give him a break, as he sounded off today. Well, why not do us and our country a huge favor and finally give us a break. Oh and while you're at it, be sure to carry out your baggage. We have dealt with it for far too long. We will have a woman president sometime in the future, just not this woman. We have had our fill of the Clinton and Bush families to last a lifetime. Goodbye and Good Luck.

    January 8, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. Emily N.

    Sometimes the word unity is not as great as it sounds. The country needs both parties- Democrats and Republicans- for check and balances. What would it be like if we were all so united that there was only one party? I know some countries with that system- Vietnam and China, for example...Their government has one party- The Communist Party- so united that oppositions dare not speak up for fear of persecution.
    There will always be opposition in the political system. The country needs someone who can work with the opposition and get results. That's as good as we can get to unity, and results count, not a fluffy notion of unity. To be fully united is to have no free will, and that is not America.
    I don't see Hillary as a polarizer.Republicans are simply afraid of her. But that doesn't mean she cannot work with them. I think her Senate track record has proven that.

    January 8, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. Chris

    What amount the immigrants? Are they going to reclaim the alamo?

    January 8, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |

    YES! We are one nation and one contry. Before Obama becoms uniter for this contry, and forsit thing he should do is let black people go to school and go to work. I came to this contry for 20 years and worked 6 companies, and I only had 5 coworks were balck and three of them came from Affirca. If they think take money from working calss to help the poor, and that is worry, worry, and worry. I came to this contry 20 years ago from China. I only had $100 at the time. Now I worked at high tech company and made a good pay. I won a house and two cars. Why? I studied hard and worked hard. This a great contry for every one. If I can do it and SO DO YOU? Do nothing but want to money? Ha Ha Ha! Day dram!

    January 8, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  21. Claude, Paris/France

    Hi guys in the U.S,
    just go on like this, this is exactly the way the French "Democrats" (ROYAL) have lost again the French "Republicans" (SARKOZY): they fought so hard against eachother during the primary campaign that finally the selected Democrat (ROYAL) was so weakened that she had no chance against SARKOZY in the "final round" ...
    Concerning "Billy Boy" (I did not know it was Bill Clinton's nickname, I should not have given the same one to my 3.5 years old son ...), he really should refrain from accusing somebodyelse of lying, please, too riduculous.
    On the other way, I must say the medias played a big role here in France to push ROYAL during "Democrats" primary and many french politics analysts said that this was a manipulation aiming at easying SARKOZY's win at the end, as many people were rather reluctant to vote a WOMAN as a President. Now the question is: are a woman or a "half afro-american" really in position to beat a white, male Republican this year in the US ??? If not sure about this, then the Democrats may have to push EDWARDS, even if it is very sad to have to think this way ... Good luck to all of you and happy '2008 ... whoever the winner maybe !!!
    Ah, by the way: all sincere Europeans (not talking about BERLUSCONI or AZNAR) told you from the beginning the 2nd attack on IRAQ would end-up with a disaster. I understand OBAMA was against: maybe the only guy with a real good "political feeling", which is at least as important as experience to lead a country like yours ... look: the BUSH-family did not lack of experience, right ? "I'll make IRAQ safer" ... sounds like Billy Boy's comment: "This guy is a liar" ...

    January 8, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. Terri

    PLEASE!!! You would think that Bill Clinton would have learned a thing or two over these past years regarding Ken Starr. First, MR. Clinton – you caused the whole mess. Second, MR. Clinton, you loved Ken Starr before......until you got caught breaking the law. Third and final, MR. Clinton, don't ever, ever bash the Republicans again for playing dirty politics because that is EXACTLY what you are doing now. Thank God for Barack! A change is so needed in Washington, especially if MR. Clinton is still allowed to speak.

    January 8, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. fyauthor

    I think that the Clinton's threw in the towel– gracefully?

    Peace & Love


    January 8, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. Betty

    I don't want another Republican. There isn't ten cents difference between all of the candidates but Edwards and Obama.

    The first time I saw Obama was in a senate hearing on C-Span–I was very impressed by this young man, searching out who he was on the internet. This was well ahead of the bid for president. Yet, there is something one can't define holding back supporting him. Frankly, his positions aren't clear enough. He is an eloquent speaker, obviously educated, intelligent young man. I just don't think he can deliver by negotiating with the absolutely, embeded power brokers.

    One believes that Edwards has stated his position more clearly FROM THE BEGINNING. As a Republican, one didn't just jump on the Edward's bandwagon. After much looking, reading and soul searching; Edwards had more credibility, clearly stated positions, from which this cynical person, has not seen him deviate.

    Although, I don't think there has been enough media coverage of Edwards, thankfully, there has been plenty of internet information. Also plenty of trivial nonsense to muddy the waters.

    I think Edwards was the one to clearly bring the """change""" theme into play with his radical but true statements about mega-conglomerates, multi-national corporations.

    It is beyond comprehension that folk fail to see he isn't talking about those who incorporate a small/medium or even a large business. He is speaking of the drive for ownership of this country and all countries by multi-national, mega, global conglomerates who have fed on each other until the tiers of ownership is almost impossible to distinguish as to who owns what: Far too many of the names/brands we think are as American as apple pie are globally owned. It's easier to understand out sourcing when the enterprise is globally owned. One isn't making a statement of whether, overall, this is good or bad, it just is
    Why would policy decisions, ordinary Americans see and question matter to global ownership? Common sense dictates, it doesn't unless it affects what matters most to the global investors--the bottom line: PROFITS:

    The allegiance is to profits, not country. Edwards is saying: He will work to return the directional flow of profits and allegiance to these UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to which we, the people, American citizens, pledge allegiance . He will not allow lobbyists for these mega corporations and other countries to inhabit the White House. The issues are complicated. I applaude his courage to stand up for what he has to know will cut him down. He isn't a stupid man, albeit he isn't from a moneyed family, he has shown his intelligence, willingness to fight the big boys and even more amazing! WIN.

    I don't care how he styles his hair, where he lives, how much money he has EARNED, I am looking for someone who has proven he can win.

    Many of the issues, economy, jobs, health care, environment are tied up in freeing Washington from paid influence of special interest.

    I support him yet, at the same time see the probably foregone conclusion: There will be money spent like water flowing in the Mississippi in a flood to keep this upstart out of Washington. After all is said and done, it is politics, the survival of the fittest or the richest.

    Our present occupant of the Oval Office hasn't even bothered to cloak his commitment to big, bigger and biggest or as he so eloquently put it; his supporters of the Haves and Have mores.

    Obviously, this is only the personal opinion of one of the peons. But, one thinks it is as valid as the innumerable pundits spewing out through the supposedly public airwaves; infotainment specialists.

    January 8, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |








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