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. Anonymous

    If experience is all that counts when it comes to making an excellent leader I guess Methuselah would have made the greatest jewish leader and human would be dinosaurs' pet!

    January 8, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  2. Ron

    Seems Hitlery is unable to stand up to Obama. Needs hubby to fight her battles for her. Is this how she is going to run a presidency?

    January 8, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  3. Marty

    We Dems ought to be thinking about who is electable in November. I'm thinking about Richardson or Edwards. I wonder what the Supreme Court would look like in 5 years if a Republican wins again.

    January 8, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  4. gene


    January 8, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |

    What does obama mean when he says change??? The only change I see is going from a Bush to Obama both having no experence or any plan for anything!!!Both very sicking smiles. Both have and will distroy the US as we have had it . Actually Hillary is to good of a person to have taken on ALL men candidates on the D sideand the R side. They are all a bunch of babies!!!!!!!!!! Obama has gotten a free ride from the media and his best friend OOOOOOOOOO and her money!!!!! Also I seen him on a morning show taking about his father(BLACK FATHER) what about his Mother????? His he hiding her?????? Obama and his wife make me ill they think the R people are for them; think a again ; they just want a person they know they can BEAT!!!!!! And they know they can not beat Hillary !!!!!!! All you people that support Obama get use to having nothing because the US will be broke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    January 8, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. trent porter, tx

    we simply don't want – or need – hillary. it's that simple.
    she's crooked and vacations with the bush family.

    January 8, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. DC

    Totally disgraceful, my respect for the Clintons has gone out the door. I'll vote Republican or for a third party if she gets the party's nomination. One family, too much power & now they see it slipping away so things are getting nasty.

    January 8, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. Josiah

    In reference to Bill Clinton's comments on Obama experience being the biggest fairly tale ever is not only laughable, but is so contradicting and far-fetched, specially when its coming from a former president who lied straight in the face of the American people about his extramarital affairs. Hillary would do better with him staying at home and just watching CNN like the rest of us.

    January 8, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. Jason

    Bill nailed it: "biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

    All this attention over Obama/Clinton is fueled by the corporate media's desire to obscure the real candidate of change in the Democratic race: John Edwards.

    January 8, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. kelly

    All this bitterness is just turning more and more people away from them. I know I'm turned of by the whole "I'm in it to win it" comment she made the other night. She's not in it for the country – she's in it for herself. This has been her goal for the past 35 years...and now someone has come along and pulled the rug out from under her. Now the gloves are off. These are relly nasty people.

    January 8, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. JCH

    Here's the truth:

    Don't believe Bill Clinton's half-truth. The Clinton camp is frustrated and desparate.

    This is Obama's response to Bill's lies in as printed in the NYT:

    As for Mr. Clinton’s pounding away at Mr. Obama’s war stances over the years, Mr. Obama said: “But I think Tim Russert answered Bill Clinton this morning. Every point that he raised was a question that had been answered _ had been asked and answered, not only on “Meet the Press” but repeatedly.

    It is a little frustrating for the president to _ the former president _ to continually repeat this notion that somehow I didn’t know where I stood in 2004 about the war. He keeps on giving half the quote. I was always against the war. The quote he keeps on feeding back was an interview on Meet the Press at the National Convention when Tim was asking, `Given your firm opposition to the war, what do you make of the fact that your nominee for president and vice president didn’t have that same foresight.’ And obviously I didn’t want to criticize them on the eve of their nomination. So I said, `Well, I don’t know what _ you know, I wasn’t in the Senate. I can’t say for certain what I would have done if I was there. I know that from where I stood the case was not made.’ He always leaves that out.

    “And you know, I understand why he’s frustrated. But at some point since we’ve corrected him repeatedly on this and he keeps on repeating it, you know it tells me that he’s just more interested in trying to muddy the waters than actually talk fairly about my record.”

    January 8, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. Jr., California

    35 years of experience????

    January 8, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  13. Sean, Detroit

    People are always complaining about "so called "flip flopping" and changing political positions. Isnt readjusting your opinions in light of new information and rethinking your course based on real time situations the mark of an intelligent person? America already has a president who "stays to course" regardless of where it leads us. We've had 8 years of preconceived strategies with no room for real world adjustment, which is why we are still in Iraq and more American lives are being wasted over there every day. A wise man (or woman) makes decisions based on weighing all of the facts of the matter and then acting. For example: when you back your car out of your driveway do you just "floor it" and hope for the best? I doubt it.

    January 8, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. MFK

    What a shabby twosome these Clintons are! The Billary Team can't believe there are politicians other than their anointed selves who can lead this country back to greatness. It's not that Bill was another Lincoln or FDR. He was just another average president whose legacy is greater in his mind than it is in the minds of others. And Hillary is just an opportunist who moved to New York because she saw it as a great launching ground for her presidential campaign. I don't think the residents of New York State are any better off because of her much peddled "experience" at work in the Senate. Again, she's just another average Senator. A growing number of the American electorate see this. But the Billary Team can't allow itself to accept this, so they run down anyone who attempts to challenge their fantasy. It's their Fairy Tale that's beginning to come apart.

    January 8, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  15. sredders

    I like you, but get off the negativity bandwagon and actually do some research before you speak. Tim Russert on MTP asked him about the funding of Iraq question. Go watch that before you keep bringing up that subject...

    January 8, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. David, Bala Cynwyd, PA

    Hillary has employed her 35 years or experience in defining her opponents and running her campaign. She has had every opportunity to use all of her inside Washington contacts and her press operation to contrast herself with her opponents. She has done her best and the results of her management, her experience and her choices are becoming visible. The media and the voters are doing what they are supposed to do, reporting the facts and reflecting their preferences at the ballot box.

    Bill Clinton has employed his judgement in the past, and our country witnessed his dirty laundry, which had a tremendous effect on Al Gore's loss to our sitting President. Let's not forget cause and effect and why we have the problems that we have in 2008 and who contributed to the causation.

    January 8, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. Mo Jo

    Utterly pathetic.....I do not understand why Hillary is allowing Bill to open his mouth unscripted. Is it coincidence that he becomes assertive and she is in tears all within the same 24 hour period? I think they are trying to play the "strong, assertive man defending his poor little wifey", who just so happens to show her "emotional side" all within the same 24 hour period.....talk about scripted...these two should be up for Oscars!!

    Boo Hoo, Bill....you are not helping.

    January 8, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  18. Anti-Christ Question

    Hasn't anyone read the book of Revelations? Or, maybe the Left Behind series? Obama fits the Anti-Christ description; a leader who rises up from no where with a promise to unite the world through change. He is already dabbling in international politics when he has no experience or authority to do so. I love what he is saying but are we all falling under his smooth-talking spell? It is a bit freaky how he has risen from no where to possibly become the leader of the free world. At least with Hilary, we know what we are getting.

    January 8, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  19. Dave

    Hiliary's experience? You mean being first lady for 8yrs? Maybe Laura Bush should run next.....

    Bill, do your wife a favor and simmer down. You didn't have issue with experience when you were the young phenom on the scene. And anyway, maybe Obama will match Hiliary's offer of letting you run the Whitehouse intern pool if he wins...

    January 8, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  20. Rob

    Change would have been a Clinton/Obama Ticket. Change won't happen overnight as it took years to screw things up to where we are. A Clinton/Obama Ticket would have provided 16 years to get things done.

    What do we have now? It looks like another Republican President because Obama is unelectable in the South and they play big in the General Election.

    January 8, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  21. Jason

    My sister-in-law just turned 21...has anyone realized that to date basically all she has ever known is Bushes and Clintons as president? If Hilary is elected, that'll make a minimum of 24 years that those TWO families have run this country. Just think, "Billary" can serve another 8 years and by that time Chelsey and the Bush girls will be eligible to take office.

    I for one am sick and tired of this political family-feud that's been going on for the last 20 years...

    OBAMA '08

    January 8, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  22. sandy valencour

    What is this ugly name calling stuff. Bill Clinton was a president that got the national debt to go away. He has a right to ask questions and who else is qualified to get to the nitty gritty? I am sorry but all I really read about is Obamas educational statements. Right now I want to know how this country is gonna get out of a war we don't want, how we are going to get the respect of the world back, how we will become a world leader again, and , most important, who is going to put this country first before the entire world!!! This country is in trouble from the very bottom of our population to the top of the middle class. Jobs that were "created" are low paying with no benefits. Families are struggling. Food Banks are hurting and then, do I have to cover Health Care???? I haven't made up my mind who to vote for but it won't be Obama unless he answers some questions so that would leave McCain. I don't live on TV blips or quips, I read and go the the idividuals sites to get it from the horses mouth. I don't listen to crap. If Hillary Clinton had yelled and screamed about where this country has gone the last 7 years, she would have been touted as strong...if she were a man. I didn't see an "emotional" Hillary as the news press would have you believe. Don't any of you think for yourselves or investigate. Tell me, what did Bill Clinton do that was so wrong? I have always said that the Democrates screw women and the Republicans Screw the country. What Bill did is between he and his wife. Crooked, I don't see it. Liar, just like any other man that got caught. I have heard Republicans say Reagan cost them money, but they made big money under Bill Clinton. As we all know, you can't be everything to everyone and there will always be disgruntled people in every walk of life and in every party. The name calling has to stop because it shows that you aren't intelligent enough to present facts to show your point. I like Obama, as a person, but my country means more to me than a decision of party votes and I will cross the line in this case. Experience doesn't mean same old thing, it means someone that knows more than the new comer. She was struck down repeatedly and kept coming back, especially on the Health Care for everyone. When did experience mean same ol same o. What a load of crap. This election has come down to personalities, gender, color, not issues. I don't care if they are purple, if they put this country first and the people that live here.

    January 8, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  23. bev

    He's right, but he ought to get off the stage and shut up just the same. Hillary can speak for hersefl. Bill needs to bite his lip and sit on the side lines until asked by his wife to do otherwise.

    January 8, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |

    O yea, we do luv fairy tales; sure feels good. bets living in status quo dung anytime.

    January 8, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  25. sam

    No way Obama is going to win. A lot of the Democrats I know aren't going to vote for him. I never voted for a Republican, but I will vote for any of the candidates running over Obama.

    January 8, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
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