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. William

    Seems to me I remember back in the 80s a Little Rock, AR paper referring to Bill Clinton as a chameleon. The Clintons have been the best this country has ever seen at changing colors to match the political mood. You never know what you are getting with Bill or Hillary Clinton until you've got them, then it's too late.

    January 8, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  2. Katy Thompson

    Bill, oh Bill. It is so sad that you have to try to use your washed up, washed out influence to try to save your wife.

    First of all, she would be more effective as a senator than the Commandor & Chief of this great country.

    Second, yes it is true she has been at your side when you were president but were the decisions you made yours or hers? Come now. If she became the president of this country, whose decisions will they be? If you would be on the sidelines prompting her in her every move, that would be like a student receiving instruction from a tutor. What happens in the absence of the tutor? God forbid anything happening to you, however, we need someone who can carry the load on their own–not being coached. Someone who won't falter or fall apart under pressure nor use any low or underhanded tactic just to get elected but who is sincere.

    She has now jumped on Obama's band wagon talking about change. Why now?
    Why didn't she start her campaign about change like Obama did.

    She has said that she has 35 years of change. I have been around a long time and have not seen it. Did she mean her failed healthcare plan?

    I think the Clinton movement is history. This is a new day. The world awaits to see if the American people will send the right message.

    January 8, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  3. Craig

    Sinead I like your view except for one thing Bill's 8 plus Hillary's time will mean more debt to repay vs having a negotiating stance their already stained access to the old boys club will compromise the ability to stand for something and fall for anything. To much "prior" back scratching.

    Politicians are like diapers they should be changed often and for the same reason.

    January 8, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. Dan

    What a shame on that statement credited to Bill which is more out of desperation, anger and frustration. Such bogus statement wont help his wife who is hidding under his shadow.
    Obama represent change not only for America but for the world.

    January 8, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  5. Caroline

    HEY BILL - I suppose you think that we're all a bunch of ignorant hillbillies!
    Did it ever cross your mind that perhaps we (that is, the lowly voters) might be able to read - or God forbid - think on our own?!?!

    It is clear to this voter what you and your wife are all about - WIN AT ANY COST - even if you chip away at the very integrity of the position.

    As a woman, a professional, a mother, I would LOVE to see a woman in office. But you, Hilary, will NEVER earn my vote!

    January 8, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  6. mike

    how sad that bill has to start throwing mud now. he shows his and hilary's true colors. they are only out for "US" not the "USA". hilary should withdraw. sad sad sad day for america.

    January 8, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  7. KO

    Frankly speaking Bill, you are only componding your wife's woe by attacking Obama. I am loosing my respect for you.

    January 8, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. Deake

    WAKE UP AMERICA. Barrack Obama's smooth talk and hyped up rally campaign speeches will come to a screeching halt on Day One if he gets elected President. There will be no fever to whip up. There will be no burst of applause for the mention of the word 'Change'. Then where will you be? The silence will be deafening.

    Vote for Hillary Clinton.

    January 8, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  9. bbc

    Listen carefully Bill. You can almost hear the chickens coming home to roost.
    I think this is what they call KARMA!!!
    Please go away now, you're old and bitter and you aren't relevant any more.

    January 8, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  10. Phil Chicago

    I live in chicago and not substantial change or law has been made by Senator Obama in favor of this State. He may be a good speaker, but this is not about words, but about politics.
    We need someone with experience and the Best Fit candidates are both Hillary, and McCain. They do not go to any extremes, have worked in favor of our nation for years and could potentially make a good President.
    If not Hillary, then I d rather to vote for McCain than handling our country to a candidate who has not made any concrete changes even as a my state's senator

    January 8, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  11. lisa

    What is important is Clinton did a great job getting us out of debt, more than anyother president in History.
    He was a great president. His personal life does not concern me. I think Hillary would be great. She is a very intelligent and a strong woman. She has proven herself and is very experienced in politics.
    What is wrong with Bill standing up speaking out on his wifes behalf showing he is backing her? Why is the media giving critiisizing for that?
    No matter who gets in there is going to have a tough time. Bush team has messed us up so bad that it is going to be tough to fix what they messed up.
    I have not made up my mind but I do agree that Bill Clinton should support his wife and speak on her behalf. She supported him when he was in office as we all know.
    I do not think that Obama has gotten the same treatment as Clinton from the media. I have not heard any negative things except for what Bill Clinton said about him and I agreed.
    I am tired of hearing about the likability of the canadates.
    Focus on the issues because this country is in such a mess we need to get it fixed. Woman, black, white, purple... Who cares...
    People are scared of a woman being president.
    I will take experience and solutions to our problems over anything.

    January 8, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  12. Alice, VA

    It was bound to come to this. The Clintons feel an entitlement to the White House. Seeing the nomination slip between their fingers brings out the hate in them. Watch folks, if Hillary loses NH, and il looks like she will....the Clinton attack machine will shift to high gear. The Clintons just don't get it....the voters are saying they have had enough of the division, the mud slinging, the partisanship, and it appears them as well.. Hillary, if you really care about America, run your campaign, but do it cleanly. If Obama gains momentum, and the people want him.....do us all a favor and drop out.

    January 8, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  13. SteveJobs

    Hillary Clinton's years as Bill Clinton's closest advisor and confidant gives her a unique perspective on the office of the President and how it works. Her years in the Senate give her the knowledge of how to get things done on Capitol Hill. She is not, in any measure, inexperienced in the ways of Washington and how to make it work.

    She is the best hope we have to influence change in Washington that will benefit us all. She knows how to work the system and that's why the Republicans fear her…Many Republican commentators are singing the praises of Mr. Obama….ever wonder why?


    January 8, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  14. Osker

    The primary just started. Hillary has to keep her cool and Bill has to stay away from now. Obama has no change beatig Hillary in the end. They should keep peace and run on the same ticket in November.

    That is change!

    January 8, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. Stop the Iraq war NOW

    You people have plenty of personal attacks and judgments about the Clintons, but you have no substance to back up WHY you want Obama as President. It is SO easy to take the "EASY WAY' and irresponsibly bash people because you "hate" them, when you don't even PERSONALLY KNOW THEM. Stop playing "holier than thou" and leave the personal judgements about Bill (or Hillary) Clinton OUT of what should be an arena of FACTS about the running Presidential candidates. I am not interested in why you "hate billy because"........SO WHAT??? I want to know WHAT a person DID or FAILED TO DO to improve our country. I need to know that the average person is able toseparate Bill Clinton and HIS administration from the fact that he has a wife who is a completely different person with a brain of her own. (Those of you who assume that Bill will tell Hillary "what to do" are sexist and backward).

    When I criticize, I try not to get personal. I try to deal with reality and what IS, not what I THINK IT IS.

    January 8, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  16. Mike in Kentucky

    "Stop the Iraq war NOW January 8, 2008 7:07 pm ET

    "Mike in Kentucky,

    While some of what you suggest is "out there", I have to tell you this: my friend and I (we are both middle-aged women, sick-of-bush democrats) were discussing the fact that "charisma and good speech delivery" are what seems to attract people to Obama——-such a shallow decision or reason to admire a person and want to vote for them to be a leader. We said that some of the world's leaders were elected or "swayed" by just the charisma and good speech delivery……..one leader that came to our minds was Hitler. People were drawn to his charisma and charm and awed at his speechs……….what I am saying is, people need to look PAST this "charm and charisma and good speech delivery" and see what kind of substance is behind the "first glance". Things just can't be taken at face value——that's a dangerous road to go down for our country——to just pick a leader because they are "better-looking" or "they give a good speech". That's even why bush was elected, I would submit——he was "more likable and better-looking"

    I agree 100% with everything you write here, and I can't find anything in any of my posts that suggests that I disagree, although references to Hitler or the Anti-Christ (not in your post but in another) might be a bit over the top, your point is taken..

    January 8, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  17. A couple of thoughts

    Facts from the media don't seem all that clear ref. Obama. Was he ever a Muslim? If so, did he convert to Christianity or was he just kind of doing what his parents at various times wanted – likely the case, not that it matters, really, if one is on the right level ref. one's beliefs no matter the religion – love, kindness, caring, peace, et. al. What do Muslims think overall, though? Many Muslims throughout the world do not believe a Muslim can switch religions without serious repercussions, even death. Would Obama invite additional, personal terrorist activities because of the possible belief that he did convert?

    Does the fact that so many single parents head households affect the respect level of a woman running for politics? That is, do many young adults still disrespect their mother telling them to do their homework first/transer that resentment to Clinton, have them stamping their feet at even the suggestion that their lover (Obama) may not be good for them in the long term/that they should look at who he really might be? Obama's viewing himself as presidential material (I can do what I want to do when I want to do it as I am special) without going through the ropes – having to put up with others telling him what to do along the way – is rather reminiscent of those same spoiled kids who wanted everything they wanted when they wanted it without having to work for it.

    January 8, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  18. Charles T, VA

    For those of you commenting on Obamas grandma shame on you and shut up ignorant morons when you don't know what you are talking about and playing politics.

    1) Obama is taking good care of her, didn't you see the house made of cement and well decorated? A house made of cement in a village where they live in mud huts? Its a duplex she is living in you losers! And what was she doing preparing meals for the goat by peeling on some corns for the goats? In Africa where there is hunger you feed goats corn? In africa where there is enough grass to feed the goats and grandma Obama feeds them corn? WOW!

    2) She is grandma and does not want to live in America, she is doing just fine there with the dollars Obama sends to her so SHUP UP YOU ALL!

    January 8, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  19. Denise Jolly

    Bill Clinton should have kept his zipper zipped and now he should zip his lips.

    When President Clinton cheated he cheated all of us. He was shown to be a liar and a cheat..

    He screwed up things for our party and we got stuck with 8 years of George Bush

    Barak Obama inspires the American people and he helps us believe in our country again as we did with John and Robert Kennedy.

    I am a life long Democrat in spite of the Clintons. Hilary did nothing for us in regard to health care in this country. Bill set in motion the flow of jobs out of the USA.

    I believe we can rebuild our country with Barak Obama or John Edwards. The torch is being passed. Thank God!

    Denise Jolly in Portland

    January 8, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  20. norcal

    I am a big fan of Bill and Hillary, and think Bill was one of our best presidents we ever had - policy-wise. But, it seems like they take one wrong step after another with Hillary's campaign. Although I want to, I just haven't believed anything Hillary says at all. If you turn off people who want to support you, what do you have left?

    When I listen to this clip of Bill, it really makes my stomach turn. I think he is actually doing damage to the tremendous legacy he has been building as an ex-president. It also makes me think back to how much he could have done as president, if he hadn't blown it so badly, personally. (Shoot! I can't even stand remembering how he did nothing to stop Rwanda. The correct decision was painfully obvious at the time, but probably not taken due to political calculations. I am so sick of political calculations getting in the way of doing the right thing. Hillary has been exhibiting political calculations in spades throughout her campaign.)

    I also think Bill's conduct opened the door to eight years of Republican incompetence, and we are all paying the price. I mean how do you take the emotional support of the entire world after 9/11 and turn that around to what we have now? I think Al, even though he wasn't the best speaker in the world, would have made it if he didn't have to overcome all that baggage. Al was clearly better than W in every way. I think Newt and his buddies just did such a good job sickening the country with Bill's mistakes. If the Clintons can make their supporters feel like I do, what are they doing to the rest of the country? That's how Hillary can lose in November.

    Remember how dead McCain was six months ago? Well, apparently all is forgotten. I think he's going to win the nomination, and I don't think the Republican candidates will suffer as bad a disadvantage as they should by the time November rolls around.

    I know incrementalism is the way our policymaking tends to work, but with all Hillary's talk of compromise and the source of her donations, I don't believe anything really significant will happen during her administration. I also think the Republicans will have a field day dredging up all the old negative stuff they have to work with. My nightmare is watching Hillary lose the presidential campaign. If she wins, I don't think we'll see anything dramatic happen anyway. Recent modifications aside, Hillary doesn't really sound different from the Republicans in terms of Iraq policy and having troops there long-term. I know she has worked at establishing a moderate to conservative track record to shore up her right, but I think that political concern will continue to influence her policies once she is in office as well. Great.

    Obama has impressed me more and more over the months. I decided that I would support him a month ago, and it looks like America is seeing the same qualities I do. I didn't think he would make it this far, but I am really happy to see my pessimism was unfounded. It's really great to feel good about a candidate. With his charisma and intelligence, I think he has the potential to overcome the incrementalist roadblocks inherent in our policymaking system. Through his charisma, Reagan was even able to get bad policies passed and to even violate the Constitution without any accountability.

    Imagine what a president of Obama's intelligence, reason and likability could accomplish for our country. Just like much of the country, I am extremely optimistic about an Obama presidency. It would really be a new day. We would very likely benefit tremendously internationally and in the war on terror.

    It's a new day in America.

    January 8, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  21. Brent T.

    Now I know there are a lot of Republicans on this board talking smack about Clinton and/or Obama and they are just trolls that can go away. But Dems on this board need to cool it. This is exactly what the Republicans want is for the party to become splintered in this fight between Clinton and Obama. The fact is that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in this race to reverse eight years of backsliding and make this country a better place.

    It saddens me to hear Bill Clinton getting so negative as I have a great deal of respect for him as a politician (if not as a husband). The press has questioned Obama over and over again about his 2004 statement regarding how he would have voted if he were in the Senate in 2002 and he has been consistent in his answer. Obama had just delievered his famous DNC Keynote Address and was arguably more popular than the either of the candidates running for president at the time. He answered that he did not know how he would vote because he did not want his comments to be used against John Kerry and John Edwards in the 2004 election. If he would have said, "I would have voted against it". He would have become a persona non grata in the Democratic party. It was a political answer and you can hate him for it if you like but he answered the best way he could have at the time.

    As for Obama voting for the funding of the Iraq War, so what? If he would have voted against it, Bill Clinton would be saying that Obama must hate our troops and wanted them to be underfunded. The fact is that Obama, not Hillary, spoke out against the war in 2002. Hillary was in a position of great power and could have used her position to convince other Democrats to stand up against the war but she didn't. She didn't because the vast majority of Americans wanted the war in 2002. She didn't want to take the political risk of standing up against public opinion and Obama was brave enough to do so while he was running for the Illinois State Senate even though the majority of people in Illinois were in support of the war.

    I really wish Bill Clinton and, frankly, the rest of Hillary's supporters would look at the national polls showing head-to-head match ups of the Republican and Democratic candidates. The fact is that Obama beats all of the Republicans in November by much larger margins than Hillary and Hillary actually loses to the frontrunners: Giulliani, McCain and Romney and barely beats Huckabee who is still unknown in most of the country. I like and respect Hillary a lot but most of the country does not. She has the highest unfavorable ratings of any candidate in either party and is hated almost as much as George W. Bush is. Most importantly, she is extremely unpopular amongst independents whose votes are absolutely needed to win in the fall. John Kerry captured 49% of the Independent vote in 2004 and he still lost. To win, you must win over more Independents. Obama polls the highest with Independents of any candidate in either party nationwide. He was the most popular Democrat with Independents in Iowa and the results in New Hampshire tonight will show that he can win Independents even when pitted against a Republican with Indie appeal like McCain.

    I personally am voting for Obama because I feel that he is the candidate that can bring people together (as he has done his entire career) to find solutions to our nation's problems that we can all agree on. I believe that Hillary Clinton is too devisive of a person to accomplish this. Hillary would have been a fantastic president in 2004 and maybe she'll be a fantastic president in 2016 but now is not her time. Obama is the right person at the right time for our nation and the world.

    January 8, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  22. Grey

    Why are you trying to force-feed us? You guys had your chance. It's a new millenium. The White House is not a trophy – it's a place of business and govenment.

    I trust a guy that started with nothing and made himself something (by enlisting the help of others) over someone afforded everything and through poor judgement and greed, messed it up.

    Please, for the good of the party and America, step aside. It's embarrassing.

    January 8, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  23. angelina_ MN

    Wait a minute, who is running Bill or Hillary or both? Bill needs to step out of the way, while he can contribute to democracy now, he is only siding with his angry wife. People want CHANGE: and the CLINTONS do not want change, they are the status quo.
    Think about it:


    January 8, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  24. Len, Fallbrook, CA

    The sounds of silence.........................


    I won why????????

    January 8, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. marc

    I'm from Canada and boy I like your politic and I think its time for you guys to have change and go for Obama. To bring the Clinton back its to bring the past, don't be afraid of change that's what make your country so great.

    January 8, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
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