January 8th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
12 years ago

Bill Clinton targets media coverage of Obama

Watch Obama react to Bhutto's death
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. Nathan

    History can't repeat itself. Who will take the decisions. Bill or Hillary. We can't have two presidents in the same office. That's what it will be if the American people faulter. Go Obama. Time for real positive change in this country.

    January 8, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |

    Wake up America, theres no way you want more of these people. Use at least some common sense.

    January 8, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. CJ Savvy

    Well,well, the first laddie's standing behind the missus.Alright,alright, I suppose it should be first gentleman then. If Hillary is nominated and goes on to win the election, then this indeed would be a fairy tale ending.

    January 8, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  4. Emily

    The Clinton's have a legitimate point. I am still undecided between the Democratic candidates, but I think people need to focus on the issues. I would also like to point out the media has given Hillary unfair press. I believe this has to do with her gender....no I am not a feminist.

    January 8, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  5. EG

    I am a woman and would vote for a woman any day, were the right one to run. But I think it's pathetic that all of a sudden today, the gender card started to get waved. Even on this comment section, women are saying, Poor Hillary, the boys are being unfair to her ...it must be because she's a woman. No one was saying that all year when the majority of the D party was in her favor.

    I have yet to here whining from the Obama camp, though. All summer they were way down, and...no whining about the unfair press. They just got to work and appreciated their supporters. No race card being played. No mudslinging coming from Obama, and the one time it came from someone on staff (the whole Punjab thing), he shut that down with massive force and made it clear he would not play that game. He hasn't jumped once on any glaring hypocrisy or gaffe Hillary has made these days, and there have been quite a few. He has ignored his staff and supporters and media that tell him he needs to bite back. And this is how they respond? Crazy.

    January 8, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. Rich

    Sounds to me like a husband coming to fight his wife's battle. By the way, did anyone pickup the comment former President, Mrs. Clinton said during the debate. She commented that she implemented change when she was in the White House. I may be mistaken, but wasn't Bill president? Wasn't it his administration? What cabinet position did she hold? She won't lose this campaign now, she lost it when she didn't leave his butt when he messed around. If she would have done that back then people now would give her a little more consideration. I'm undecided on who I'll be voting for when the Illinois primary comes up but I'm pretty it won't be her. I just don't think she's a strong candidate, especially when hubby comes to fight her fight.

    January 8, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  7. Lisa

    Seriously, I would vote for any Democrat BUT Hillary. If she is the only choice, I will be voting Republican. The Clintons should drop out, please.

    January 8, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  8. Mike in Kentucky

    "Citizen January 8, 2008 6:29 pm ET

    Hillary's biggest mistake? Tying her political hopes to Bill, a long time ago. She wanted the benefits, but she has to deal with the negative consequences, too. Unfortunately, the country has also had to deal with the consequences. We've had Bush for eight years because of Bill's philandering (Gore would have won if not for all of the fallout around Bill). Finally, what kind of feminism is being promoted by Hillary's example? She should have ditched Bill long ago…."

    Sorry, Al Gore won the election, the Supreme Court decided that G. W. Bush would be President.

    January 8, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  9. Lisa C

    I will vote for any democract BUT NOT Hillary Clinton.
    Come on people. If she wins the nomination, Lord help me, I am voting Republican.

    January 8, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  10. Able

    It's painful to see on this message board comments parroting what they've heard and saying, "Yeah, yeah! That's right! We don't know anything about Obama! He's all talk, no substance! No one knows where he stands! No one has looked at his record! Isn't he a jihadist drug dealer? Yeah, I heard that from a reputable source, yeah! Hillary all the way, she has 35 years experience and is Ready To Lead Now (and was 35 years ago!)!"

    Sheesh. Since we obviously have internet access if we're on here, how about stopping by Obama's site to see where he stands on issues, whether his detailed plans have substance or not as alleged, or whether he really said what the Machine says he said. Clearly, we're not much for reading...we just scamper after the loudest voice mob-style. It will be a real shame if people changed their minds and voted for the Clintons because they jumped on the speeding bandwagon and believed exactly what they heard without checking it out for themselves.

    January 8, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  11. Matt, New York Ny

    I've lost a lot of respect for the Clintons in the last several days. I don't think they were so great to start with though, there were a lot of scandals, not just the sex scandals. Hillary claims to have already ran this country for 8 years anyway.

    I can't believe America got that mesmerized by the Clintons. We don't need more of these two, we need to mix it up. The founding fathers I'm sure would advice against this, the idea of a two family monarchy. We really need to turn a page and get some new folks in there, and having a black president with a foreign background inspires us and really makes us feel good about who we are.

    Most importantly, Hillary will not win a national election. I'm a democrat – hardcore and I cringe at voting for her, which I will do to stop the republicans, but I cringe at the notion of it, and I know others feel the same way I do and I know republicans will come out in droves to stop her if she gets the nomination.

    January 8, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. aj

    Give it up, the Clintons are old news. Move over for Obama and watch America shine again!!!!

    January 8, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  13. Britney Spears

    I love Hillary. I do not like Obama. It's easy to talk a big talk. All politicians are crooks. I mean lets get real.

    Obama is a Muslim. Why would you vote for someone who believes in the same values as the terrorists who caused 9/11. Come on America, wake the eff up! Vote Clinton. Atleast she is not a Muslim and a Hussein!

    CLINTON 08

    January 8, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  14. Sylvia

    Let's look at the previous history of Mr. Obama. He just says what you
    all want to hear. Look at his voting record in the Senate. Anyone that needs
    a TV star to push him to the top is in dire need of a political campaign. His
    campaign should be able to show his experience instead of his campaign
    rhetoric that promises wonderland. Remember George Bush wasn't
    experienced and promised you the promised land, look what we got now.

    January 8, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  15. Ed

    "Go Bill. It is about time someone talked more about the sugar coating of the media and why Obama Hussein has not been interrogated like everyone else. Let's start with his family in Kenya. There are so many unanswered questions."

    There you go Bill. These are the type of people you and your wife are courting. Funny how the high school and less educated people are the ones that vote for Hillary.

    Yo, Bill, it all depends on what your definition of is, is.

    January 8, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  16. Tommy

    Who is actually running for the presidental office office Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton? Is Hillary cashing in on his husband's popularity?

    Ombama should have Oprah speak out in his defense as Hillary has used Bill Clinton to speak (whinny) for her defense over media coverage.

    January 8, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. Miranda

    I think the moment I began to see Bill Clinton in a negative light relating to his wife's campaign was when he was on Charlie Rose. He was supposed to speak about his new book, but instead he acted as a de facto mouthpiece for the Hilary campaign. His arrogant attitude about Obama, when he called a vote for Obama "rolling the dice," made me turn off the television.

    I think Obama's positive campaign, and especially his Iowa speech, stand in sharp contrast to Billary's bitter anger. My mom said the first thing she thought when she listened to Obama's speech was "He reminds me of John Kennedy." America hasn't had a real leader in years; the Republicans are all scrambling to be the next Reagan, but many of the Democrats seem to be content with criticizing and squabbling.

    January 8, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. AJ, IL

    I think Bill Clinton campaign for his wife reflects bad for presidential politics over the last 2 months. When you hear the negative comments coming from Bill and Hillary, they just reinforce what is wrong with politics in Democratic party. If Hillary wins the nomination, don't be surprised if Mayor Bloomberg enters the race as an Independent.

    January 8, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  19. Deobrah Wade

    I couldn't agree more with Bill Clinton's statement. I have tried to be as objective as I can when analyzing the best possible choice for president but it seems that the news media reports the same consistent skewed story about Obama's success with his message of change but I have yet to see the media attempt to contrast the two candidates views.

    In the debates and in the interviews I have seen, Hiliary Clinton explains in detail how she would go about solving the issues that face this country however I have yet to hear any kind of message of any substance from Obama. Still all you see in the news is this popularity contest for one candidate and polls still are close.

    It concerns me that even CNN fails to dig deeper into the true issues that gravely affect our country and reports the news as if this election were a beauty contest and the voters had less than a 5 grade education.

    The debates have been the only platform for anything meaningful and Clinton clearly was a front runner. Talk about Spin, shame on you CNN

    January 8, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. Sbanks

    Obama will never win this election even if he wins the primary. The southern states will never vote for an African American man and will render the Democratic party helpless to yet another Republican President.

    I concur with Bill Clinton when he states that Sen. Obama is living a fairy tale. If the American people want four more years of George Bush, vote for Obama in the primaries. This is basically what you are doing is giving the Republicans exactly what they want.

    Us Californians and New Yorkers as well do not want a man named "Obama" for President! He wil never win this state which is worth 55 electorial votes and New York worth 31.

    He talks a good talk, but cannot walk the walk!

    January 8, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  21. Margaret

    Considering the state of the nations now, I wouldn't care if we had four President's in office if that's what it takes to clean up this mess. A lot of voters are falling for the oldest campain trick in the books...keep the public focused off their own weeknesses by directing their attention to some superficial item, if it was a plant, was her tears sencier, etc..in the same way that some of you probably want to point out that I mispelled some words and didn't use proper gramar, rather
    than consider the point I am making. Yes, it's great that a black man is making history, and it's great that a woman is making history, but I can see all too well how the press is manipulating the public to favor one over the other. They keep pointing out that Obama is leading in the poles..I only heard one reporter point out that those poles are only in one state..If you want the truth, look at the number of delagates appointed to each candidate, NATION WIDE. Clinton..176...Obama...71
    I will vote for the nominated Democrat regardless, but I am making a concious effort to look past the manipulations and misguiding reports to make the best informed choice possible.

    January 8, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  22. kdame

    I agree with the last post. This is a dream for Obama which will never transpire.

    We need someone who will make us proud of our country again. The world hates us due to George Bush and we need change, but not Sen. Obama.

    My son is a U.S. Marine and we need to end this war over oil. George Bush had hidden long enough.

    We need healthcare to take care of our children and citizens.

    We need to create value in our society again, which has been lacking for years.

    I am not sure who is the best person to represent the U.S. as Commander and Chief, but not Obama who lacks the real experience and real values.

    We need someone to fight for the children, they are our future.

    January 8, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  23. Nora

    Bill's only partially right. Obama's entire platform is a fairy tale. He's promising America the sun, moon, and sky. Do any of you Barack supporters ever think about how he's going to hand all of you the keys to the kingdom? He trying to sell you a pipe dream.

    January 8, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  24. Herman

    Bill Clinton, one of the best presidents we've ever had. Hillary Clinton will be on the best presidents we'll ever have!

    January 8, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  25. Jack

    I do love and respect Bill, I just never thought he is this cheap. This is her fight, not his. If she can't take this stress and pressure this early; how could she lead this wonderful nation? I wonder if she is going to be another incompitent in the making.

    OBAMA is the way people, please don't let this chance pass us by!!!!!!

    God bless.

    January 8, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58