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. sue

    Clinton is our hope for a return to smarts, removing the dumbing down we have experienced with the last uneducated voters selection. Hopefully the majority of voters will read and vote for bringing this country back to where we were in the 90's.

    January 8, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  2. Mort Sipress

    I was disappointed in the way CNN covered former President Clinton's remarks on Barak Obama's record on Iraq. Your analysts mainly did a horse race thing, especially saying that Clinton was out of place and acting like a loser. There was virtually no attention to the substance of what Clinton said.

    If Clinton was right about a combination of some contradiction in Obama's stances and right about his usually voting the same way that Sen. Clinton voted, then he was making valid points. The policy substances should have been an important focus of your analysis. That was absent in the parts of "The Situation Room" that I saw.

    In short, are you letting enthusiasm over Obama infect your own views of what to report on.

    In an earlier example from last week, Gloria Borgia began pointing to where the press had been unfair to Senator Clinton. Before she could finish, the rest of those on the air at that time simply drowned her out and didn't permit her points to be made.

    You are not always fair. I know that Fox is awfully unfair. I hope CNN does not move in that direction.

    January 8, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  3. Andy

    Men, think about why you don't like Hillary. Distance yourself from your feelings about women overall and think about her as a candidate, not a symbol of your ex-wife or mother who didn't love your enough or live up to your expectations, give you enough. There is a gender issue happening in New Hampshire – why is it so evident? Hillary issues or gender issues.

    There is something happening, Obama said. Perhaps his contribution is really more to the awakening, the awareness to so many that change has to come than to his eventual leadership of the party, the country – at this point, anyway.

    January 8, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  4. nab

    Hi OBAMA supporters, he is just like BUSH. U guys think he is going to give you everything ....and as if he is going to fix verything. Never true, all your dreams will be shattered, he is nothing in politics. U guys thought Bush fixes national security and see where America is today, going down in every aspect.

    SO GO FOR HILLARY... She is the most experienced.

    January 8, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  5. shawn

    I am so amazed by Bill Clinton. Mister cool is feeling the heat!!!!!! of Obama.

    For the record Mr. Clinton, Obama is a 47 year old MAN, not a kid.

    Maybe, the Obama factor is a fairy tale. However I am ready for a new story being read to me,, than the same old one told in past years by you and Hillary! The Clinton's had the run of the White House for 8 years. Move over and let someone new. Someone who can CHANGE the way things are now in this country.

    January 8, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  6. Eric, from THE Republic of Texas

    Rut row, Raggy... Looks like that Vast Right Wing Conspiracy I keep hearing about (oddly enough, only when the going gets tough for a Clinton) has struck again... I mean, you know, with AAAAAAAAAALL of those Conservatives who work in the media and who have it out for the Clintons.

    January 8, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  7. Eric in Massachusetts

    Shawn, you must be a kid and don't remember the 90's. The 90's were pretty great. The economy picked up and things were good. And what makes you think that Hillary can't change things? Bush and the Republicans will be gone. That will be change. There is only so much that a President can do. If you all recall correctly, there are 3 branches of the Fed Government. The president must work with the Legislative Branch too. What makes you think Obama can do any better? Hillary has a pretty good history of taking on the Republicans. Obama only has a pretty good history of missing votes on the Hill. In provate industry, he would have been fired for not doing his job.

    Read some books on civics and how the Federal Government works. ALL presidents talk about changing how Government works but there is only so much that a President can do. He/she must work with Congress to get anything done.

    January 8, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  8. Gisella

    The media shoud report the facts after they happen and stop making predictions. No need to force their wish up on the people and try force them to pick their favorite candidates.
    Why are you afraid of a woman president? It is time to give that a chance in America too. It works in other countries!!!

    January 8, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  9. Trober

    Hillary is "experience" last week, "change" this week. Next week? Anything it takes to have a vote. Pathetic. Obama has no experience, Hillary has no experience. Those are the facts. American voters just don't get it, it's not who's in office at the time who made the economy, nor made the terrorist situation the U.S. has to face. In an ever-increasing globally competitive world, we are a nation of fools if we think we are invincible electing either Hillary or Obana.

    January 8, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  10. john

    Tell it like it is Bill Clinton. Hillary be yourself. Bill worked against the odds to become President. He then had to fight off the wolves for the last four years he served his country. Hillary I think you will make a great President.Best of luck.

    January 8, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  11. Mr-somalia

    after watching carefully what senator Obama is saying about change
    and others imitate him by adopting the same word "change" in their speeches
    i thought myself, that is a leader

    i am from somalia and i am watching closely how the real democracy is unfolding in your country and its really amazing to witness the 21st centuary democracy

    i have one thing to warn you the democrat registered voters and independent voters
    and my warning to you is if you choose a white female who doesnt represent a change but a repeat of her husbands mistakes and disasterous affairs which caused you to loose the following elections and you nominate her as your choice for democratic party presedential candidate above someone so pride that represents every race and the dominant relegions in the world than you are not democratic voters but another rednecks.

    so dont choose a white lady above a guy so young, pride, mixed race, multi-faith
    straight forward that wants to unite the country rather than devide

    what will be the consuquence, well
    black folks will think even a white lady is preferred above black guy and that will litterly mean undemocratic, racist and devided country and the world will see this and ask a question what is the difference between china with no human respect and america

    hope you make obama your president or face the same stamp put on undemocratic country

    take care and good luck to obama

    January 8, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  12. Pam S.

    HILLARY HAS WON NEW HAMPSHIRE! Proving once again that the Clinton's are brilliant.

    January 8, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  13. mary

    Clinton's are brilliant liars and crooks, you mean, Pam S. Bill Clinton was impeached. Does no one remember that perjury? Do they not remember all the favortism he showed to his and Hillary's family in presidential pardons?.What Bill did here is accuse Obama of his and his wife's crimes.

    Sad day for citizens worldwide that so many are so gullible and the rest of us have to suffer corruption in government on account of the wolves pulling the wool over their eyes.

    January 8, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  14. Rachel, Storm Lake, IA

    The dirty tactics that Bill Clinton has resorted to in campaigning for his wife absolutely disgust me. It's fine to attack your opponent's position because it is an election after all. However, the "fairy tale" comment is completely out of line. It's as if the former president is asserting that the underdog has no place in American politics, that only those that have established themselves in power deserve to travel down the path to the White House. If that's the case, if a fresh face that brings everyday Americans into the political structure is only a "fairy tale", then I have no hope for the future of this country. Are you saying that Hillary deserves to win this election because she's stayed married to you out of thirst for power? Are you saying that just because Obama has followed a non-traditional path that that path can't lead to greatness? Dirty tactics such as these have forced me to lose all respect for Bill Clinton and if his wife wins the presidency I will step up my search for employment abroad, because I don't want to live in a country where having the right name is the only required qualification for becoming president of the United States.

    January 8, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  15. Eric in Massachusetts

    Mary, keep in mind that Hillary is not Bill. Bill is not on the ballot. Quite contrary to what you say, it is a happy day that the people of New Hampshire have stood up and said no to Obama. He is a wonderfully eloquent speaker, but his message is just about "hope" and "change" but no substance. This primary goes to show that so many are not gullible enough to fall for empty rhetoric.

    You'd think that the Obama supporters just woke up from a 40 year nap or something. In my almost 40 years of life, I have seen "change" as a theme of every single presidential election. When I was in Elementary school, the kids usd to run with that slogan. It was empty but it sounded good. How can so many Americans fall for such empty words?

    I'm listening to Obama's concession speech and he is a very good speaker talking about immigrants and slaves and the Old Testament and the theme is "Yes we can". It's hilarious. What the heck is he talking about? He is all about slogans and speech, but no actual message. In almost 10 minutes, he has not really said a thing..... just a bunch of empty slogans. This is why New Hampshire has said NO OBAMA.

    Obama's new slogan is "Yes We Can". I propose something more along the lines of "NO YOU CAN'T". Ha ha.

    January 8, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  16. Rudy Tampa

    Hey Billy,

    Go for it Bill, you know better than all of these critics. tell them the way it is.
    Go Hillary you have my vote.

    January 8, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  17. Wendy

    I think Clinton can do a good job. American, please, please take this election serious this time. I am not an US citizen, i am just a international student in the US...
    I am writing here because I know that America is not in a very favorable situation now.. It’s good to have hopes and changes, but please see the difficult situation Americans are facing both domestically and internationally now… America really needs a leader who is capable and has international experiences. Clinton has lots of experiences in international relations and most of the foreign countries like them. I am not a citizen but I am really scared when I think about how a leader who has no international views and just knows where Texas is has been elected….. USA is still the most important country in the world, everyone in the world is looking for a capable leader with experiences in international relations…. Thus, please don’t just focus on religion or personal life…. A good Christian doesn’t mean that he/she is a capable leader…. We can’t put religion and politics together…

    January 8, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  18. Rambo

    Obama biggest PC creation. All hype, no substance, Talks as if he is a genius, if you actually listen to him, sounds like Bush without the English mistakes.

    January 8, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. James Sloh

    first of all Obama voted against the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton was the one that voted for the war in Iraq. Bill Clinton is not runing for President, Hillary Clinton is the one runing for President , not Bill. Bill and Hillary are just delivering false massege out there. saying wrong things about Obama Just because he the front runner. I don't think is what the voters are looking. Bill and Hillary Clinton are just trying to damage Obama records just because he the front runner. Barack Obama is the President that can bring Change to this Country, unit , bring People together , Education and provide Health Care for every American. when Hillary Clinton was the front runner early back in 2007, Obama and Edwards didn't say Negative things about her. Change is what America want, not Experience.
    we need a president that will be honest with the American people, and that president is Obama. we don't need a President that will say negative things about someone that is not true just to damage that preson Records.
    16 years of bushs/ 16 years of Clintons is enouge. America need something new.
    all those things Bill and Hillary Clinton saying about Barack Obama are wrong, just attack. I hope Voters doesn't believe those things. Good look on the campaige Barack Obama!!

    January 8, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  20. I Love Romney

    I am not ready for Obama or Clinton. But Romney is handsome, so I vote for him.

    January 8, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  21. Patricia Habel

    As a nurse I and an american women voter and I support Hillary Clinton. She is the canidate that has the experience to not just talk about creating change but the canidate to make change. She will work for the people, the underinsured and uninsured american will be heard. No one in this country should die because they are without healthcare.

    January 8, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  22. Mike, Stamford, CT

    Anyone but Hillary!

    January 9, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  23. Canada Loves DEMS

    Obama seems like a nice chap, not sure why he's doing so well. Hillary just isn't "LIKEABLE". It's like Al Gore, ... he's more than qualified, would make a great president, and he can't win because people don't LIKE him. Kerry too, same problem. Politics is hard, glad I am not a politician.

    I am stumped regarding the question: can Hillary win vs. the Republicans ? I think so, the Republicans seem so weak, I think Obama or Hillary could win.

    I want Bill in the White House as First Man ! Would be a HooOoOOT!

    January 9, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  24. Tom Davie

    Clinton should have got CRUSHED in Newhampshire where 44% are independent voters.

    EVERY SINGLE major media network HYPED Obama to the point he was the new JFK or even the second coming himself.

    HOW could the guy POSSIBLY LOSE , especially with all those 'supposed' polls?

    The guy lost a KANGAROO COURT somehow.

    Congrats to Hillary.

    January 9, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  25. Robert Smithers

    I think Mr. Clinton needs to watch what he's saying, or else hillary is going to slide back into the slump she just managed to get out of today. is this any way for a veteran politician to be bashing opponents? I would hope that he knows such rhetoric will only turn Hillary's campaign negative and hurt her significantly, and seriously is the last thing she needs right now.

    January 9, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
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