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. Pedro A Restrepo

    Anybody and /or anything is better that deceiving, mediocre, ignorant clan of thugs that are currently at the white house. Particularly good are all democratic candidates : capable, smart like Hillary or 'fres ' and eloquent like Obama. All we really hope for is to take us back to the good America we new before Bush Jr.

    January 9, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  2. Frank from Seattle

    Sinead in Ireland. Maybe you should concentrate on disarming and getting along and leave us to our democratic process.......or do you think what's been going on in your neck of the woods is sanity?

    January 9, 2008 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  3. Mike

    I have always voted for the Democrats. However, I will vote for theRepublicans this time if Obama wins the nomination. I do not want a populist who has no idea how to run the country to become my next president. I have had enough.

    We, the people, are about to hire our next president. Make sure that this person has skills to do the work. We are not looking for a movie star. We are looking for a new CEO of USA.

    January 9, 2008 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Obama is the president for a change and for the betterment for the future.
    How can an emotionally sensitive hilary stand against the terrrorists?

    January 9, 2008 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  5. K Davis

    Hooray for Obama–he's keeping our hopes alive! Yes, we can change our country for the better! But we won't if Clinton has her way. The Republicans will see to that.

    Bill Clinton has a lot of room to talk about other people mistreating Hilary. Talk about a liar–he's a pro. Why does anyone listen to him?

    January 9, 2008 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  6. Mike

    I've read a great deal of these responses and the thing that strikes me, is many people, Republican, Democrat, Independents gravitate towards Obama, they see the sincerity he exhibits, the innate sincerity that he wants to work for only the American people, that he is in this race only for the American people. He is a moderate, he has a wider fan base and general appeal then Senator Clinton. If the Democrats want to win this election, if they truly do, they need to side with Senator Obama, because he is the candidate who can take the Democrats to the White house, not Hillary Clinton.

    Think of the general election, Independents, young people, and strong supporters of Obama who would have voted for the Democrats would not want her as their candidate and vote Republican just to not vote for her. She has been planning this for far to long, this White House run, and to be honest she wants to get elected at all costs even by selling out to corporate lobbyist to get campaign finances and using the most popular Democratic President in the last 46 years, to condemn Obama. He is the future of this party, she would be wise to put her pride away for the good of the Democratic nation and back Obama, instead of tear him down and think she derseves this nomination. Democrats need to unite, she is not the return of Bill Clinton and the 1990's, it is a new time and a new era. We need a president for 2009-2013. These years could be better than the 90's think about that.

    January 9, 2008 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  7. Mark

    CNN, could you clarify what President Clinton is referring to about Obama not having always opposed the war, about not having known how he would have voted in 2004? What is Clinton citing, and how does it fact check?

    January 9, 2008 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  8. NHforHillary

    NH spoke today and voted the RIGHT way, not with the loopholes of Iowa which Obama exploited. He is a sugar coated MLK wannabe. He has no substance, he has been in the Senate for one term...ONE TERM...and he is 'riding the wave'. To him, this is a game, not a matter of truly fixing the country. We don't need 'change'. Change will come when that toolbag GW is out of the Whitehouse, whether it's a Dem or Rep in there....change will happen when he gets out of D.C. We need someone who can fix our major problems, not a motivational socialist speaker. He is a great public speaker but that won't get rid of the deficit, fix the economy or end the war in Iraq the RIGHT way. It takes experience and know how, that's how people get hired for high paying jobs that take experience....it's called a resume. Unfortunately he doesn't have one, but he gives pretty good lip service!!

    It is too bad that so many people are being brainwashed by evangelists and socialist motivational speakers. We truly do need change, people have to change the way they see politicial figures. We need people to really THINK about what is behind the smoke and mirrors (huckaburgers? MKL speeches?) and not be fooled by what is on the outside.

    January 9, 2008 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  9. GoldCanyonGal

    OMG! This was the best read of the day, if you read it start to finish! A hard lesson for the Obama crowd tonight. Sorry for your loss, but somebody had to sober you up. Take a deep breath, a long hard long look at the many things you did wrong in the NH Primary and stop blaming Bill.

    January 9, 2008 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  10. Justin

    Go Obama! You still got me fired up!

    January 9, 2008 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  11. Mike in Kentucky

    Eric in Massachusetts January 8, 2008 11:01 pm ET:

    You are right Eric.

    I have lived through 10 Presidents in my life, althought the first is mostly a memory of things my family said, I was born in 1952, and I was not very politically aware age of 8! :-).

    In my memory, every one of them ran on a platform of change. How could it be otherwise? Toss them out I want in!

    Now that Hillary has won in New Hampshire, the debate will move on to other states, and the race has not been decided by a long shot!

    It comes down to this, do you want change for the sake of change, or change mitigated by experience?

    Change as a slogan, or change lead by someone who has the wherewithall to effect it?

    The choice is simple and over the next few months, Americans will make it.

    I think they will choose correctly!

    Don't hate...Hillary in '08!

    January 9, 2008 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  12. Mike in Kentucky

    Boy I really hate typos!

    "I was not very politically aware at the age of 8!"


    January 9, 2008 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  13. Prez

    Thats what the Clinton machine does best, divide and lcik their chops.Which face can neutralize those who hate our policies(overseas), not the crying one.28 years of the Bush-Clinton dynamics if elected.WE DESERVE TO BE GRIDLOCKED IN THE SENATE IF SHES ELECTED. I vote Repub if she is!

    January 9, 2008 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  14. Andrea

    I think that Hillary was, in her acceptance speech, sincere, heartfelt, genuine, and appreciative; also, committed to improving the nation and all who live there; caring, focused, trustworthy (yes, trustworthy), and a woman of vision with a plan and the determination, knowledge, and education to move the nation forward in a new direction. Congratulations, Hillary! I was not keen on the Bush dynasty and know it looks similar with the Clintons, but I think Hillary stands in her own power supported by those such as Bill, but an individual who deserves a chance to reignite the nation and to change not just the country, but the world for the better.

    January 9, 2008 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  15. doris

    Wellllllll, I guess a lot of people really got shook up over the outcome of New Hampshire. All these people can't be wrong. If a lot of these Hillary haters would have done their homework in studying the long years of her dedication in working for the thousands of children she has helped & devoted so many years of her time to, they just might see a very compassionate, caring human being. She has been doing all this work since the 70's. Ask many who have met & worked with Mrs Clinton what kind of a person she is, All of them say she is a good listener, she is compassionate, she truly is an advocate for families & she works very hard for anyone who asks for her help. Ask Joe Ward who had a 13 year old son who needed a bone marrow transplant. Mr Ward could not come up with the insurance for his son, Ask him who saw that his son was taken care of. In a letter he wrote to Mrs. Clinton he said, "How do you thank someone for saving your childs life, when your'e down to your last hope, you came through. You can bet Mr Ward will be supporting Hillary Clinton. She has worked & tried so hard to get insurance for us. You may not always agree with what she does, but no one has tried any harder to help our children. I am sick of those who keep saying, she cried, she cried. She showed emotion, but no way did she cry. I saw Father Bush become so emotional & crying that he couldn't talk. Does that make him a bad person? Of course not, How many of you castigating her have ever cried?Showing emotion to me proves to me that you are human & have compassion. Hillary Clinton doesn't often show the real person she is, but I would guarantee you that if you needed a helping hand, she would offer hers. As for Obama, I also wonder if he really realises just what he is getting into if he should become our next President. It sounds so simple to say, I will change this, Its time for a change, little does he know how uphill his battle will be. Our country is in such a mess that his lack of experience will be his and our downfall if he gets in. Let someone who's been there, done that, try to clean up the mess.

    January 9, 2008 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  16. Prez

    Search on Youtube= Obama + google ...for the real talk. Listen America!

    January 9, 2008 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  17. DC

    Wake up guys!! Don't sell your soul to the smooth talker!
    Obama is running here in the US for president, and his relatives is running in Kenya. Do you know what would happen – if he wins. Of course he wants change, not for you people, but for him. WAKE UP!!

    January 9, 2008 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  18. RG

    Wow, this is helpful for the greater good. Giving more falsely-inspired fuel for the other party. The person two down is pretty hilarious. We don't know about Obama's family? Helloooo? Has there been another candidate who's written a transparent book about his family...before he was famous? All the facts are available once you decide to look at the source instead of chain email fwds.

    January 9, 2008 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  19. Lance in Monrovia

    I'm tired and until a few hours ago I was starting to feel lazy. I was thinking about all the things I could start doing with my spare time again once we had the nod locked in New Hampshire. I figured that would seal us an early Barack Obama victory and it would be a short and sweet trip to the nomination from there. I was worrying and wondering if our efforts in California could turn out more frosting than cake and I was as surprised as I was grateful for that unexpected question in my head.

    I was wrong.

    No cake or frosting for us, folks. It's going to be person by person, bayonet to bayonet, even steven in the trenches. We've worked our butts off to have that opportunity and don't kid yourselves, its the most golden one we could ask for. We got lucky tonight instead of fat and lazy. Lucky.

    I'll explain.

    Only now, a few hours after losing New Hampsire by 2 points and probably still counting, I'm beginning to realize that this is the best possible senario we could have wished for. Just like how Bush needs terror and how Rudy needs Hillary, uh... we need our own Darth Vader too. We need a villian for our art house indie flick to become a blockbuster with legs. Without Hillary Clinton, there's no third act to our script. There's no Death Star. There's no sequel.

    Without a close race, we wont continue to build the public interest and hone our muscles for a general election. If Hillary bowed out now Barack would still seem untested in the Republican showdown. There'd be no drama or sweat equity invested in the many States left to weigh in.

    Maybe if he'd lost by ten points I'd say something different. But it was so close that all it did was keep eyes on us and keep it interesting. Get it?

    He lost by a point and a half, maybe. He's going to win South Carolina and Nevada is going to be a razor's edge either way. It's wide open and ours to lose. If you're in the dumps wash the dirt out of your ears and eyes and look around.

    Look at what a brilliant speaker Barack has evolved into and what a movement he's created. Why? It's because of the adversity he's faced, because of the passion adversity creates and not the ease of his candicacy. Never ease. Ease = ease up.

    No doubt its the same in all our lives. We're defined not by our victories, but how we handle our tribulations. Our trials make us who we are. Whole.

    Yes, The Empire Strikes Back. Now we must use the force and Darth Vader Must bite the dust if we are ever to restore the old Republic to its former glory.

    Let it all come what may and let it all matter. Let each State have an equal voice in deciding the next leader of the free world as should be their right. New Hampshire might have deprived a majority of the country of their say in electing the first black man to the office of President. How unfair would that have been?

    If Barack and through Barack we, all of us, cannot win anywhere the fight goes from here, then we don't deserve it because ultimately we NEED to win the general. The best person needs to win for the sake of this country. Thanks to Barack is all shaping up to be the most honest race to the White House in modern memory. There's a real choice to be had and we've provided it for the American public.

    Earlier tonight, as results came in, preparing for my weekly meeting to phonebank, I said a prayer for Barack. I'm not overly religious, but this was a big deal for me. Melissa, my wife, corrected my prayer. She said, "Instead of asking God to help Barack win, say, 'help the best person to win. That's all you can hope for."

    She was right. To me, it was saying the same thing, but the phrasing was everything, because I know in my very soul that Barack IS the best person. I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide in that regard. Let them vet him until the cows come home to Bill Clinton's farm.

    Bill Clinton was right today when he suggested that Barack Obama needs to be vetted. Let it be played out across the entire American field until they've had a belly full. Let the entire country engage meaningfully in this discussion. Instead of an afterthought as we usually are in California, we will now be in the thick of the storm and our thoughts will count. People will be invested as they never have before.

    It's truly in our hands now whether you've realized it yet or not.

    I say let the rain come. Let it wash away everything but the truth. Barack Obama is by far the best candidate to run for President in modern political history AND THAT'S THE TRUTH.

    The more people are exposed to him the more they'll see what we already see. Bring on the pundits, the naysayers, the well wishers, the flip-floppers, the arm chair quarterbacks, the good weather friends. I welcome them. I welcome the American public in every State to open their eyes and pay attention because if we're paying attention nobody can steal our democracy from us.

    Mind me, we'll see Barack in the White House because of this loss tonight more than any win in New Hampshire could have assured, which might have given him the nod but not a free pass to the oval office. If anything it would have constricted him.

    Expose Barack Obama to the harshest, strongest light imaginable and it will make him even more of a beacon, every hard night like this will make for a good one to follow and will make him and his case and us stronger.

    Hone your political muscles against Darth Vader now because you'll need them in the general to fight with and trust me that's where we'll be. This is just a sparring session folks. It's just the beginning, and the more we can get people to pay attention to a close, dramatic race, the better we'll all be for the future of this country.

    Never think that what we're doing doesn't matter, because it matters more than anything else we could possibly be doing. It's the most important thing we could be doing in fact. The result is secondary to the act of participating. We're changing the world as much as our own lives simply by thinking and being the change we want to see.

    Believe it. Our enemies tremble at the thunder of our approach.

    The most tragic thing tonight would have been a slip back into apathy and laziness or worse, a slip into hopelessness and negativity and the fear that is the dark side.

    Anybody who's weary, who's fed up, who wants to give up, well, you're human, but you're also still here paying attention. You didn't give up. You hurt and the hurt makes you mad and then you use it. Your reaction defines you. Giving up is not an option.

    That didn't happen. Not to him. Not to us.

    I am more motivated. I am more fired up. I will not lie down and go quietly into the dark. I will stand up and I say let the rain come. Let the Death Star approach. Let the thunder roar and the clouds weep, because you can't wash away or drown out the truth, you can only make it clean.

    Good morning.


    January 9, 2008 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  20. cp3mvp

    Just curious...what is it that Obama has done that makes you think he is capable of fulfilling all his promises? Not a Clinton fan either, I'll admit I don't really feel like there is a good person to vote for, but its interesting how people say Obama is running such a clean campaign. The first thing Obama and Edwards do when fielding ANY question in a debate is point at how Hillary is unfit for being president. And by the way, I can say all the same things Obama has said, and probably better and more eloquently, but it doesn't meant that I can actually fulfill these promises.

    January 9, 2008 04:37 am at 4:37 am |

    If America doesn't vote for Clinton (or McCain or Huckabee), then it will be making a bigger mistake than it did not having Al Gore for President in Y2K instead of you-know-who. Mrs Clinton is the ONLY candidate with a solid Science and Space Technology policy: Obama has >already saidCAN< AFFORD IT!!"

    January 9, 2008 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  22. greg

    Say what you want about Bill, but he knows how to win elections. There will be a few unpleasant "surprizes concerning Hussein Obama that will surface soon and he will be history... politically... independent or not.
    Personally, I wuold like to see a Bill Richardson vs. Ron Paul election take place, but I know that is just a pipe dream.

    January 9, 2008 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  23. casee

    Congratulations Hilary!
    You go girl!

    Media savvy is born out of experience...Say it like it is Bill..

    Way to go!
    I'd say you know a thing or two about the media, and your right..... the media knows exactly what they're doing.

    The idea of impartial reporting and getting the facts is a thing of the past.
    Now it's all about what sells copy. No matter what the truth is or who it hurts.

    Someone in an other post said Obama Hussien has climbed in wealth and position and left his Keyan family in a mud hut.

    Where will the American family be left should he reach the White House??
    Any media anywhere asking these questions????
    Guess not huh?

    January 9, 2008 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  24. gene


    January 9, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  25. Christina

    Obama may win the Democratic nomination-however he cannot win to be the President of the country. This is not a matter of black, white, red or yellow, however in some sense seems to be so. We had a black mayer in Philadelphia, John Street. It happened several times to be to school district of Philadelphia, before 8 years and during the time John Street was mayer. The whole white population of the school district was replaced with other black peoples. Why this happened? This is one reason that Obama cannot make the way ahead to be President-the other and main reason he never has been a Governon and has no idea to be in executive position- executive and legislative duties are totally different and far away from each-other. This is not the issue of special capabilities of Obama, this is more an issue of the republicans. The clearly have understood that id Clinton is democratic nomenee it will be much harder for their candidate to beat Hillary in the presidential election, however if Obama will be elected-the republicans have a sound reason to have a slepy mind-the Presidency is theirs for other 4 more years. This is why they are just working to knowck out Mrs. Clinton from the race-Hillary out-is they have Presidency! Please read those line on November 2008.

    January 9, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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