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. Mark V.

    It is sad to see Bill Clinton to stoop so low.

    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. kc


    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Garry Lemons, Benton, Arkansas

    You folks are crazy if for one minute you actually think Obama has what it takes to run this country and get us out of the mess MOST of you put us in.
    Obama is a good man, but when it comes to running this country you are very sadly and quite confused if you think he can make a difference. You all seem to be so against Clinton and BY GOD she has the guts and the knowledge to do what is right. Does Obama??????? Check his voting record and see how many times he actually showed up to vote.
    If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, I WILL VOTE REPUBLICAN for the FIRST time in my life!

    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. BJ

    To DD from NY:
    How do you know OBAMA's family is living in poverty. Have you been to Kenya before or just making an uneducated assumption that all Africans live in poverty. DD, go ahead and make another uneducated assumption and vote for Hillary.

    Obama 2008

    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Juliana Smith

    When is the media going to step up in asking Senator Obama about his stand on Irag and the war?. He got it easy while the world is in chaos. He doesn't have any solution nor understanding of the Middle East. Liiving in Indonesia as a child for a short period doesn't qualify him as knowledgable about the Muslim world. Do you think the Middle East would be better off before Irag war? Only Obama or perhaps Sadam Hussein would think that way.

    Obama is full of talk but nothing to prove that he has been there and has been able to solve the problem. He is a great preacher but he can't lead this country through preaching. The future of this country would be at stake under him.

    The media has been so soft on him that it is an insult to our intelligence.

    He is using his race to intimidate the media to ask him sensitive questions. He doesn't face the scrutiny like Hillary and Romney.

    What did he do for the health care while he was in the senate?

    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Ken

    Thanks for speaking up for Hilary and telling others the truth about Obama. All Obama is doing is telling all of the blind people what they want to hear, while he will NEVER be able to bring about change in Washington for many reasons, lack of experience, NO clout, does NOT have the right experience to take on Washington.

    Watch out also, for hearing what is going on in Kenya, Obama will start his own war there, just as Bush started to try and finish what his father was unable to complete in Iraq.


    January 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Celia

    Bravo Bill (I can’t believe I am applauding you this time)
    The Media has been protecting this two-faced fake for such a long time. The American people are just plain idiots if they fall for this non-sense once again. We got fooled twice by Bush. Will we be deceived once more?
    I am so tired of this manipulation over an entire country. Can Americans just read more and depend less on this corrupted body? We are a very ignorant civilization! We will not survive another 2100 years if we don't stop letting others control us – WAKE UP you idiots and stop listening to the biased Media.
    It is just poor entertainment

    January 8, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. shanna

    If obama is so wonderful why didnt he take his harvard degree and help his grandmother.Why? because he has bigger plans. to change the world. Obama is anti-jewish.anti-hispanic,anti-christian,and most of all anti-american,Wake up people,He didnt decide to run yesterday, this has been planned his entire life.

    January 8, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  9. SAM

    What is Obama's background – Muslim. His father and stepfather were muslim. He went to a radical school. Is he trying to get in to take our country down from the inside out? I would like an answer at my email. Thank you – SAM

    January 8, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  10. diane

    I would ask all of us, as voters who need to be informed in order to make wise decisions, to challenge Hilary to explain how she has been a change agent for the last 35 years. An itemized chronological answer would be most helpful.

    It seems to me that a blanket statement such as this begs for more. You cannot simply throw out a statement such as this and keep repeating it without sufficient proof to back it up.

    January 8, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. SB

    What i don't get about Obama is how can he make all this change if he is so left.

    I mean how is he going to get along with anyone and change anything?

    I think he makes it more left-right. Or is Obama so soft in his positions that he can make things happen?

    I don't really see what the fuss is for Obama. What does he stand for. He is VERY polarizing. Think about his as president. What is he gonna do? Take the country hard left. Is the country ready for THAT change?

    If yes, I get his appeal, but I don't see the coutnry wanting to do that.

    January 8, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. mexan

    Obama Hussein should step-up to the recent claims made by Hilary on his "present, present & present" he certainly has no good judgement on politics,
    war or even social health. He would definitely be good to entertain all the americans for the desperate feelings the bush legacy will leave behind

    Jacko 08

    January 8, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |

    How can Bill Clinton speak about honesty on the behalf of his wife, when while in office he was an embarrasment to her with all his infidelities? He also was the Grinch who stole all our jobs by singning the North American Free Trade Agreement. No Bill we haven"t forgotton about you.

    Former Auto Worker and UAW Member

    January 8, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |

    What? Hillary can't speak for herself. She needs to hang onto big-gun Bill for defense. Geez, the wangling from the Hillary camp lately is beyond the pale.

    Is it just me, or are there five Hillary news items for every Obama's one.. That's just wrong. Who does Hillary know to effect such a thing. Oh ya, corporations.

    And while generally one should never question a persons feelings, I think the whole "tearful Clinton" episode yesterday, was staged to change public perception of her insensate shrewdness. I can't recall her EVER being emotional before. And now she's all about "change", well, ever since Iowa.

    Obams isn't just change, he's sincere change, and the right change, with class and vision. Hillary rallies are old-school cheerleader ra-ra, cheesy t-shirts thrown into the crowds, with her stated entitlement of "When I'm president", like it's a fore-gone conclusion. Obama rallies are real, no BS, warm down-to-earth events, firm yet unassuming. He presents himself as part of a team, our team. We need this real change and healing in our country.

    January 8, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. Stephen

    Bill Clinton is correct about the voting records. What he doesn't understand is that people aren't voting based on policy (similar between the two), they are voting on who is more likely to bring an end to the partisan war and hatred in Washington. That is the "change" people are voting for. The people are done with the environment in DC and are doing something to improve it.

    Experience? Who care? Think about what we've endured the last 8 years, and ask yourself if Obama can do worse.

    January 8, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  16. Carlton

    Bill Clinton: "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

    Much like your ordeal with your wife staying with you, and then she goes on to win the "pity vote" in New York? Come on Bill, thats no where near the biggest fairy tale you've ever seen!

    We need some fresh faces, and some fresh views on American Politics, and Edwards and Obama have what it takes to make sure that happens. Newsweek did an article on Obama 3 years ago, titled "Seeing Purple"; Red and Blue bickering have divided America, so combining the like minds for a Purple nation would be nice. United States should be more United.. We don't need the same "experience" from the mid 90's, it's time to "change"!

    January 8, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. Dennis

    For how many years is this country going to be blind sighted about the fact that 'experienced' does not mean good! Look at our current prez for galaxy's sake. What we need a honorable person with a clean conscience. Someone who can garner respect from not only Americans but the entire world. Clinton does not fit that profile.
    GO OBAMA 08

    January 8, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. Michael, Columbus, IN

    desperation, that's all it is. and since when did anyone respect whining? that's all i hear. the little fifth grader on the playground, saying "its not fair."

    Mr./Mrs. Clinton: If you truly believe for one minute that the media has been unfair to you, please readjust your rabbitt ears. All the magazines, all the newsnetworks have been eithering declaring Hillary as the shoe-in or summizing that she would be the nomination. Even Fox News is rooting for her based on last night's cry coverage.


    Obama '08...for a new America.

    January 8, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. Michelle

    If Osama (I mean Obama) wins, I am afraid I will have to vote republican to continue to fight terrorism. They want to kill us, people!

    January 8, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Gobama, NY, NY


    HE IS NOT RUNNING FOR ANYTHING, except another shot at White House interns; because his wife is not fulfilling of or unwilling to fulfill marital obligations! LOL

    January 8, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. Frederic

    Black Obama is the real deal.....It's time for us to take back our country......payback time.....Tigerwoods, Oprah and now Obama....5 more years and we can own this country .....afterall we built it.

    January 8, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Josh

    Bill I used to have respect for you–now you are becoming exactly what the REP say you are–a lying, scoundrel!

    Obama 08

    January 8, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. Joe


    You forgot to mention Obama's minister's trip to Libya.

    There's a story pinging around the Internet about how Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) paid a visit to Libya in 1984 and met with Louis Farrakhan, the Chicago-based Nation of Islam leader whose anti-Semitic remarks have long inflamed relations between blacks and Jews.

    But it wasn't Obama who took the 1984 trip. It was his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

    In the Times story of March 6, Wright is quoted saying that "when [Obama's] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli ... with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell."

    January 8, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Don (San Diego, CA)

    A majority of this countries married citizens are adulturers themselves, we just never hear or talk about it. I certainly don't condone what President Clinton did while in office.......shame on him, but millions of married Americans are just as guilty of committing adultery.............just don't tell your wives or husbands! Shhhh!!!

    January 8, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Joann, Cranston RI

    Wow – Good going Bill – I am a Hillary supporter all the way but I didn't know about the negative issue on Obama. See this is what the press is doing. When Hillary was the front runner they kept poking at her but now that Obama is in front they keep calling him the "golden boy". Saying his speeches are so inspiring just like Martin Luther King. Well who do you think is writing his speeches!!! Oh wake up everyone – this guy's all talk.

    January 8, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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