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. Obama_in_cali_on_Feb5

    If Bill Clinton had done a better job of honoring his wife while he was President, more people would respect them now.

    And I don't find Obama cocky. I find him empowering – he makes me want to be better for my country. No other candidate has done that in a long time. That's the CHANGE that old-schoolers hate....

    Funny that the same generation that fought for the lower voting age now finds that they are the establishment, resisting the ways of the future.

    January 8, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. Karen

    Only in American, the land of consumers and obesity (oh to have the stereotype of being considered intelligent) can the media lead the public around by the nose and get them to regurgitate a new definition of negative (sounds like Bush coming up with new definitions). Only in the land of entertainment tv would pointing out a voting record be considered a bad thing. What delusion are you living under when you don't look at the laws made by the people you elect to make laws? You've got the government you deserve.

    I agree absolutely, OBAMA 08. He's perfect for the Presidency. His voting record sucks. Get him out of the senate before he can do anymore damage. He can take a few hundred of his buddies with him. Under these requirements, they're perfect for the presidency too.

    January 8, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. mchenry

    Excuse me but why the focus on Obama's family in Kenya? The man has family in Hawaii too. They came from Kansas but everyone always has to talk about his Muslim, Kenyan family. He is not responsible for them. He barely knows them. They did not raise him. His father was not a part of his life but everyone wants to paint Obama as some sort of subversive, unAmerican type because his absent father happens to be from Kenya. If his name was John Smith and his father was from Michigan would he be OK then? His name and his father are irrelvant. His message and his positions are what counts.

    January 8, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Carol

    Hey, now Clinton has "young" people seated behind him, but boy do they looked bored!

    Both Clintons are such phoneys.

    January 8, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Harry, NY NY

    Some people just have no idea how to retire with class. Just imagine if all former presidents had no idea how to let go and always intruded on the FUTURE direction of the presidency.

    January 8, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. kedf

    Obama supporters...You think Obama is an agent of change but did you watch the video from his home town in Africa? What did he do to change his grandma situation/ From what I see she still poor, living in that village with his uncle trying to make a living and as you see he is living a very good life here. Did you ask yourself even if his grandma came in America even once to see how he is living?
    Change is not just a word, you show leadership by working for change, not just singing. Watch the video and see it for yourself if in fact he did at least built a nice house for his grandma. It cost only $10000 to built a nice house in Africa and he can afford it. We African always even turn American citizen always improve our family situation. That is the least you can do to show love for your root. I don't see that in Obama and you American are just getting fool by the sweet talk. Do you know why women somethimes can not pick good men from bad? Same reason because they get fool by the sweet talk and charisma.

    January 8, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  7. Aaron

    President Clinton's comments illustrate why people are drawn to Obama and away from bitter, people dividing politics.

    January 8, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. KT

    Few months ago, Obama was unknown to everyone beside that he was the new Senator in the political arena. Now strongly holding the path to the white house, the old-timers in the political and the " Crooking" arena like the Clintons knows how to throw desperate accusations... it is the politics of the falling star...

    Now who want a president that cries on National TV because she is falling behind in the polls?????

    January 8, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. Jack K.

    Great news!!!

    With Bill stirring up the OpraBama camp–we'll begin seeing their true colors.

    Meanwhile, John Edwards–stays on agenda. He consistently portrays is crusade to make meaningful change in government dealings with the very same "power brokers" who are handling the other two (government outsourcing consortiums, professional PAC's, financial consortium's).

    There's still an opportunity to restore representation by the people!!
    John Edwards–the one who got ALL the other candidates to begin making CHANGE a part of their agenda's. He's like Coke–the REAL thing!

    January 8, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Srini

    I am an Indian from the subcontient and have no voting rights. But should I have the voting option then I would have definitely voted for Obama. The crux of USA constitution is to have fresh leader (read ideas) every 8 years and not the dynasty rule as we see in the Sub-continent. Thats why people admire USA a lot.

    During the past 8 years, world became a dangerous place with the gun, ammunition, oil companies making a record money at the expense of common man lives and middle-class families savings. Dick Chenney became a multi-millionarie with war every where around the world. You cannot change the world by force, its all negotiation and courage which is going to change the world.

    At least with Obama we see a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel he genuinely cares for the middle-class hard-working people rather than the corporate elite. I hope he will bring peace to this world and will reduce the war, oil prices.

    Go OBAMA 08.

    January 8, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. Paul Sorell

    Barak Obama is an empty suit. His credentials are pathetic compared to Hillary Clinton's John Edwrads is even worse. Hillary should fire Mark Penn. He has been a disaster. A new campaign strategey for Hillary is imperative. My suggestion would be to take a leaf from Henry Clay who said;

    "I'd rather be right than be president."

    Right on Health care

    Right on Iraq

    Right on Taxes

    Right not to promise false hopes.

    January 8, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. D.T., Hartford, CT

    When Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama shuts up, then Bill should... but until then, let him speak.

    Plus how do you really CHANGE the government? There are too many extreme lefts and extreme rights in there to make changes. Obama's promises are nice to hear, but very very very doubtful change will happen in just 4 years or even 8 IF he wins this and gets reelected.

    January 8, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. Bob, DC

    Wow. Bill is losing it. Embarrassing.

    January 8, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    Monte Brown, you might not "affiliiated" with the Clinton campaign, but you are a kool-aid drinking supporter. You have been posting your love for her for months, so quit lying.

    I guess it all depends on what the definition of "affiliation" is.

    January 8, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. J.T.

    Politics is a dirty game. We Americans have allowed it to be so. If we really want "change" we need to make it happen.

    January 8, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  16. Scott, CA

    Obama will be toast by August when Rezko rulings come out. Also McCain will be Republican nominee.

    Youths have voted for McCain too. Some intelligent youths will ask: Why not go for McCain since he is change and experience both.

    Right now, because of the so called hatred for Clintons, Obama is winnning. Media is focussed on Hillary to fall. Once she is out of the race, McCain will do the straightshooting and intelligent youth and independents will see what is worth.

    And the way, Obama supporters have hated Clinton, being arrogant and cocky and disrespectful, that has rubbed many the wrong way. Remember 62% of Iowans voted against Obama.

    It's time for another 4 yrs of Republican presidency. McCain is honest, a war veteran, a straight shooter, a change maker all the while and he knows how to fight the war. He can teach Obama in all the aspects of Presidency.

    January 8, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. Scotty

    I cannot begin to describe the level of disappointment that I, a strong supporter of President Bill Clinton, feel as I watch him stomping on the legacy of his presidency by playing the role of attack dog for his wife. He should realize that Hillary's success or failure should arise exclusively from her own efforts, and that a former president should never lower himself to "wrestle with alligators" by participating in any sort of smear campaign.

    The tradition of former presidents has been one of dignity. It has now become one of attack politics. And the former president-turned-campaign-manager has demonstrated a willingness to lay aside the mantle of two successful administrations (and of the office of president) in favor of politics as usual.

    This is a very sad day, indeed.

    January 8, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. Tim Sunderland, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    Bill, I have enormous respect for what you accomplished as president. But there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Obama's time has come!

    You are starting to become an embarassment. Please stoip while I still have respect for you.

    January 8, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  19. Wilberto Jimenez, Monmot, MD

    Weak. If the Clintons want to have a chance, they need to a lot better. Going on the offensive and attacking your opponent(s) is the best way to take attention away from more blaring deficiencies in your campaign. It may be that Obama's "fairy tale" feel-good campaign will blunt most attacks.

    Let me be the FIRST to predict that Hillary's campaign will turn very nasty. There will be negative ads, more references to Obama's past drug use, more manufactured confusion about his religion, and more "...Barack Osama- oops, I mean Obama bin Laden" gaffes.

    January 8, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. cory

    To me this is one of the most hillarious things I have ever seen. Can anyone imagine that Bill would try to lie his way out of this? Fact is that is exactly what he is doing here. He asserts that Obama has never been asked these "tough questions"– but after Obama appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, and was "grilled" on the exact same questions/issues Bill lies and says Obama has been allowed to "get a pass on"– old Slick Willie himself praised Tim Russert for not giving Obama a pass and asking him these questions.

    I cannot believe the audacity of Bill Clinton– to praise a reporter for grilling Obama then later claim that Obama has not been asked the very same. Of course, this is coming from the very same individual who lied to his wife, the nation, and even the world and never showed any remorse for his actions. I guess considering that fact, we cannot expect anymore from him other than lies!

    January 8, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  21. Leigh

    Who is behind the Obama campaign? Corporate money, and Wall Street ops.

    He has not explained in detail what exactly he plans to change.

    He is just saying whatever young people want to hear to gain support.

    I will vote republican rather then vote for Obama.

    The "are you fired up" line reminds me of the term used in High School by pot heads.
    His rallies seem more like rock concerts then a serious Presidential rally.

    January 8, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  22. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    How ironic?

    Time to call it a day, Mr. Irrelevant.

    January 8, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  23. KT

    I must add

    Obama underhanded tactics..!!! Is that all you have to say Bill? You must be then very experienced in these so called “underhanded tactics".

    January 8, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. Bob, DC

    mchenry: Well said.

    January 8, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. sixseven1

    where are the 200,000 jobs she promised f us new yorkers some 7 years ago ~ none ~ bill is worried about the diviorce papers being written up as we speak so he is up in canada i uess with new girl ( brenda or beverly is it ? )

    January 8, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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