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. Eric in Massachusetts

    Can a single Obama supporter indicate to me how Obama is any different than Hillary? The only difference I can see is that Obama has no experience. Since becoming a US Senator, he has missed more than a THIRD of the votes in the Senate. That record is abismal. Is that how you quantify CHANGE? Give me a break.

    Of all the candidates running right now, only two are viable options. And remember here, we're not talking about casting a vote here and there as a senator, we're talking about running a country. You can't just make decisions on 63% of the issues. The President must run the country 100%. The only two viable candidates are Hillary and John McCain.

    If the Dems put up Obama and the Republicans put up Romney, I'm afraid I'd have to vote for Romney. And Romney did nothing for Massachusetts. But he is more experienced than Obama. Get it through your heads.... Obama is not electable. There is no way that America will make him president. At least Hillary has a shot. The independents are voting for Obama because the Republicans can beat him.

    January 8, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Jack

    Bill just doesn't get it. This is clearly counterproductive. He is whining–again, and that's how it will be perceived, no matter how legitimate his complaints are. You can't run like this against someone who can brush it off. This proves that Obama is really the better politician than Bill. I never thought I'd see a better politician than Bill, especially a Democrat, in my lifetime. And Obama released something saying Bill was a crook? He probably is. He lies constantly, so I don't know who would believe his ranting. He lies with such facility and feigned conviction that everyone believes him. My favorite one was when he said that he didn't run in 1988 because he knew, "deep down in his bones" that he didn't have the experience. Everyone knows it was to avoid another embarrassment a la Gary Hart. So please, Bill, save us the "feigned outrage" (I think that's actually a Bill quote) over the media coverage that you've ranted about for decades now. Just run a campaign. Nobody can get a politician with no charisma elected. Sure, Obama gets better press coverage, but that's because he's not hostile to the press. I'm sure most would agree that Romney and Giuliani have been treated much worse in this election, but they aren't whining about it every chance they get (to make the comparison more accurate, they don't send out their spouses to whine about it). So Bill, after 16 years of spouting out your drivel, I'd like you to shut up.

    January 8, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. Aditya Adhikari

    Another issue I have with his speach today: IS he running for the presidency?

    If not please move aside Mr. Clinton and let the Lady take her own stand and fight.

    Or she is currently taking classes to learn how not to cry, yet cry ? or is crying without tears?

    Your speach makes you both sound like sore losers.

    January 8, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  4. GreggB

    Until recently I thought there was nothing that could happen that could get me to consider voting for any of the Republicans over any of the Democrats. Bill has managed to get me to re-think my position.

    January 8, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. teri henderson

    How Sad!!! Sour grapes! The chips are falling where they may & the Clinton's don't think it's fair!
    Obama's my first choice, if no other choice I'll vote for Hillary in the general election; but she & her crew need to buck up & quit feeling so entitled to this job of President.

    January 8, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. Mysterious One

    It's sad to see Bill Clinton acting so pitifully. I almost feel sad for the Clintons. They seem to be imploding.

    January 8, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. Rob, Shrewsbury, MA

    Such a negative, defensive tone there, Bill. And so un-presidential. Can anyone imagine Ronald Reagan engaging in this kind of low discourse? And please don't whine about how Obama's getting a pass from the media, and Hillary isn't. Has anyone challenged her on the particulars of her health care "plan", and how much it's going to cost? And how much our taxes will be raised to fund it? And how about asking what the next step in her foreign policy would be after she unilaterally pulls troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Frankly, I think you, Bill, are living in the biggest fantasy world I've ever seen.

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

    Obama is all talk, look at his record, he doesn't even vote on important issues. If Obama wins the nomination the US will be under republicans again. You all need to open up your eyes. We are playing right into the republican's hands.

    January 8, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. Mekis

    Obama is the only right democratic candidate for november, the rests are sinking sand.

    January 8, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. Tony G

    I'll tell you what. 8 years of President Clinton over the last 7 anytime. He knows what he's talking about and it's the truth. Obama's been running his whole campaign on the fact that he didn't vote for the war when in fact he had no idea how he would vote. The facts are there. He's quoted as saying he didn't know. Is that the kind of person we need running our country? An UNSURE President? Will he be unsure what to do in a nuclear situation? What about a genocide situation? What about which pair of pants to wear? Hillary made a decision that has backfired on her, but come on. We were ALL for the war at the time of the vote and were motivated to seek revenge. But wouldn't you rather have a President who can make decisions rather than a guy who doesn't know? And although President Clinton did lie about his sexual affairs, there is absolutely no proof he lied about anything else. So stop with the bs.

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

    Politics of personal assasination aside, what I want to hear is

    "How are you going to spend our money?"

    The economy is staring into a precipice. Paying off the Sunnis to do guard duty won't work forever. We have infrastructure budgeting (see Bridges) to do. We have systems we need to set up to secure the homeland and not just go adventuring. We need long range planning, not 'hope for hope's sake'. This isn't 1968 or 1992. A tsunami of fiscal and logistical problems are upon us and while they may not make for sound bites, this is where the JOB is.

    At some point, candidates need to discuss real problems. The LAST thing we need is a rock star for president. I want a competent manager. Whatever else you think about the Clinton's, Bill is a good executive (see strategy for balancing the budget).


    January 8, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. Emily N.

    I believe Hillary was the one who declared her decision to run for the Democratic nomination first. Barack announced later that he was running. How does that make Hillary selfish? Everyone anticipated Hillary to run, but not everyone was so sure about Barack Obama because he has just been a senator for NOT that long.

    I do not doubt that Barack Obama is very intelligent and sincere about his hopes for America, but he would be a much better candidate in a few years. If all we are looking for in a president is charisma and the ability to write good books, Barack Obama is the one. Hopes and dreams alone may inspire, but only action and hard work can actually change. Hillary is not as charismatic, but she works hard and she cares about her consituents.

    January 8, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. John G.

    First Hillary cries, now Bill is yelling and making lies up....with the writers on strike I sure did not expect to see such well scripted drama on tv. Which, coincidently, is about all you can count on the Clintons for.

    January 8, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. AJ, IL

    I predicted this a month ago. The Clintons know how to get down and dirty when it comes to be playing politics. I knew that harsh and unfair criticisms would come out of the Hillary camp, and from Bill Clinton, no doubt. Bill Clinton is using his remaining influence and "gift of gab" to try to trounce Obama, while Hillary plays up her softer side without getting her hands to dirty.

    Sorry Bill, just because you say it doesn't make it true. You may fool some the non-thinking Hillary supporters, but not me. Remember Bill Clinton said a few weeks ago Hillary would send him and George Bush, Sr. as part of a world diplomatic envoy as President. George Bush, Sr. essentially called Bill Clinton a liar!

    Obama is running for president, not VP. Who in the world wants to be VP to Hillary when Bill Clinton will be there undermining nearly your every move?

    January 8, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. ernest

    How can anyone buy anything Clinton has to sell anymore. I used to be a Clinton supporter, but she has taken too much from special interests and has shifted her position too many times for anyone to take her seriously. To attack Obama in this way just looks desperate.

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

    OBAMA'S GRANDMOTHER! is shown sitting on the street in Africa near a run-down shack or structure, shucking corn and looking miserable- so THIS is the future he has in store for us??! ARE YOU SERIOUS? If this is the way the guy takes care of his GRANDMOTHER – WAKE UP AMERICA!

    January 8, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Emit


    Someone wake me up when we have elected the next Honest Politician.

    Going to get a really good nap in.

    January 8, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. dan

    stick it Bill–you immoral hypocritical liar. You and youir wife are two of a kind–power hungry and deceitful !!!

    January 8, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. stan pitts pa

    the media is not slanted towards obama, he is leading in all the major polls and they simply have to report on it, bill and his lies have done more to erode the confidence of the people than obama ever would, people around the world laugh at the clintons behind their back, he is a cheating, adulterer, and when hillary lost in iowa she bad-mouthed the state is this who we want to lead us? yeah id take obama fairy tales anyday, because on his websiite he explains how he is going to accomplish all his plans, for the record when JFK said we would go to the moon, he was called a fairy tale teller too! America lets dream big again so we can employ our best folks to fix some of our major issues, obama 08!

    January 8, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. bill,bill,bill

    oh just be quiet. Apparently you have to rush in to save the little woman. Looks bad, Bill. You oughta keep your head above the muck...you are a former President...act like one. Oh wait, impeached and lied under oath...sorry, forgot that for a second. Yeah, I get it...YOU want back in..... if you can't get it thru legal ways...get it anyway you can. Clinton machine as usual.

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

    Bill Clinton may have very well done more to hurt Hillary than to help her. Clinton campaign has been going very negative lately and I think it is working against them.

    As for me, as an Obama fan and supporter right from the beginning, I am enjoying every moment of Obama's rise. There are many non-American citizens like me who are looking to an inspirational and pragmatic leader who would work to bring people together.

    Obama is not only good news for the US, he will beacon of hope for the rest of the world. Just has he says in his speech, In the face of improbable odds there is an incredible opportunity to do something that we always yearned for.

    Go OBAMA!!

    January 8, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Mark

    The Clintons are starting to make the sick with all of this crying and moaning about not being treated fair. Here comes the old Clinton dirty politics we are so used to seeing. You can't make people like and believe your wife Bill!!!

    Obama 08!!!

    January 8, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. The Craziness Continues

    Is he defending his wife, or himself in this rant? Most of it is " I ", " I ", " I " ..... Who's actually running for president in that family? He has got to be most egotistical politician to ever walk the face of the earth. The sooner this guy, his wife, and the Clintonistas are gone, the better off we will all be.

    January 8, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. elly

    O.K. Let's take a deep breath everyone. Remember, this is a Democratic Primary season and we are supposedly on the same side in the long run. If this anti Clinton sentiment is the result of Obama's "hope" campaign then we are in trouble. Bill is one of two living former Democratic presidents who have both served our country well in office and out. Experience doesn't happen in a short time and, in the case of both Clintons, it doesn't stop after the presidency. Hillary went on to become a senator and has impressed people on both sides of the isle with her hard work and sincerety. Have some respect – you're coming across as the same old, same old arrogant Bush followers except with a new guy. By the way, since when did working for the Children's Defence Fund as an advocate for children, working to improve education in the state of Arkansas and trying to remedy the medical system in this country not become experience? Hillary also changed the role of First Lady forever and that is to be commended – not demeaned as in the Obama comment of her "having tea " with Benizar Bhutto. That sounds pretty sexist to me and there's nothing refreshing about that kind of change.

    January 8, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. E. C., Houston, Texas

    Not a Clinton fan of either, but in this case, Clinton is Correct, because the Media plays into this 'fairy tale,' as if it will really happen, nothwithstanding the fact that there are months and months to go with many Primaries. We may not see Obama standing at the end of the road, hopefully not. He's not that well accepted in other parts of the country, and there are many views, many contrary, to the views of New Hampshire and North Carolina. Obama has yet to state any position or any 'Change' Idea. Just remember voters: Change is a Loaded Word, and it can suggest Good or it can suggest Evil.
    The Media has NO right to play favorites in any Campaign, by submission or by omission. The Media should ask the same identical question of each and every candidate who is interviewed and Report the Comparisons. It's the ONLY FAIR WAY to Report Political Views. Why hasn't this been done? Are there NO ethical, honest, and fair News Media Networks? Just remember, Voters, that the public doesn't need any 'Opinions' from the reporting networks, Only the Facts.'

    January 8, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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