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. bryan

    Bill Clinton would do well to let his wife fight her own battles. I can't stand this fake support he's giving her just so he can get back in the White House and hit on the new interns.

    January 8, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Becky

    WOW!!!! WOW !!!!! Desperate People do Desperate things. When the media starts "SCRUTINING" Obama, can Hillary stand to be scrutunized too? I have left several messages regarding her and Bill planting people in her rallies. It has yet to be addressed. It happened yesterday and Sunday. Ballot Bowl with CNN on Sunday went to a Q & A rally for Hillary. One of the attendee's in the audiance came from Ireland to Thank her for her role in bringing Peace to his Country. Do you believe that a man flew all the way from Ireland to Thank her for something at a primary voting rally that she didn't do? I don't. Yesterday 2 YOUNG men had to be escorted out of her Rally for wearing t-shirts and yelling Iron my shirt. REALLY in NH? I don't believe it at all, another LIE So why isn't she being scrutinized and questioned by the Media and people for her dirty political campaigning tricks. Whose idea was it that these staged theatrical performances be done. Oh I am sure the campaign manager will get that fallout if this ever gets any air time. Does anybody really want the truth.

    January 8, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. Robert

    Well I guess the choice is clear. If you believe that bringing people together and having a nation you can be proud of again is possible vote Obama.

    If you believe it's a fairy tale vote Clinton.

    January 8, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Bill Louisville ,Ky.

    bill is sounding desperate

    January 8, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |


    January 8, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    All this squabbling is pointless. Neither Hillary or Obama can win a general election. The viable candidates have dropped out. The Democrats are about to hand over the country to either a member of a racist cult, a Christian version of the Ayatollah, or one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Everyone get ready for some hard times.

    January 8, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. Carol

    Please don't start mudslinging. I think the world of former Pres. Clinton but now that his wife is starting to slink in the standings, we see him acting like a high schooler . . . please just stick to the facts for Hillary – her accomplishments. I know you are hurt but you are just making it worse.

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

    I have completely lost all respect for you. Its not a Clinton god given right to be president. The world does not revolve around you. I know this comes as a complete surprise to you. Please stop before you undo all the the good work you've done.

    January 8, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. amy R, Iowa

    Bill is about to bust a vein because his time is over. Yes, he can not remake Hillary. But just hearing Bill talk makes me realize how much he took this country down with his lies. And we should trust Bill? No thanks. Hillary honey, it is not your time. I am voting for Obama in '08.

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



    January 8, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  11. Gbryant

    Ryan in New York:

    That is exactly what I mean. A person's upbringing should be out in the open. Like has been said before, if it was anyone else that the media was not sugar coating, he would be on a watch list.

    January 8, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. Eric

    John Edwards is the man for the job! Lets vote him in. Hopefully Hillary will drop out soon.

    January 8, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Wilberto Jimenez, Monmot, MD

    Just a question- how many of you are legitimate, disinterested parties in this election ?

    I see a number of posts from people who sycophantically follow their candidates, They bestow god-like admiration for their favorites, and attack (sometimes violently) all of his/her opponents.

    It's not just a suspicion- it's a confirmed fact that staffers from the campaign offices use these forums. I just wanted to get a general idea of numbers. Hopefully, I'm not the only real person here...

    January 8, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. Jack

    Well, I had just posted about how I assumed Bill Clinton was lying. Then I found him debunked. He needs to go back to NY and focus on the 20 year olds the secret service probably hides for him.


    January 8, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. mash

    Totally dissappointed in the former president. I mean, lose graciously for once so we could all say "they" had some diginity. but to be near tears and then "FAIRY TALE' ideas??? come on. you're too big for that. independent voter

    January 8, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. James D.

    As an Obama supporter and *former* MASSIVE Clinton fan...this is amazing to watch.

    It's true, Barack's campaign did release info on Bill Clinton profiting from the outsourcing of jobs to India, etc. Hillary received contributions from those companies as well. Truth hurts Bill.

    OTOH, it *was* a "low blow" tactic from Barack's campaign. Barack immediately held a meeting of his campaign staff and was livid with them for doing it....demanding such things never happen again. The details of this are covered in this week's Newsweek. This happened MONTHS AGO. Such tactics haven't happened since. Mark Penn and the Clinton campaign have done FAR more sleazy things and a lot more of them. Google the AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers and Emily's List for details. Really dishonest stuff like the flyer regarding Barack's votes on abortion issues, etc, etc, etc.

    Unfortunately, the Clinton's CONTINUE to play dirty. Luckliy, the press has busted them doing it and Bill's unhappy about that.

    Tough cookies Bill. Karma...as you sow, so shall you reap.

    January 8, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  17. Jen, Cedar Falls, IA


    Not so fun being on the receiving side of things you've dished out for years, eh?

    Go get the house ready for Hillary.
    Write a book and enjoy Chelsea's wedding.

    Let Hillary retire, she doesn't need to be a Senator now that she can't use it to win the White House back for you two.

    PULLEEEZZ don't blame Hillary losing on anybody else but the two of you. It's pretty obvious Hillary's campaign has been about you two as opposed to the USA and it was yours to lose.

    The USA is moving ON!

    Stop the crying to momma.

    January 8, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Fred

    Sounds like Bill is upset that his title of honorary "first black president" is actually in danger of being trumped by potential real first black president. Seriously ,if Bill and Hillary would have spent a lot more time on where She and Obama are similar, instead of pressing the experience thing, she might have been doing a lot better by now. Instead they are doing the usual thing in their usual way, and that is why they will lose. Apparently Hillary and Bill haven't caught the message yet that people are tired of that kind of politics, and people want to hear how she will make this country better, not how Obama won't.

    January 8, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. Jeffim Kuznetsov

    Gotta love the Obama supporters! When Clinton calls our Obama's faults, they call it negative campaign. When Obama was criticizing Clinton for months, they call it charisma. Pretty obvious isn't it? Well, wake up before this country goes down the drain! The job is not for good looking and smooth-talking, the job is for the strong and experienced person.

    January 8, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. reenoOhio

    So many people forget the great things Hillary tried to do as first-lady and was shot down. Way to go Bill for being the articulate, rhoades' scholar, great leader we know and love!!!

    January 8, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Eric

    The media is trying to fix the election, just like usual. They will make everyone jump on the Obama bandwagon, and then Obama will lose in the general election and we will just have another 4 years of GW type policies. Change was fun to talk about, yay!

    January 8, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. David S., Chicago, IL

    Bill this doesn't work. If you really want to know how to win people back – I'll give it to you...

    Hillary: I still like you but you need to do the following to get my vote:

    1. Apologize for your vote to authorize the war! Tell people you will get all troops out and give us specifics. Then TURN THE PAGE!
    2. Explain to American what failed in your fight for universal heathcare in the 90's and why you were told to not bring it up again. Tell us what will prevent you from failing again...
    3. Tell us why you are the #1 benefactor of financial support from the heathcare industry and what you intend to do to change it (you owe too many people)
    4. Disclose what comprises 35 years of fighting for change – where is it? Put it together and tell us – we want to know.
    5. Disclose your dealings with Bill during his tenure in the White House – what did you do and what did you say? We want to know.
    6. Tell us your voting record on the war (authorization and funding) and the patriot act is worse than Obama's – and tell us what you intend to do differently.
    7. Make yourself available for the progessive media – let us know why you are different – be open for REAL questions...

    Until then....Barack/Edwards '08!

    January 8, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. hawk

    Almost 30 years of Bushes and Clintons running America, that's the biggest problem facing America. Obama 08

    January 8, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Lynn

    This is getting to be absolutely ridiculous. Bill should stay out of this race. He only harms HRC's chances by being in the news so much because his presence is a constant reminder of the pardons, the cigars, the lies, the divisiveness - everything this country needs to get away from. HRC would have had a much better chance if she hadn't been associated with Bill in the first place.

    January 8, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. B. Ambrose

    Mr. Former President, be a sportmans- a gracious looser. After all you came to power lifted up by the community from which Senator Obama comes. Now that he brings a vision of inclusion of all Americans you wish to do all in your power to destroy it. Shame on you. Shame further if you do not realize the rights of other Amercans to realize their dreams. The founding fathers liberated America from the tyranny of the British Monarchy, yet you do want to re-instate the "Clinton Dynasty" in America using the most scrupulous of tactics. Shame on you again. Please go away and get lost into the sunset and let America be America, not a "Monarchy of the Clinton, and Bushes" . This Michiavilian attitude will is not only degrading, it erases your own history. May be you can hire James Carville to reinforce, and accelerate the demolition derby you are launching. You can be sure the American people will not allow it to happen. May God bless you in all you do.

    January 8, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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