January 19th, 2008
10:04 AM ET
15 years ago

Obama takes the gloves off, tries comedy

Watch Obama talk tough, and try comedy in Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: AP)

(CNN) - Democrat Barack Obama launched sharp - and at times bitingly sarcastic - attacks at presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in Nevada Friday.

In comments he first introduced on the trail Thursday night, Obama chastised Clinton for trying to make an issue of the fact he admitted at a recent debate he is at times disorganized, and mocked both Clinton and John Edwards for what they offered as their "weaknesses."

"I said, 'Well, I don't hang on to paper really well. My desk is a mess, so you know I need people to help me filing and keeping on schedule and things like that,'" he told a raucous crowd in Las Vegas. "And so my two colleagues - Sen. Edwards says um, 'My biggest weakness is I'm just so passionate about poor people and helping them,' and then Hillary says, ‘My biggest weakness is I'm so impatient to bring about real change in America.'"

"Now, I didn't, nobody had clued me in, that ya know, see, if I had gone last I would have said 'My biggest weakness? I like to help old ladies across the street," Obama deadpanned to laughter.

"I didn't understand the question," he said, laughing. "But this is what I mean. This is political speak. This is what you learn in Washington from all those years of experience - it's funny, except its sad, because it means that the American people are constantly having to sort out ‘what do people really mean?’"

Obama also went after Clinton for saying in the recent debate she was pleased a bankruptcy bill she voted for in 2001 failed to become law, and suggested it fits into a larger pattern of the New York senator often not being upfront.

"She said she voted for it, uh, but she hoped that the bill would die," he said. "Anybody remember that? Think about that. She voted for it even though she hoped it wouldn't pass."

"I've been less worried about making political points on these things, but getting them right," Obama continued. "That's the kind of leadership that I intend to offer as President of the United States. Somebody who will be straight with you and get it right the first time."

Obama's tough talk is a departure from how the Illinois senator campaigned in Iowa - a state where voters are often turned off by negative campaigning - and in New Hampshire, where polls suggested he would easily cruise to victory. Recent polls out of Nevada suggest all three Democrats are in a tight battle for the top spot ahead of Saturday's caucus.

- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Nevada
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. lynn parker

    Obama should really give much consideration to the outside chance of applying for a job as a late night comedian like Leno. He seems to have a natural talent as a jokester, certainly not qualified as Pres. of our great country.

    After his outrageous rally in Nevada where he made very unsavery jokes and remarks about Hillary just about shows the true nature and severe lack of a Top of the Democratic party's choice for President. We do not need a BURLESQUE
    COMEDIAN to represent our country and protect its people. We have had enough of crafty but stupid leadership to last forever. Bush, Cheney and their gangster friends brought us disaster and hardship not to forget murder that only someone with knowledge, muturity , and love for what we stand for can make the CHANGES WE NEED. And Obama with his disgusting performance is NOT THAT SOMEONE.

    January 19, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Ryk

    Last election I held my nose and voted for Kerry because I couldn't bring myself to support Bush. The election before that I choked back vomit and voted for Bush because I couldn't bear giving my vote to Gore, I'm sure I'll be doing something similar this time around as well. Edwards I would have voted for with some confidence and depending on his opponent could this time as well. I can not say the same about Clinton or Obama. My reasons for not supporting them are very different however. Barak Obama seems like a decent intelligent man. I would probably like him and I certainly appreciate his point about the absurd responses his opponents gave to that question. Saying that your biggest weakness is that you are just too wonderful is a cop out and a lie. The reason I wouldn't support Obama are not do to his character and certainly not due to him acting too black or not black enough, whatever that means. I just don't like his politics. Clinton on the other hand is not a good or decent person. She is oily, deceptive, and unreliable. She claims that she is experienced but her entire career is based on the fact that she was married to a president. Everything she has done since has just been trading on Bills name.
    I am all for a Woman president or a Black president but I will judge them by the same standards I would judge a white man. Clinton and Obama don't measure up to Edwards in experience or credibility.

    January 19, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. Matteo G

    Too many Clinton Robots in this comment section who are trying to disparage Obama for what he truly is and that is an honest man in admitting his weakness THAT actually has a solution and not fettered by it. I was on the fence but I now after this speech I am an Obama Supporter. Obama 08.

    January 20, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  4. Politically Speaking

    Posted by James

    January 19, 2008 4:31 pm ET

    When Obama said "Helping little old ladies across the street" was he referring to Hilary? If so I don't think it was funny or respectful in this instance. Don't get me wrong Helping little old ladies across the street is agood thing to do, but Hilary is not an old lady and she is capable of getting across the street . I know he meant to critize her and to be funny, but it only showed disrespect to me. Hilary 08


    Pay attention to what he was saying instead of looking for negativity. His comment about little old ladies was not implying that Hillary Clinton was one.

    January 21, 2008 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  5. Dave - Canada

    And we wonder why politicians lie?

    In Nevada, Obama gives a truthful answer to a question about his biggest weakness while Clinton and Edwards give us drivel about being too perfect. Support for Clinton climbs and she wins the caucuses. . In Michigan, McCain gives a truthful answer : heavy manufacturing jobs are not coming back – they have gone to low wage countries forever. Romney tells voters that there is a Santa Claus and he will get those jobs back. (This from the man who made a living downsizing companies and moving the jobs to low wage countries.) McCain's comments are viewed as a mistake and his numbers go down. Romney wins Michigan.

    What can we expect.

    January 21, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
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