January 20th, 2008
08:20 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama: I feel like I'm running against both Clintons

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/20/art.obama0120.ap.jpg caption="Obama is striking back at Bill Clinton"]MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - More tit-for-tat on the campaign trail – only this time, it’s between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

After losing the caucus tally in Nevada, the Obama campaign took aim at Bill Clinton and the comments he made during his many campaign stops in that state on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton.

Now the Illinois senator himself is taking on the former president, telling Good Morning America that he feels as if he’s running against both Clintons.

In the interview, Obama reportedly says that the former president has been misrepresenting both “my record of opposition to the war in Iraq” and “our approach to organizing in Las Vegas,” as the controversy over Saturday’s Nevada caucus vote continues to grow.

Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod did not back away from the remarks after they became public Sunday night, telling CNN the Clintons “have a good cop, bad cop thing going” in which “he comes with a negative message she stays positive.”

Axelrod accuses the former President of “doing slash and burn stuff,” and slams the Clinton campaign, saying “there’s a philosophy of saying and doing anything it takes.”

“It’s very clear that Bill Clinton is playing fast and loose with the facts,” says Axelrod, and unbecoming of a former president: “It’s been a little crass, as someone who supported him and respects him, I think it’s disappointing.”

And Axelrod vows Obama will continue to hit back. “As long as he’s out there, we aren’t going to let him distort the record,” he says. “We’ll aggressively challenge him when he misrepresents the facts.”

He also calls on the former president to stop distorting Obama's record. “If he wants to help his wife, just be honest - don’t parse words, don’t truncate quotes to make your case.”

The ABC interview with Obama has yet to air, but the Clinton camp is already fighting back.

“We understand Sen. Obama is frustrated by his loss in Nevada, but the facts are the facts,” said campaign spokesperson Phil Singer. “President Clinton is a huge asset to our campaign and will continue talking to the American people.”

The new brawl comes as the battle between the two camps over the Nevada vote shows no signs of abating, with both sides accusing the other of voter intimidation.

On Sunday, Obama’s Nevada State Director David Cohen said there had been a “clear-cut disenfranchising” of voters in the state because of actions by Clinton supporters, and the campaign's general counsel, Bob Bauer, said they were asking the state and national party to investigate.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson called the allegations “absurd” and “laughable,” and spokesman Phil Singer responded charged that “Sen. Obama’s allies in Nevada engaged in strong arm tactics and intimidation against our supporters.”

Singer also repeated former President Clinton’s charge that the senator’s record on the war had been “inconsistent.”

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

soundoff (653 Responses)
  1. Zizi

    Bill Clinton is a liar. He lied and cheated. He has been repeating the same distortions about Obama over and over. The press is allowing him to do it by giving him a free ride and the microphone. Who are the people running? He is not part of the equasion. But he is shown on TV while campaining for his wife without her.That is a double standard. Michelle Obama was not shown on TV with John Kerry in Nevada. Why? Sad to say. Obama is running against Hilary or the Clinton couple? Who should we trust? Somebody who lied under oath or somebody that wants to change the political culture in Washington?

    January 20, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  2. Randal, Birmingham, AL

    Yeah, Obama and his campaign showing true colors....looks like desperate times for them..where were these commnets when he had the "Big Mo" from Iowa win. I understand that the clinton campaign is also responsible for personal attacks. But I think its outrageous to start blaming them now since the Obama campaign was the one who started attacking Hillary a month or 2 before Iowa caucuses.
    Hillary leads....Obama attacks -> Iowa win
    Obama leads...Clinton attacks-> NH, MI, NV wins
    Hillary leads....Obama attacks -> ????

    So the basic point is that attacking someone's record is part and parcel of politics......so Obama should stop being a cry baby...and should come out in the open and admit that his "hope" and "change" are just big words and he is actually trying to fool his supporters. Obama is as politician as any other, including Hillary. So if everybody is the same why not vote for the person who actually has some experience and who knows how to get things done, instead of being in Obama's fantasy land. Vote Hillary!!!

    January 20, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  3. sani kache

    Lately it's been hard to distinguish Dick Cheney from the former President. Bill Clinton has become the attack dog of the Hillary campaign and I predict that by the time these primaries are over he will no longer have the political capital he use to have. I didn't remember him attacking the republicans in the 2004 presidential campaing like he's doing it against Senator Obama. I believe that Senator Obama should not lay back , he should return the attacks and even take to the former President ON.


    January 20, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  4. bill, the 800 lbs gorilla

    oh my lord, i wish CNN would stop with the silly commentary. this is not another "tit-for-tat" as CNN likes to call it and it is not another "brawl."

    no one denies that bill clinton is an assest to his wife's campaign. former president bill clinton is like the 800 lbs gorilla in the room. you can't help BUT notice him. he's very likeable, was a popular president, is intelligent and is savvy when it comes to politics and political play. he's a juggernaut of a personality to combat. he knows how and will ALWAYS use his presence to help his wife. and there is nothing wrong with him assisting hillary. heck, i personally believe that if he (her husband bill) was never a part of hillary's campaign then she would most certainly NOT be where she is today on the campaign trail.

    with that being said, i do believe that obama and his campaign manager david axelrod are stating a valid point. the former president needs to not distort anyone's record and he needs to not blurry the quotes of obama or anyone else. i supported bill when he ran both times for elections in the past. but as of late, i do find that some of the ways he goes about supporting his wife have indeed been unbecoming of a former president. i mean, to call senator obama a "kid!" how disrespectful to call a grown man, a lawyer with a harvard degree, a united states senator, a candidate for the office of president of the united states, to call him a kid is so unbecoming and so revealing and so disrepectful of this former president. it has been disappointing to see. i most certainly do see a "good cop bad cop" going on with the clintons.

    i do wish bill clinton would stick to the facts and be respectful when he targets senator obama or any other candidate. to me, this just shows that bill will do ANYTHING it takes to get done to see his wife win. sometimes bill overshadows hillary and at times i wish bill would just stay out of the picture and let his wife run. it is HER campaign, let HILLARY fight. afterall, she's the one running for the presidency. not bill.

    yes, this is politics and it can get down right dirty at times. i guess i just expected more from a former president. sad to say, i have been let down.

    January 20, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  5. shaun

    If obama is going to win this election he's going to have to lose the 100% faith he has in the american peoples ability to use good judgement against smear tactics. Whenever the clintons distort his record, or spin the things he says, that he doesn't respond on purpose. It's almost as if he's depending on the american people to filter though all the trash and find the truth, but the truth lies in the fact that people's ability to trust is weak. All it takes is the media to continuosly air falsehoods against you which will alter the opinions of idiots leading them to chose the bully over the one being bullied. Obama is so clearly the best choice for president that you'd have to be from another planet not to see it, but many of these people voting are from other planets, and they couldn't see truth from fiction if fiction was impossible. Hillary will indeed win the dem nomination, possibly even the presidency, but when she's unable to get anything done with the republicans, or is seen as an overbearing, power hunger tyrant to the rest of the world, don't say that you wish you voted for obama. It will be too late, and you'll have to deal with your choice for the next 4 years, and after thoughs 4 years when nothing has been accomplished, and our position in the world has stayed the same or dropped to even lower depths of disparity, I hope obama wont run to save you, because you dont deserve it

    January 20, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. Luther Campbell

    It's amazing –with every passing day I like and respect Barack Obama less and less. What happened to the so-called "politics of hope"? He's getting his behind whipped regularly. The wheels are coming off the Obama wagon.

    What does Barack Obama stand for, as indicated by his record (not his promises)? I really don't know.

    January 20, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    I'm certain that if any candidate, today, had a former president willing to campaign for them, they would take advantage of that asset.

    January 20, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  8. Jessica

    I think thats a little classless of Obama. It's not like his wife isn't going to stuff for him. It's just that Bill Clinton is a former President and his wife is not. Hillary has every right to have her husband go around and campaign for her, while she is campaigning somewhere else. Obama just wants to make Hillary look like the bad person, when really it is him.

    January 20, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  9. Elise N.

    My cousin is stationed somewhere in Afgahnistan, and says he doesn't expect to come home anytime soon, given the current Republican agenda. I pray for his safety and the other American troops all of the time. I recently asked him, which presidential candidate does he support and why?

    He says that he's wholehearted behind Barack Obama, because he seems to be the only sincere candidate who's absolutely dead-set on pulling the troops out from overseas. He says that he likes Obama's very high level of sincerity, and the fact that he has no stake in oil over there, which is a plus. I also agree that Obama is currently being attacked on all fronts by the Clintons right now, and it's unfair.

    January 20, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  10. Dan Weinberg

    If Hillary has "found her own voice," let her use it on her own to earn the nomination and tell Bill to stop using his to promote her campaign in a negative way. The once-popular former President is trying to use his popularity to boost his wife to the nomination, which is his prerogative. It is sad, though, to see him now think that the best way to elect a President is to use the Politics of Personal Destruction, something he once denounced. If the Clintons continue to think they "deserve" the nomination simply because of "who they are," Michael Bloomberg may be the eventual inheritor of what might have been a Democratic Presidency.

    January 20, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  11. shiko

    I understant that hillary stand behaind klinton word she cant say that by her words. the fact its fact obama smart more than her that why hellry
    reliance on killinton when she try to give speach against Obama .

    January 20, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  12. brian

    January 20, 2008

    Good cop/bad cop? Now they are using CNN headlines? LOL. I'm laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

    misrepresenting both “my record of opposition to the war in Iraq” and “our approach to organizing in Las Vegas,”

    What record??? I was against the war, but I wasn't in a possition to hear what was said in the Senate neither was Sen. Obama. He was not Senator yet. With his voting record of Not Voting, 113/383 times chances are really good he would have NOT voted or voted like 2/3 of the Senate voted. Also, need I remind everyone that it passed in the Senate 77-23, these men and women were lied too by our current adm. Hindsight is a beautiful thing isn't it.

    His organization in Las Vegas would of been just fine if he had won, but since he lost all of a sudden it's a problem to blame on Bill Clinton.

    He's campaigning for his wife. Just because he's a former president doesn't matter. Obama's wife is campaigning for her husband. Obama has Oprah, it doesn't matter. Bill's not the one running, Oprah is not the one running.

    This is no way to run a campaign. He's coming off as childish and spoiled because he didn't get his way. Has to blame it on someone, hey, why not the Clintons. Let's not blame it on the Union who supported him and ran those negative ads about Clinton. In my opinion, that ad and his using the spanish slogan, "yes we can", hurt him alot more than anything Bill Clinton has said.

    The blame game never works.

    January 20, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I have been so disappointed in the negativity of the Clinton campaign. I had been so impressed with all their years of public service until now. I find it so against everything they seemed to stand for. When Bill was President and was persecuted so badly, he was the positive one against all his foes. Now he and his wife would dare to put another man through that and for what? Obama was the most consistent about the Iraq War. HiLaary CLinton has changed her stance. Actually changing your perspective is in my mind not a bad thing. The more thoughtful one is the more you may be led to new insights. So why the heck must we berate someone for anything. If Hillary is the candidate to chose, let her speak to those points that sell. I for one don't see her as pulling us all together. We have one candidate who will do that, and he is a senator from Illinois

    Obama is definitely filled with more integrity. I'm glad his campaign is prepared to let the truth be known, since the Clinton strategy is so evil.

    January 20, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  14. Chevyk

    Just what is needed to be said. Hillary is not doing well because of her own accord. Bill people are VOTING FOR BILL NOT HILLARY!

    January 20, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  15. joe

    Shame on Bill and Hillary, they think America is their property. They are mean and power hungry people. They divide to conquer! Shame on them! I will never vote for her. She is mean! Her husband is furious every time the media talks to him. He is a mean person. He want to return to the white house so bad that he will do anything to get there. They are what is wrong with America. Shame on them!

    January 20, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  16. balizar

    It's bad enough that corporate America is selling out to the Chinese, Japanese, Arabs and Europeans, now we are going to allow a muslim to become our president and further drive the stake through the heart of democracy and freedom loving people.
    Say NO, America. No more selling out of America. Say no to the atheist corporate America and the satanics who want to turn us against God and country.

    January 20, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  17. Kyu Reisch, Radcliff, Kentucky

    Obama, did you forget last year? Hillary was running against both Obamas earlier. How was your wife, Michelle opend her big mouth without political experiences? what abou Oprah? Bill Clinton was the brilliant former President, and he is talking the fact which nobody realized Obama's record about against Iraq War. Obama was bad when he attacked Hillary's war vote at every Debate and speech even he wasn't there in 2002. I will ask Obama "how would you vote if you were in Congress that year?" Obama has no right to attack Hillary's vote because he wasn't eligable in 2002. I think Bill Clinton did right thing, let voters know Obama's political record, so people can decide who is the best leader for our Country. Obama's complain is not acceptable, unfair and selfish.

    January 20, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  18. Wendell

    I must admit to being concerned about a former President being so active and vocal in the political arena. This is a marked departure from the previous former Presidents and could in essence negate the amendment which limits a president to two elected terms.

    January 20, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  19. Joe

    Dear Mr Obama:

    You are now (running against both Clintons) because the economy is the major issue to Americans. Bill Clinton reminds Americans he provided robust growth, created jobs, balanced the budget and left us with a surplus and now the majority of Americans see HIllary as the most experienced candidate and are looking at her experience as an asset.

    We believe we are not ready to chance our economic future on an untested Senator Obama who now whick makes changing to an untested newbie a too too scary option.

    But, best of luck as you finish your Senate term for the people of Illinois.

    January 20, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  20. S Williams

    You are.

    Hillary will win the nomination. But this will galvanize a massive republican turnout.

    Democrats and Independents will panic at the threat of four years of gridlock, partisan bickering, and political fighting.

    That will induce Bloomberg to step in by mid-March as an independent.

    He will walk away with anti-(B)illary, anti-republican, pro-Obama and pro-Edwards supporters.

    Bloomberg will become the next president.

    Nice try though Barack, you brought dignity and promise to the political scene. We appreciate you anyway.

    January 20, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  21. Don

    Waaaah! Poor Baby Barack can't take the heat. Look, you're the one who can't keep your facts straight and if you can't handle two informed, intelligent people calling you on it, then it's time to pack your bags!

    January 20, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  22. dan white

    Obama should find a better way to defend against the treacherous and
    calculating "clinton team".

    They will draw him into the fight and "EAT" him if necessary....whatever it takes!!

    Barack needs to respond kindly, very briefly, & accurately (but no explanatories)...
    .....then "turn the other cheek".....as in the pure "martial arts" philosophy.

    If so, if he will take this approach, the Clintons will lose their "COOL"...they already have ....they will do it again, and they will bury themselves, rather than Obama.

    sincere regards.....danw.

    January 21, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  23. John Doh

    Last time I checked the witness to the
    southern church burnings wasn't in the running.
    Look in the mirror CNN.
    Stop giving the national disgrace
    Let the Big C. take the punches if she's so "tough".

    January 21, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  24. Peter (NY)

    This is very low-punch attack by Obama. I mean doesn't his wife campaign for him. I feel Obama keeps on talking about populist themes like changes and opposition to the war. When people start talking about accountability and action, he cries foul. My my.... What a good president he will be!

    January 21, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  25. John E Lexington KY

    Given that Obama equated Clinton with Nixon in his praise of Reagan, I think he's running against both Clintons too – by his choice. Hillary has certainly had both Obamas and Edwardses combatting her.

    Given the press resentment of the Clintons (which they also had against Gore, a major reason he wasn't president) I'd think Obama would welcome more opportunities for them to jump on Bill. Did he expect him to be neutral?

    January 21, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
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