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. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    Yes, he is right. Anyone with a head on his/her shoulders can see it.

    A young, brave Obama is running for president against two Clintons combined. He has maintained to run a positive, up-lifting campaign even though the Clintons have been consistently running negative and smear campaign after Iowa.

    So far, Obama has won the Iowa pledged delegates by 1, tied the NH delegates, and won the Nevada delegates by 1 against the powerful Clinton machine ran by a former president and a former First Lady.

    If Obama loses to the Clintons, the democrats can not win in November. The country is sick of division, playing political favor, and scoring political points without good judgment, leadership, and inspiring and unifying ability to solve real issues.

    January 21, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  2. Ben

    Keep the faith Obama! I hope we can all find common ground with our candidates and support both no matter the outcome.

    January 21, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  3. Ann Aloha, PA

    And this revelation came now? If Senator Obama only realize this now, he is in Bigger Trouble, he needs to fire his campaign staff for not bringing this to his attention.hehehe
    Man are the opponents gonna run with this...is this the inexpeience that people were taking about?
    Campaign Rule 101 – Never let your confusion or dismay surface, especially during a public event or on a media article.

    January 21, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  4. John, boston, MA

    Guess Bill is missing the interns in White House. He cant wait to get back in there...

    January 21, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. James in Wichita

    Why does no one ever bring up Hillary's Walmart ties? She was on their board for 6 years and did nothing about employee health care, let alone supporting unionization. Is Walmart good for our communities?

    January 21, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  6. charlotte

    Oh, poor baby,

    Hillary is a strong leader, committed to this country, committed to her marriage for better or worse. It takes a lot of strength to make it through the rough spots of life. Too many people throw in the towel and quit. She has shown me strength and character. I think Obama is a fine young man. I think he has a lot to learn. If he could have answered last on his weaknesses, in his own words, "I would have known how to play the game." We can not wait for someone to figure out, there isn't a pea under any of the three walnut shells. We need someone who can hit the ground running, knows how to play dodge ball, knows it isn't going to be a cake walk, knows it will be an uphill battle and has the intestinal fortitude to get it done. That is Hillary Clinton!

    January 21, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  7. joe

    ooohhh obama pleeeaaassse STOP! I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!!

    i was going to vote for you and now i can't stand a word you say....

    if you were planning to be different and a fresh face and represent change, you SCREWED that up royally. you are clearly nothing new.

    your "comedy" routine in nevada making fun of the other two candidates was pathetic and your accusations are as well. if you are going to be a politician in the US in 2008 and play the game - which clearly you are doing full force - drop the "holier than though" image - you are no mlk or jfk - you are a smart, energetic and capable man who friggin' blew it.

    edwards is my choice - i can't take you any longer. get over the clintons - they are also smart and powerful and full of energy - bashing them and criticizing people who have done a lot for the coutry and still are is so petty and small. grow up dude.

    edwards 08.

    January 21, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  8. Doug, Ca

    Obama has played the race card and engaged in dirty tricks throughout the campaign, distorting, twisting, and misrepresenting comments made by his opposition. The unions that endorsed him in Nevada made members sign pledge cards, and intimidated others who wanted to caucus for Hillary. Obama stood by, making no attempt to denounce such despicable practices. When his supporters aired ads in Spanish denouncing Hillary and saying she didn't care about the workers, that she had shamelessly tried to take away their right to vote, and that she herself was shameless, he again stood by and refused to make a peep against such false and scurrilous attacks. The night before the caucuses he stood on a platform in front of a large audience and performed what he apparently thought was a comedy act, laughing at his own jokes, while mocking Hillary (and Edwards to a lesser degree), and painting a false picture of their responses to a question they all had answered during the last debate. On top of all of this, his wife has been campaigning in the south, blatantly playing her race card in an attempt to steal Hillary's base of African-American voters.

    Did Obama really think he could play every dirty trick in (and out) of the book and no one would challenge him? Now he's whining because Hillary's husband is campaigning for her and criticizing his baseless atttacks on her. Obama had better learn, he doesn't have a free pass to falsely acccuse his opponents, defame their character, and belittle the hard work and civil rights achievements of the Clintons. To many people, Bill Clinton is still a hero and it takes some arrogance to denounce the good works he and Hillary have done. It is exactly this sort of negative campaigning that turns people off. And he's still doing it. This guy should pull his horns in, start playing it straight, and let the voters hear what he has to offer. We are all sick of his negativity, whining, and complaining. Be a man! You started the whole mess, now face up to it, and get on with the show!

    January 21, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  9. Robert

    Both the Obama and the Clinton campaigns should be ashamed of themselves. They remind me of opposites on the football field who get entangled during a pass play and stand up looking at the ref, pointing fingers at one another for a flag on the play. Instead, why not try something novel and mature: campaign on your own strengths; because now it looks like neither of you have any.

    January 21, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  10. zoey

    In New Hampshire more than 50% of those who voted for Hillary would have preferred to vote for Bill. That is not an American democracy, it's a Pakistani democracy. There's a reason we've decided to limit terms, we've seen what dynasty and idol worship does to nations. There are far more than two people on both sides "calling [each other] on it", but Bill is distorting facts and making false claims. As a former president he should try behaving like one Americans can be proud of... anytime now... still waiting....
    anyone remember how Bill lied under oath???

    January 21, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  11. aida

    can't his facts straight? you're kidding me right?

    the clinton campaign has turned into a disgusting and depressing campaign. the completely false and misleading mailers they sent in nevada were unfair and childish. he's a real and big threat to her and she realized that after iowa and now you see how the clintons really are...disgusting, childish, liars, and despicable.

    i participated in the caucuses in nevada and it's safe to say that the majority of her supporters are the exact same way and it was a very sad sight to see how far they would go to try and convert the undecideds. they ran around saying things like he is a muslim and has ties to al queda and doesn't put his hand over his heart, all of which are completely false, although i don't see what the problem would be if he was muslim. their ignorance shone bright on caucus day and luckily none of the undecideds were as stupid as these hillary supporters and they didn't believe the crap they tried to spread and came over to us on the obama side.

    January 21, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  12. Surge

    The whiner-in-chief is at it again. He race-baits, engages in dirty politics and then he complains when he loses a couple of contests. Remember, he suggested that it was Clinton who was trying to change the rules in Nevada when a union who supports her tried to sue to keep the Obama union from changing the delegate rules to give Obama an advantage. Then he lost and what does he do? Hides out in a black church and emerges to start complaining all over again.

    What a baby.

    January 21, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  13. Philo

    Sorry to see this in the process. Bill Clinton needs to chill out. I've questioned his motivation from the get go. Hillary won't have a chance without Bill and Bill's past administration, for which she – Hillary – was never an elected or confirmed participant in. Also, her vicarious participation - being a pillow talk advisor when Bill wasn't distracted with interns and secretaries does not qualify as public service.

    Bill needs to get a life and act like a former president versus campaigning like its his own personal campaign.

    Bill get out of the race. you've done two terms already.

    January 21, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  14. JIM K.

    Playing the 'they're picking on me' card, are we Obama? You trash Hillary for the same thing you are doing right now....
    If you can't maneuver around these two political gladiators, your time in the arena will be very short lived.

    January 21, 2008 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  15. Kevin, Ames IA

    Honestly, as someone who is VERY leftist, I do not really like Clinton politics.

    But as a free thinker, I like Obama's politics even less.

    Yeah, we all have our reasons for not liking Hillary, but she really is the best viable Dem left. I'm SICK AND TIRED of Obama crying when the Clintons bring out REAL facts about him that MUST be reported. He voted YES on patriot act and YES on $300 billion for Iraq. The only real difference between him and Hillary is that Hillary is brilliant and knows what to do at anytime. Watch her in debates, she doesn't slip up, she is flawless, Obama stumbles around.

    It is time that people start calling out Obama for his many flaws. No, the Clintons are not mud-slinging, they are simply doing what the press is failing to do.

    January 21, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  16. Lavern Myrie

    It is so sadly obvious that the clintons are DESPERATE to get back in the white house! They have taken a "BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY" tactic. They have lied, distorted the facts to make them look good, now even pandering to the black community! These people have no SHAME! They have no CLASS, NO DECENCY WHATSOEVER. Hillary is pathetic, and running scared. OBAMA HAS MORE DELEGATES FROM NEVADA PRIMARY, SO MUCH FOR HER HOLLOW VICTORY. First they tried to go to court to block the caucus voted taking place in the casino's. Then when it seemed they came out ahead by a few points, now they claim obama kept their people from voting. These two clintons are dispicable!
    if obama was not a worthy oponent, that has a good shot at the white house they would never attack him with these low class dirty political tricks, and smoke screens. OBVIOUSLY HILLARY KNOWS OBAMA CAN EASILY WIN THE NOMINATION! her ego is so out of control, she wont allow herself to run a fair, clean, and truthful campaign. she is too selfish, TO REALIZE OBAMA IS THE ONLY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE THAT CAN BEAT THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE, ROMNEY, OR McCAIN!!!! IF THE DEMOCRATS GIVE HILLARY THE NOMINATION, IT WILL BE A WASTE, THAT WILL MAKE IT SO EASY FOR THE REPUBLICANS TO BEAT HER WITHOUT MUCH EFFORT!!! THE CLINTON'S HAVE TOO MUCH DIRTY BAGGAGE, TOO MANY SKELETONS, LIES, AFFAIRS, AND KEN STAR TRYING TO IMPEACH BILL IS HIS WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY!

    January 21, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  17. Matt

    Don, the problem is she can't hack it herself. Her husband isn't running again! The Waaaah's should go to Hillary for not being able to handle her business on her own. We don't need a President who runs to her hubby when the going gets tough! This is just the primaries, imagine what will happen if she's President and it REALLY gets tough! Lord help us all!

    Obama '08!

    January 21, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  18. veronica

    Did Obama just now realize that he's playing in the major league now? Did he expect it to be a cakewalk?
    Stop whining, or leave the race.

    January 21, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. Eric

    Bill Clinton is a liar. I don't see what is so controversial about that, he simply is. If recent events won't convince you, just go back to some of the whoppers he told in the 90s.

    I guess people are ok with that. Or they're deluding themselves if they think he isn't.

    January 21, 2008 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  20. anngonzalez

    For a man who talks about inspiration and unity, you, Obama, and your supporters are stunning in the degree of viciousness and hostility you bring to the electorate. CNN had cameras in caucus rooms in both Iowa and Nevada and I was shocked to see how angry and aggressive Obamo-ites were - it was scary.

    Spanish language commercials saying Hillary is against the hispanic community is not high-minded or eloquent. I understand it is difficult to run a political campaign when you are claiming that you are above politics, but I recommend you return to your message of hope. It's all you have.

    January 21, 2008 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  21. Michael Richmond

    Why doesn't Obama start stating the obvious about Hillary?

    Hillary is the only candidate that MOTIVATES the Republican base. She is virtually un-electable in a national election and nominating her as Democrat nominee is like shooting yourself in the foot. It's not a stretch. It's the truth. They are taking a great gamble against poor odds in continuing her ride to the nomination.

    If he just started harping that she actually motivates their base and has poor chances in the general election on the campaign trail ... it would stop any momentum toward her.

    January 21, 2008 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  22. agron

    Obama its to nervous now....sorry Obama , its to HOT,...you forgot to say THNX to your supporters in NEVADA...great job OBAMA..?????


    January 21, 2008 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  23. Adam

    I agree that Bloomberg's decision to go for the presidential race depends on whether Hillary gets the Democratic nomination because she's such a polarising figure and if she's up against McCain or Giulani, there is a strong possibility the Republican candidate can win again.

    January 21, 2008 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  24. Sally

    I totally agree Mr Obama. And unfortunately sorry to say there are some dumb Hillary supporters whose best answer for supporting her is because she is a woman. Its hard to think that women became educated to make sensible choices, but that is the best reason they have in supporting a candidate. What a pity. Black, white, man or woman should it make a different, well to some women it does. Wow and they claim that there are more educated that men I wonder.

    January 21, 2008 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  25. vwcat

    Don, don't you know that Bill is the chief whiner of all times. It's a known fact that he does incessant whining and blaming others and lying.
    As for this democrat, if the Clintons are the nominees (be of no illusion, Bill is trying to run for a 3rd term and has as much disrespect for the constitution as Shrub), I will be looking forward to Bloomberg getting in the race and fully supporting him.
    ABC – Anyone but Clintons

    January 21, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
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