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. Chris

    The Clintons are not democrats, they're aristocrats. That's why Bill and George get along so well. The have the same viewpoints. Hillary and Bill are both career politicians. They'll say anything to get themselves elected. And quite frankly, I don't trust either of them. Bill is a smart man, but his integrity is flawed, and the same applies to his wife.

    As for race: Obama is both black and white. He's only classified black because of America's racist laws and views that a person of mixed heritage (only when mixed with black) makes that person black.

    January 21, 2008 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  2. Leslie Somerville, Seattle, Washington


    January 21, 2008 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  3. YesWeCan

    Yes, Obama. It's true.

    The old Southern Dixiecrats are after you. But hold your head up and continue as you are. Those of us with a brain and some education know full well that you are the one trying to unite America while the Clinton's have managed to divide ever single demographic in the Democratic party and has us all fighting each other.

    There are enough Americans in this country with basic comprehension skills that can see through the lies and the spin to elect you president. We need you. Don't give up and ignore the outdated , tired old voices that have no idea how to explain your new campaign style. They will soon be obsolete.

    We Love You Barack !

    January 21, 2008 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  4. Chris

    I believe all of the Clinton supporters commenting on this thus far are PATHETIC! It's obvious Hilary is is riding on the former president's credentials. Now, I'm not anti-Hillary or Bill, but it took a few tears and her husband to win her the previous two states....not very presidential if you ask me. I think Barack's comments are warranted, especially since Bill has been much more involved in Hillary's campaign since she started winning. I worry what will happen IF she actually wins the democratic nomination and has to go up against the Republicans. Can she perform without hubby holding her hand?

    Regardless, Barack is still the best PERSON for the job!

    Obama 08'

    January 21, 2008 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  5. George

    Doug, well said. I could not have said it better than you did.

    January 21, 2008 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  6. Frankie Crosby


    So Bill is working it for his wife, this is surprising to you? But you had to know before you got into the game, or maybe that is also part of your inexperience. Did you really think Bill is/was not going to try and help his wife?? I know it's tough always, but more so when losing. You have my empathy but it's a rough and tumble game and you are playing with some of the very best.... Good luck you're going to need it....

    January 21, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  7. Azar

    I voted for Bill Clinton twice, but I shall not vote for Hillary Clinton. This husband and wife team is terrible for our country.

    Women who want to vote for he just because she is a woman forget one thing that Hillary Clinton stood by and supported her husband while he abused his female subordinates as the Governor of Arkansas and as President of the USA. Moreover, she hired private detectives to investigate the women oppressed by her husband. How can women support her when she did not do anything to prevent her husband from taking advantage of his female subordinates?

    The Clintons have been involved in distorting Obama's record and lying about Hillary Clinton's record. Obama has eleven years of legislative experience compared to Hillary Clinton's seven years, and yet she repeats over and over again, that she has 35 years of experience.

    At present, the Clinton's are involved in micro type of campaign. In New Hampshire, it was the gender card. Now, it is gender and race. Next, it will be something else. I am waiting for New York. They'll come uo with another nasty lie about Obama in New York.

    Finally, if she wins, we shall have a divided country and nothing positive will be achieved by her.

    January 21, 2008 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  8. dave

    glad he's speaking out. Former presidents shouldn't lie about a fellow party member's record. Not very respectable. GHWBush didn't do it to McCain in 2000, Bill shouldn't do it now. I voted for this chump twice? How does chimp put it...fooled me once shame on you, fool me once you won't get fooled again!

    I hope Hillary can garner those republican and indie votes in November cause she sure as hell won't get a lot of the progressives after this crap. Good thing Obama still has time to expose this two headed monster for what it is and secure the nomination for himself.

    January 21, 2008 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  9. jerzee gal

    well we see what happens when we elect family members(bush,bush)It never works out well. hillary needs to need to stop running on her husbands resume. My husband is a mechanic but I sure cant get a job as one. Latinos I hope your paying attention, billary loved black people until one became a viable nominee. You think she won't do it to you if a viable hispanic nominee was her main opposition? Americia she'll do whatever it takes to win, Whats stepping on a few minorities on the way going to hurt!!! Bill i respected you but this is not your race!!!!!!!! This is so humiliating, a former president of America bullying a fellow democratic nominee. Hillary please tell Bill to be quiet. If you can't even do that, and you're elected, we are in serious trouble!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  10. Rob Mitchell

    I agree with Obama. This isn't a vote for Bill's third term and frankly, you can't tell the difference most of the time. It's one thing to have endorsements, but given the fact they're married, it's not like Bill really had a choice of candidates. It was his wife or he would have had to disappear for the campaign. It's pure nepotism and people are getting angry Obama called the Clinton campaign out on it? Go cry somewhere else.

    The fact of the matter is that Hillary has little chance of gathering Republicans and Independents to her side in the general election. Obama has proven in EVERY race that he's capable of getting a lot of those two and that's what's gonna get the democrats back into the oval office.

    Her whole Experience race is a load of crock considering Obama's been helping the people directly and working with Republicans to get bills passed with more success. He's united people so much before and if you read Time magazine, you'll know that Obama's been doing what he's doing FOUR years longer than Hillary. Don't even get started on her failed health care and economy plans, either. Open your eyes and realize it will be Hillary who's president–we won't be getting Bill, unfortunately.

    Obama '08, if only to reclaim the White House for the Democrats. If Obama is smart, he'll put Edwards and Clinton in his cabin or Vice President.

    January 21, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  11. jerzee gal

    joe you were never for Obama, please be honest.

    January 21, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  12. tina

    Oh Please, cry me a river why don't you.

    January 21, 2008 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  13. Aaron, Iraq

    I applaud Mr. Obama for attempting to rise above the normal politics we have become accustomed to. It is difficult to do when you have Clinton and her supporters - particularly one former President playing fast and loose with the truth. How do you elevate the dialogue when Clinton and her surrogates are determined to drag it back into the muck? I don't envy Obama his task, but I certainly hope that he succeeds. I think he has done an admirable job thus far as anyone who actually reads and watches what he says would agree. I fear that many are buying the crap that the Clinton's are spewing without bothering to verify anything - many of them posting on this site. People who swallow this tripe need to wake up and quit helping the Clinton's drag our democracy down.

    January 21, 2008 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  14. Arjun

    When the fox cannot get the grape, it is sour. This is what is happeoing with Barack Obama.

    We are not fools if Obama wants us to believe so. The people will continue to reject Obama exponentially because they now see what a bluff and fake he is. He tried to make us believe he is like JFK and MLK, When that failed he run to embrace the decadent policies of Ronald Reagan above those of Bill Clinton, the President who did so much good for the middle class and the ordinary people. he keep changing so often that he is indeed the agent of "change"

    Democrats remember what Reagan did and any Democrat running for President will be rejected on that basis alone.

    January 21, 2008 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  15. Paul F., Alexandria, VA

    By the way, Barack had no control over union officials pressuring anyone and there is no proof that they did anything more than encourage their members to vote for Obama. There should be an investigation of both sides actions there but, right now, there is just no proof of any wrongdoing by Barack.

    January 21, 2008 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  16. Jufus, Milwaukee, WI

    Mr. Obama, please STOP crying; if you will not listen to me, then I'll have Michelle tell you and you WILL LISTEN. You know, like when she told you this is the ONLY time she is allowing you to run for president: LEADERSHIP?

    By the way, your comment in Nevada about your greatest negative being: "Helping old ladies across the street." Well, that old lady that you helped across the street, namely, Hillary Rodham Clinton, just kicked your BUTT!

    Also, during a debate on TV you first called ILLEGALS, “Undocumented Immigrants,” then, as your long, tortured explanation went on, you called them, ”Illegal Aliens.” One phrase clearly is code words for AMNESTY, which you do support, the last I checked. The other phrase clearly is code words for NO AMNESTY. So, if you can change positions in one long, tortured paragraph, during a debate, I think the Clintons and the rest of America are well within their rights to call you upon this.

    Clearly, you are all over the map on your positions…

    January 21, 2008 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  17. nonA

    I had to comment again for those who claim that the Democratic Party will lose if Clinton is the nominee. If Obama is her VP, it is possible that the people who support him will support her. This might be the path to 16 years of rule by the Democratic Party, if voters get it right when Obama would run in 2016, assuming Hillary would get reelected in 2012, but I digress.

    The simple fact of the matter is this: the majority of Americans, for whatever reason, don't want to continue with the war in Iraq. Come this November, there will be two candidates: one who wants to continue the war and one who wants to exit the war. Now, if the majority of Americans who are opposed to the war in Iraq are foolish enough to vote Republican because they don't like Hillary, then, to tell the truth, they deserve whatever they get. The same goes for voting for a third party like this Bloomberg character. Everyone ought to know perfectly well that a vote for a third party like Nader is a vote for the Republican candidate because it just splits the Democratic vote. Look at the election of 1912 if you need historical proof, though in that case it was Teddy Rooservelt who split the Republican vote between himself and Taft.

    Long story made short: use logic and not emotion when participating in politics.

    January 21, 2008 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  18. New Yorker, NYC

    Well this Chicago Poltics.
    Stop whining Obama

    January 21, 2008 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  19. C N.

    I am still waiting for our political representatives to take a more vocal stance on the reduction of global poverty during their campaigns. Just recently Obama introduced the Global Poverty Act in the Senate, but we do not hear him speak much about that type of foreign policy. According to the Borgen Project, 19 billion dollars would eliminate starvation globally.

    January 21, 2008 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  20. Zaneta

    Before you go insulting a huge number of people, please try and understand what you're saying. You'll be glad to know that there are very little 'dumb Hillary supporters', many of her supporters support her, both her character and her policies. I for one did not base my support on the fact that she is a woman but on the fact that she has experience and good, sound policies which are pragmatic and do-able. Hillary is obviously the best candidate and it is obvious that Obama is not, just look at his recent remarks.
    I find it very disturbing how anybody could support somebody who whinges and whines and complains after losses, attacking intellectual people who have proved themselves worthy of respect. His inablitiy to face loss well is a great indication to his lack of moral fiber and most disgusting was his shameless ads towards the Hispanics, accusing Hillary of not supporting Hispanics. His underhanded tricks are so obvious it really shocks me how so many people could support him and goes to show that they really only listen to his repetitive, very boring and uninspiring speeches or are affected speeches given by celebrities on his behalf. The fact that he also needs the most influential black woman in America to speak for him goes to show that his campaign is all for show and substantially lacking in any concrete substance.

    January 21, 2008 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  21. Doug

    President and Senator Clinton (and their handlers) appear to be willing to do or say anything to win the nomination. There is really no disputing that. They are two of the greatest campaign strategists of our time and they have a huge political machine behind them. If it wasn't so frustrating, one would have to marvel at their abilties. I would not be at all surprized to see her win the nomination. I have been a democrat all of my life and though it will be sad, I will be voting for the republican if they win, and so will the majority of Americans. I hope to have a woman President of the United States but I won't vote for Mrs. Clinton. Americans don't trust or like dishonest, arrogant people and that is what they appear to be.

    January 21, 2008 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  22. Corey, Maryland

    Sally and Bruce are both 100% right in the points that they make. Although it seems that Obama isn't even running against Hillary any more, Bill is just being so negative, i hate him now. He just makes up so many filthy lies, and Hillary supporters are retarded enough to by it. Its absolutely disgusting that Hillary is going to ruin it for the democrats. Even though i support Obama 100%, if he doesn't make it i would gladly pick any Republican over Hillary and her worthless husband.

    January 21, 2008 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  23. pete

    Speaking in Harlem after she received the endorsement of Calvin Butts, a leading black pastor, Mrs Clinton said that a vote for her should not be seen as a vote against Mr Obama. "I have the highest regard and admiration for my friend and colleague Senator Barack Obama. He is an extraordinary person with many gifts and contributions to our country and the world. I am honoured to be running with him," she said.


    January 21, 2008 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  24. Tom Davie

    If Obama is WHINING about this sort of stuff, how can he possibly deal with much HARSHER attacks in the whitehouse.

    How can he stare down China and Russia? How can stand up to the Islamic extremests who HATE us ?

    Are you kidding? Whining about this SOFTBALL stuff?

    Cmon senator Obama. DEAL WITH IT.

    Stop WHINING when things dont go your way. Welcome to the REAL world.

    If you cant handle something as silly as this from your OWN PARTY, you wont survive the harsher republican attacks, nor the infighting in the senate or house.

    You will NEVER be able to handle the brutal and hatefull enemies of the united states in foreign policy.

    January 21, 2008 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  25. Charles, Arkansas


    You are; Bill is your biggest threat. I'm glad that you've come to the realization that you'll have to address Bill. I think that you're letting Hillary off easy on her position changing...ex. the 2000 bankruptcy bill, the War in Iraq, and lets not forget driver’s licenses for illegals. You've got the fire that you need to have Americans call into question her judgment, or lack thereof...use it! Not to mention, Hillary is supposed to be the one under scrutiny, but if she wants to hide behind her hubby to the White House then Bill must be scrutinized as well. After all; his surname, reputation and legacy is on the line too. You have to beat the Clintons at their own game, but in a more majestic way. Think...later you can shake hands and discuss some things said, but for now Bill is the enemy! African Americans don't owe the Clintons anything, enough with the walking on egg shells. Attack the Clinton establishment without delay!!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
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