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. Porter

    I totally agree wit Bruce and Sally. Mr. Clinton has hit a new low trying to defend his wife. Obama is absolutely correct about being unjustly attacked. And no, this does not make him a cry-baby in the least. He's professional and responsible enough to know when to call a FOUL, when he sees it. But let's remember everyone that Hillary may have won the popular vote in Nevada, but she didn't over-take Obama, with respect to scoring Delegates from that state.

    I strongly believe that Obama will persevere to overcome the hardships, trials and tribulations, to wind up standing tall in November. And if he doesn't, then he's still young and energetic enough to give it another shot 4 to 8 years from now.

    January 21, 2008 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  2. Amy

    For God's sake, we are watching TV and C-span and we saw that at both caucuses, the Obama supporters were more aggressive. I saw on TV the Ceasar palace caucus, with all those big guys with red T-shirts moving non-stop around, while on the left side (on TV) Hillary supporters were quietly sitting. When the 5-6 uncommitted and pro-Edwards came in front of the room, it was the Obama people all over them. I am not surprised, most Obama supporters are men and are young, in Nevada in particularly Black, so those guys were always very vocal.

    But how is possible so many to lie about this.. if it was intimidation it was from their part. Obama's campaign or at least supporters used dirty trick.. why are you surprised/ It was Obama who put that act of mockery one day before the Nevada caucus ? And now he is complaining? of what? of Bill Clinton coming to say what we all know that media is biased, that Obama Iraq opposition is only half true, that Culinary union endorsement in Nevada led to voters intimidation? I don't have to trust Bill Clinton on that, we all read and watch TV. Obama is not prepared to be President, period.

    January 21, 2008 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  3. Kathy

    This is so depressing. We have a former President demeaning the office, a dynasty that is lasting for decades, and together this husband and wife team are trying to bury the one man who actually has a chance to take back the White House.

    The Clintons aren't for America. They're not for the Democratic Party. They're out for themselves. If Clinton gets the nomination, Bloomberg will come in, the Republican base will come out in droves, and we'll be stuck with another four years of Republicans.

    January 21, 2008 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  4. anna

    I have been for Obama from the start, but I didn't especially dislike the Clintons until I saw their true colors. They have lied and manipulated to a point I didn't think possible. If Hillary gets this I will be voting for Bloomberg or McCain.

    January 21, 2008 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  5. JohnS

    When the Dems lose to the Republicans in the general election, by putting Hillary out there as the nominee, and the following scenarios develop, it will be those same people (women, in particular) who will be complaining if their men refuse to go out there are clean up the mess. Imagine another Republican president in the White House, what do we think is going to happen:

    1. Rowe vs. Wade will be toasted– history. Our young daughters will go back to the dark ages. Women's rights will face serious challenges in this nation.

    2. The rights of minorities– Latino/Latina, Blacks and so on will be reversed gradually. People should think seriously about these serious ramifications.

    3. The gap between the rich and the middle class will even get wider.

    4. Why not anticipate another war? Indeed, the Republicans are good at it; so we should expect them to wage another war soon. People tend to do what they are good at!!

    Alternatively, even if Hillary is elected president(?) which I seriously question, then what?
    1. Will the House and Senate actually spread the RED CARPET for Hillary to do what she wants, or should the nation brace for more and more conflicts? Think about how they tinkerered with strong Bill!!! Hillary, well look at her emotional breakdown in NH.

    2. What about the call for Bill's archives to be opened after the elections; what could be so damaging to Hillary that she would immediately become a lame duck president?

    3. How will Bill behave in the White House with those young interns? I am glad that my sister is wiser than this; never a Clinton supporter following the history of the Clinton's in the White House. There is NO second chance here!

    I sincerely hope the Dems, now that they have the backings of the Independents, and some moderate Republicans even in the House and Senate use "common sense" to shy away from the Clintons; at least for the sake of peace in this nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  6. mhatter106

    Hmm. I was misled; I thought the headline was a quote by Obama.

    To S Williams – Not necessarily. I feel like more Republicans are warming up to HIllary. Not the staunch ones, but the more moderate ones. She definitely comes off as more experienced as Obama. It is just a matter their stances and how they resound with the Ameircan people. However you feel one way or the other, I believe Hillary stands a better chance of getting right sided votes in November than Obama. But that may not pass, because Obama has such strong showings in the primaries.

    To Bruce – Bill called Obama's claim to have consistently opposed to war in IRaq a "fairy tale" not his character and not his campaign. Look for context. Please stop getting your news in soundbites.

    January 21, 2008 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  7. Rosario

    Finally!!!!! Obama speaks out on this issue. Reality is that voters do not know who is running in the Clinton side anymore. The Clintons are trying to destroy Obama at any cost. and that is not FAIR. The media should also denounce this kind of practice. It is not democratic.

    January 21, 2008 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  8. proud florida democrat

    Hes unknown because hes NEVER taken a stance or done anything before his run for presidency.

    In Illionis he had a habit of voting present on many contraversial issues.

    He votes democrat 95% in the senate, and has only passed ONE BILL!!!!!!!


    January 21, 2008 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  9. achompep

    I have finally decided who I will support....after going back and forth....HUCKABEE!
    He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he is not wanting to win the Presidency for K Street. I have considered what guides the candidates, what are their principles? And when I examined these principles, I concluded that Huckabee can contribute integrity and balance to economic, defense, and social issues. We desperately need someone who will come to the table on these issues and consider them in a fresh, balanced, and fair way for the next generation of Americans. Remember, NOBODY is perfect, not everyones past policy making is squeaky clean. I truly had to consider the principles that guides each of the candidates....and Huckabee is THE MAN!!

    January 21, 2008 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  10. Bernie Moore-Knowles

    The Clintons make me want to throw up. Obama – you will be the next President of the United States. Hopefully then – Bill and Hillary Clinton will sail into their twilight years. Enough already, Bill and Hillary! Your time is now in the past. Done with!

    Obama 2008

    Bernie Moore-Knowles
    Papa'aloa, Hawai'i

    January 21, 2008 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  11. Katie

    Up until this point Senator Obama has been playing defense. If he doesn't respond swiftly and aggressively to "The Clintons" he'll end up being "swift boated" just like John Kerry. Someone needs to tell Bill Clinton he's not allowed to run for President again. And I find it very disturbing that a candidate running for the highest position in this country needs help from her spouse to fight her battles. Check the transcripts folks and you'll see the Clinton camp in every case is the first to throw the bunches.

    January 21, 2008 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  12. Katie

    Excuse me I meant to say "punches".

    January 21, 2008 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  13. Las

    Facts are facts...Hillary Clinton rides on the coat tails of her Husband...She would not be able to be running if it wasn't for Bill Clinton and his friends...She needs him to be her attack dog. This is the way politics works in America...It's about vicious attacks and cry babies...Thank God Hillary cried in New Hampshire, but I still think she is as cold and disconnected as before. It's not about people or policies...It's about power and money...It will never change because those with power and money will always abuse the system...It's tough to win a campaign unless you are sending out lies and innuendo. Garbling messages, The Clintons will have fractured the Democratic party after this campaign. I started out with hope for change...I guess I'm bitter...But thank God for that at least.

    January 21, 2008 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  14. Barbara Casas-California

    I am very disappointed in the people who are behind all this "garbage" being spewed about different candidates; this reminds me of children trading "slams" about backgrounds and experience.

    I am ashamed the American public, whether Repulican or Democrat has chosen such poor representatives to vote for in these "so called caucuses"-this political process of today is such a sham and all of it shows the character of people who are willing to sacrifice four years of their lives to run for this "here-to-fore" respected position of President of the United States of America.

    I am becoming a person that longs for the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and yes, even of Jimmy Carter, at least those two, however misguided they were, gained respect by their actions previous to and during their tenure as President.

    What a thankless job this has become; one wonders why they all fight so hard to belong to the "club".....could it be the "fringe benefits".....I don't think so...or maybe it is the earnings of such as Bill Clinton, who has gained more notarity being a "stand up speaker" upon retirement, then he ever did as President in eight years.

    January 21, 2008 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  15. Ken, San Diego, CA

    The problem with this type of attack against Bill Clinton from the Obama camp is that it opens up everything that Clinton has been saying about Obama to scrutiny. Bill Clinton is very clever. Unlike what Axelrod or Obama suggest, Bill Clinton will not (and has not during this election) said anything against or about Obama that was not founded in fact. Because Obama is now choosing to try to discredit Bill Clinton (and try, in vain, to conger up images of "Clintonism"), ALL of Bill Clinton's comments about Obama are now opened up to media investigation. The facts will play out, and the facts (in these series of charges, anyway) don't bode well for Obama.

    January 21, 2008 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  16. Steve, Lyons, CO

    We heard enough from *your* wife as well, Obama.

    What a whiner. I think he's cracking under the pressure.

    Of COURSE, you're running against both Clintons. What an inane thing to say.

    January 21, 2008 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  17. G

    As a former president, Bill should be playing the role of a statesman. Instead, he is playing dirty politics with a fellow democrate. I have lost all respect for the former president.
    Obama is right, he is running against two clintons.

    January 21, 2008 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  18. A. NUR

    What made Clinton Desperate and so negative. Please, if you can't sustain
    the heat, simply chill out and stay home like a mother.

    January 21, 2008 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  19. Sarah Robinson

    Barack Obama for President, because he is the ONLY candidate who will truly bridge the political divide. Hillary Clinton has already been in the White House, we have some good memories from those times and we also have some memories of scandal and shake ups........

    Please take a hard look at BOTH of these candidates, pretend you are unbiased!

    January 21, 2008 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  20. ABC '08

    Doug, Ca January 21, 2008 12:10 am ET

    What is it that the Clinton(s) '08 are so scared of??

    MS. NOONAN (Meet The Press, Jan 20th, 2008):

    "We haven't mentioned it, but there is this Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton–I've called it a sickness. It is an odd way for a great democracy to comport itself in this strange–we have dynasties now backed by lobbyists, backed by machines and machinery. The fact that America's doing this is giving so many people pause. It us unlike us. And I cannot help but think, as some people come forward and endorse on the Democratic side Mrs. Clinton, they must be thinking stop the dynasty. I know Republicans are thinking stop the dynasties."

    If we don't want dynasticism, we have to vote against dynastic candidates.

    ABC '08

    January 21, 2008 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  21. ABC '08

    MS. NOONAN (Meet The Press, Jan 20th):

    "We haven't mentioned it, but there is this Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton–I've called it a sickness. It is an odd way for a great democracy to comport itself in this strange–we have dynasties now backed by lobbyists, backed by machines and machinery. The fact that America's doing this is giving so many people pause. It us unlike us. And I cannot help but think, as some people come forward and endorse on the Democratic side Mrs. Clinton, they must be thinking stop the dynasty. I know Republicans are thinking stop the dynasties."

    If we don't want dynasticism, we have to vote against dynastic candidates.

    ABC '08

    January 21, 2008 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  22. Steve, Lyons, CO

    Sally says:
    "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."

    Oh, and I'm sure NONE of that 80% support among blacks for Obama has *anything* to do with the fact he's a black man.

    See how silly you are?

    January 21, 2008 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  23. susan

    Ironically, many people (see California poll results) say they prefer Obama but are going to vote for Hillary in the primaries because she is more electable. That is the exact opposite of what is true if McCain is the Republican nominee. Hillary as nominee would mobilize all Republicans to vote for McCain (even those who don't like McCain). She would also lose the support of the Independents and Democrats who have always disliked the Clintons, and dislike them even more now after their recent sleazy tactics. So she loses all the Republicans, most of the independents, and half the Democrats. She can't possibly win. Obama, on the other hand, would have the support of all Democrats, at least half the independents, and even a few liberal Republicans. Obama is actually the only Democratic candidate who can win against McCain. Hopefully, people in upcoming primary states will start to realize this before they vote.

    January 21, 2008 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  24. Goon

    I've lost so much respect for the Clintons during these past few months. I am absolutely disgusted at how they can lie and smear, and yet see their supporters in here accusing Obama of all people, who has restrained himself and stayed on issue, of doing exactly what they are doing.

    its such a Rove tactic, accuse the other side of what you are. You couldnt get me to vote Hillary if my life depended on it at this point. She cares more about herself than her party. Listen to the way the candidates speak – Obama and Edwards talk of what we can do together, with Hillary its "ME ME ME"

    January 21, 2008 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  25. Sam Ted, San Jose, CA

    I vote for Hillary and Bill to stay out of poletics and to start enjoying life together. Come'on guys you never had enough time for each other. Go to floria and have fun....... Thank you for your service to this country though.

    Just my 2 cent.

    January 21, 2008 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
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