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. alan

    You know Bill Clintons behavoir in this campaign is so distasteful. Bush one didint campaign this way for his son when he ran for the presidency. I guess he knows when history has its say they will point to a mediorce presidency at best. The Clinton Years: A footnote in American history.

    Anyone who thinks if Hillary Clinton will win in general election is on crack. Cant wait for the republicans to re-fight the Clinton years. She is the most hated public figure in the republican side and tell you what alot of independants wont vote for her either. Her campaign continues this route she will not get the black vote (shes already lost ton of support). How are the Clintons being back in office will "change" washington. You kidding me? I doubt they will get anything done. Yes you have experience....experience of dividing the country, dividing the party, and making the White House at best a terrible reality show.

    Can someone please explain to me how being a elected officials spouse gives you "experiece." Isnt Obama been in ELECTED office for longer. I dont know how the Obama campaign doesnt poke holes into this claim of 35 years of experience. Everytime she says that I laugh with my dad about it.

    Im voting for Obama. If he doesnt get the nomination Im voting for (fill in blank) Republican. I hope Obama still wins but if he doesnt he shouldnt run with Hilary as vice president. Learn from this bid for the white house, dont stoop down to the politics of usual and just run the next cycle.

    January 21, 2008 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  2. chris

    this is all irrelevant....the facts are that Senator Clinton is the best chance America has at defeating terrorism, turning our economy around, making our soldiers safer and well-cared for, and making the futures of all our children better.....and she will defeat any republican candidate because when it comes down to it, the American people will put the interests of their children and our soldiers first.....such interests that will not be served by the policies and actions of the gop....

    January 21, 2008 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  3. Sharif, Toronto, Canada

    Mr Obama, here is a black man that would love you win this election but feels you far behind. Stop accusing the Clintons and tell America what political philosophy you want to engage. I am sorry but you don't have self confidence, and once that is missing you can't tell America what they need to hear.
    Bill is an heroe and the world knows, so don't play the race card because if you really know you are black I beleive you shouldn't be in this election race against Clinton. Cos Clinton is you and you can't compete with your self.
    I think you should immediately endorse Hillary.

    January 21, 2008 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  4. RedSea Foreign National

    BIll Clinton is calling it like it is! Obama was not even a senator at the time of the vote to use military force in Iraq, so he cannot say he was always against the war, when he was not even in a position to vote, and since he became a senator he often does not show up to vote! In only 3 years as a senator he missed 254 senate votes, twice as many as Hillary in 7 years as a senator serving more than twice as long! And since he has been a senator he has supported the war in all of his votes, when he is in fact voting. Also when he first became a senator he said his ideal of a hard working senator and someone he hoped to be like is Hillary. He did take a speech where he said he did not know how he would have voted on the war off of his website. Check 'The Wayback Machine' which archives historical versions of websites. So Bill is calling it like it is and right to say his position on the war is a fairy tale! ! I was not a fan of Hillary when she was first lady, but she has emerged as a lady of class and dignity. Even though she voted for the use of military force in Iraq, she did it as a last option and proposed other options she would prefer first, so her vote was in fact 'qualified'. The fact that she changed her mind and said her vote was a mistake is not flip flopping, and it is honest and fair of her! I too used to be for rhe war and would have voted for it, but I know a lot more now and think Nine One One was an inside job. Look up Operation Cyclone to learn a little history of who created Al Qaeda, formerly called Al Khifa run by the CIA, John O'Neill (former FBI director in charge of watching and finding bin Laden), and Paul O'Neill (former secretary f the Treasurer who was fired by Bush for disagreeing with him). Once you do a little research you would now like Ron Paul if you do not already. Hillary has stood up on the senate floor and accused her party of playing politics and blindly following the president, and she has demanded answers, written personal letters to the president demanding explanations for spending in Iraq and no bid contracts. The fact is, Obama would get whipped by Congress, so we do not need a president who will be a whipping boy! Who is this guy? Never heard of him before Oprah endorsed him, which means nothing to me anyway, and why should he be president? I do not care or would not vote for anyone just because they are black or a woman, but based on what they stand for and believe in, what I think they can accomplish, and based on what they have accomplished. I dare not say experience because now it is a liability! I decide who I support by doing my homework and my research about each person. The only interesting and attractive thing about Obama is that he has Muslim roots and attended a mosque as a child in Indonesia, then changed to Christian in the States. If he claims to be able to unite people, then he would not hide or deny this fact, as he could do a lot to unite Christians, Muslims, and other religions in America, and it would go a long way with our Middle East ties! So Obama is a double talker, a sneak, and just a lawyer by nature! In my opinion he is behind all of these sneaky little tricks that the Clintons are coming up against and then getting blamed for when they have to denfend theirselves. If anyone wants to criticize Clinton for standing up for his wife, then maybe they are unhappily married, or not married. You better believe if I was running for president, my husband would be out campaigning for me, and if anyone was playing dirty little tricks on my campaign, then he would be out in full force fighting for me! It is not a good cop, bad cop game, it is passion!

    January 21, 2008 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  5. D'Mar

    Reading these post is obviously too much for some. As you can look across the National polls, Hillary Clinton leads all voters as to her electability. Where do you get your facts. You don't win votes if you're not electable. You don't win NH and NV if you're not electable. What is wrong with you? Since when does being the most charismatic and outgoing personality won an election? Since when does the fact that you have a position and stick with it mean you're "polarizing" and "divisive?" Think for yourself. All you have heard is what Hillary has done and it's been given to you by the media. You didn't like her in 1993, because she was an advocate for Universal Healthcare, but now that everyone is on that band wagon you're not giving her the props or the courage that it took to take on Washington as the First Lady. No, she didn't fit the mold as a stereotypical First Lady that only did what her husband suggested, she was far more educated and equal in her position and career than all the former First Lady's combined; but get off it. She, Hillary Clinton, is probably the most educated candidate there is; and having been with Bill through some of the toughest times in her life, she didn't fold under the strain and pressure; but emerged victoriously through the grace of God. If that's not an American story; I don't know what is. You have different standards that you apply to Hillary because she's a woman; but you need to apply them to all the candidates. What has Barack Obama done for African Americans that Hillary and Bill haven't? You don't earn the vote because you're black or a women, you earn the vote because of your record and your accomplishments. People like to hear a good story; but better yet they like to live a great life; that's done through working, through health care, through an education; and through feeling safe. Which one would you rather have cleaning up George Bush's mess; someone with a vision or someone with experience to know how to right the ship. I appreciate Barack Obama and like him; but I'm not sold on his politics yet. I know where I stand with Hillary.

    January 21, 2008 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  6. Andrew Caridas

    I share the distaste for presidential legacies voiced by other commenters. What are the chances that two people who are exceptional enough to be chosen among the maybe four or five of their generation to lead this country just happen to be married? George H. W. Bush, though his presidency was not without failings, was a very intelligent man with terrific foreign policy credentials. His son is a disaster. Clearly, leadership qualifications are not hereditary. So why are so many democrats so ready to believe they are sexually transmitted?

    Even assuming that Bill Clinton was a terrific president–he was not, by the way, he was just an adequate one–how does that possibly reflect on Hillary's qualifications? Are we really comfortable with our national policy being set by the guy the president sleeps with?

    As to Hillary herself, claims that she is a seasoned Washington insider are laughable. Her only serious political position during her husband's presidency was captaining health care reform directly into an iceberg. Admittedly, she has been a senator longer than Obama, but has very little to show for her time in office other than a very silly vote on the Iraq War.

    She is hardly a Washington power broker, nor is she, or has she ever been, much of an agent for change. Does that mean Obama necessarily is? Who knows? His inexperience makes it difficult to judge his potential. But Clinton has already given us plenty of opportunity to see she has none.

    January 21, 2008 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  7. Harry, Michigan

    Doug, Ca – – Why do you consider the fact that Obama's wife campaigning in South Carolina is "blatantly playing the race card"? Yet Hillary's husband can go anywhere he wants yelling at reporters, exagerrating and implying voter suppresion, and I suppose you think that is a fine thing?

    January 21, 2008 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  8. Panama Red

    Hey Bill,
    Remember that joint you smoked with me? Oh! I forgot, you didn't inhale... Hehe

    January 21, 2008 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  9. susan trevelyan-syke

    So glad someone noticed that the Constitution limits the Presidency to two terms. No matter. The clever Clintons have found their way around that little technicality with their own US version of a (Don) Juan and Evita Peron gambit.
    She even does a great "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".
    With vote recounts in New Hampshire and now requested investigations of voter intimidation in Nevada, the Clintons have brought Bush/Rove tactics against the other Democrats. Remember their ace Jimmy Carville was the only person to out Rove and beat him and the Bushes.
    We can be prepared for endless dirty tricks and lies until the Clintons get the nomination or lose. Either case, they will probably Democrats' chances of taking the White House.
    Who would not prefer a McCain or anyone clean for our President?

    January 21, 2008 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  10. Joe

    How dumb are you folk ?

    How can all you people Look at Hillary and Bill and think she's electable or even decent ?

    From an outsider who once liked the Clinton the've show then selves to be lying crying faking phonies !

    35 years experiance ? Please……. over here were all laughing at you guys and your media buying that and letting her get away with that !

    She had no security clearance she had one job health care which got to hard and she gave up ! She didnt keep fighting she gave up !

    Did she cry at Katrina ? Did she cry at 911 Did she cry for all the blokes yours and ours that died after she voted for bushes iraq war ? No to all !

    Did she cry when she though she was going to lose ? Yes

    Bill and Chelsea claim that the watch voter intimadation in NV yet he did nothing ?
    With his 8 secret sevice poeple there plus how ever many what Chelsea please his either a wimp who wont stick up for your right to vote or there both liers !

    And this vote thing ? Hill and Bill both say we had nothing to do with the court case yet neither spoke out against it !

    If you guys vote for Hillary you deserve what you get !

    January 21, 2008 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
  11. Michael

    Let's face it: Neither Obama nor HRC has been straight-foward on their positions in Iraq. HRC originally voted for the Iraq resolution in October 2002. We all know this. The big question is, though, CAN WE BLAME HER?! She was the elected official for the State of New York. While Gallup polls suggested the public was split on an invasion, a vast majority felt that the US should clamp down on Iraqi sanctions, including guaranteeing UN oversight of Iraq's supposed WMD. Why do we constantly accuse HRC of being inconsistent when the real inconsistency lies with us, the American public. It's great for our elected reps in Congress to follow our wishes but when WE also claculated incorrectly, they make great scapegoats.

    As for Obama: Sure he spoke out against it during a war initially in 2002 (mind you, he was not in the US Congress at the time). He also held the continued position that the war was politically manipulated by the Bush administration, which I think a vast majority of us (including HRC) agree on in hindsight. But the facts are that his policies have NOT been consistent with respect to the wider War on Terror. Voting for war funding once we entered the quagmire was understandable (we can't leave our troops out to dry nor the Iraqi people in civil war), but what about his wider positions: 1) he would consider military action in Pakistan against al Qaida WITHOUT Pakistani permission, 2) he voted for the Patriot Act in 2006 (as did HRC, who at least voted against cloture in late 2005), and 3) while rhetorically arguing for the closing of Guantanamo, he did NOT support two specific bills that would have done so (HRC pushed for its closure).

    Has his policy on the WoT been inconsistent? Yes! Does that discount his credibility? No. All politicians make decisions based on the widest degree of information (including classified) available to them. This goes for HRC as well. Let's quit the bickering and focus on who has the ability and know-how to get our country back on track!

    January 21, 2008 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
  12. Maris

    This is like Hillary going after Michelle Obama...how ridiculous! This is politics. Is Obama going to scurry off crying every time someone challenges his statements? Well, he better be ready because the Republicans won't be any nicer! I can imagine the discussion tomorrow on Good Morning America going something like this: Obama the son (because he’s younger) yelling, "I didn't do it! I didn't say that!" Bill reprimanding him like a father (because he’s older), "I told you to stop lying!" Obama, it's time to grow up, your immaturity just lost you your election!

    January 21, 2008 03:43 am at 3:43 am |
  13. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    (Third time I've tried to post this comment...)

    I'm glad Obama is finally getting tough and taking the Clintons to task for their deception. I think the Democratic base has forgotten how conniving and deceptive the Clintons can be. No matter what your thoughts are on Bill as a president (and mine are fairly favorable), you can't gloss over the fact that he lied to the public and perjured himself before Congress.

    Anyone that would like to see a continuously updated list of unfair attacks on Obama that have been clarified should go here:


    It's an excellent resource.

    January 21, 2008 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  14. Jason, Chicago, IL

    The Clintons are acting in a despicable manner. Obama has taken a few shots sure, but they were only in self-defense. I don't think it was Obama that started the attacks. So then he defends himself and they attack him for defending himself. If he remains quiet he looks bad because of their distortions. Unfortunately, I don't think the American people are engaged enough to see what's happening here.

    So HIllary will probably end up with the nomination and we will remain as divided as we are today. She is every bit as polarizing as Bush. I, for one, will never vote for her and I'm a Democrat.

    January 21, 2008 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  15. v.ananthan

    To Mr Obama,

    I don`t see anything wrong a husband campaining for his wife. You have got a lot of support from the Hollywood stars like Oprah and Ms Clinton is not complaining about that. Its one of many Obama dirty tricks and he is suppose to unite USA???

    January 21, 2008 04:05 am at 4:05 am |
  16. Clay

    I am in support of Obama (amongst Democrats anyway), but I feel like he's whining here. Everyone knew this is how it would be.

    January 21, 2008 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  17. Donne

    Why not tell Bill Clinton, that you are quite different from him. That you shall always be truthful at all times. Surely Mary Jones went to prison for lying and the greatest lair of all remain free and have the audacity to discrediting you. Obama tell him that since your career that you have never been found wanting and as such he should shut up.

    I think its right time you start fighting back. the system that sent Mary Jones to prison that has never held public office and left the man who was at the highest office free is wrong. Obama has come to correct it. Obama will represent and shall do his best to confront this ills.

    Obama tell the basket its raw materials and it shall stop engaging.Make it known that enough is enough ,Bill Clinton is not god , his loop holes are many . Obama remain honorable today and for always.

    Yes can , yes we can, yes we can.

    January 21, 2008 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  18. Karen, Jersey City

    It takes 2 Clintons to campaign against 1 Obama!

    LOL!! The Bill and HIllary show is getting rather boring.

    January 21, 2008 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  19. indy. p

    I am kind of getting sick of seeing Our former President Bill Clinton, who i once admired, on TV with a flushed angry face chastizing someone or making outrageous statements to make his wife look good.
    Mr President you had a special place in our hearts, try to keep it that way.

    January 21, 2008 04:15 am at 4:15 am |
  20. Doe

    Obama hasn't seen anything yet.. just wait until the republicans focus there attention on him.

    January 21, 2008 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  21. Patrick, New York,Ny

    Obama please give up you have divided the Democrats on racial lines and hurt the Democratic party! You are bad for Democrats!

    CLINTON 08!!

    January 21, 2008 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  22. Ashok

    Go Obama Go!! i know you are going to win..you can unify the world not only America.truth will prevail..i am not a american,i am from small island of Srilanka..the entire world want you to win.

    January 21, 2008 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  23. Joe

    How dumb are you folk ?

    How can all you people look at Hillary and Bill and think she's electable or even decent ?

    From an outsider who once liked the Clinton the've show then selves to be lying crying faking phonies !

    35 years experiance ? Please……. over here were all laughing at you guys and your media buying that and letting her get away with that !

    She had no security clearance she had one job health care which..... got to hard and she gave up ! She didnt keep fighting she gave up !

    Did she cry at Katrina ? Did she cry at 911 Did she cry for all the blokes yours and ours that died after she voted for bush's iraq war ? No to all !

    Did she cry when she thought she was going to lose ? Yes

    Bill and Chelsea claim that the watch voter intimadation in NV yet he did nothing ?
    With his 8 secret sevice poeple there plus how ever many Chelsea please his either a wimp who wont stick up for your right to vote or there both liers !

    And this vote thing ? Hill and Bill both say we had nothing to do with the court case yet neither spoke out against it !

    If you guys vote for Hillary you deserve what you get !

    January 21, 2008 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  24. theo

    Clinton did not do to well among the black voters in Nevada, I think if the same happens in south Carolina, Obama will take that state and go all the way.

    January 21, 2008 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  25. Obama08

    Clinton's dirty politics = steroid in Sport

    January 21, 2008 04:39 am at 4:39 am |
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