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. Dusacre

    The devil himself can come and vote for Hillary, He may even bring all his armies. All that will not matter. Hillary will not be the next president of the United States.

    Bill Clinton may yell at reporters, he may even bark. All that will not matter. Hillary will not be the next president of the United States.

    Marketer and political strategists may repackage Hillary Clinton and sell her to us. All that will not matter. Hillary will not be the next president of the United States.

    All Clinton supporters can vote for her as long as they want; All that will not matter. Hillary will not be the next president of the United States.


    Americans in the vast majority are people with a good judgment. They know and see what the Clintons are.

    January 21, 2008 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  2. Jay

    If the former president can not speak the truth and set good examples why do we blame Paris Hilton for her mistakes.

    January 21, 2008 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  3. James D.

    For those of you attacking Obama....should he simply ignore the MASSIVE dishonest campaign being waged against him? Should he simply sit back and be Billary's punching bag?? NO HE SHOULD NOT. He should stand for truth and fight back, which is exactly what he is doing. Don't you want someone who will stand up for truth? THAT, is what takes courage.

    This campaign and the responses on this thread only prove Obama is too much ahead of his time to be elected. The US will once again get the President it deserves...and all the nasty partisanship that comes with it. In the end...GET ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED. Go celebrate that. I'm moving to the UK.

    January 21, 2008 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  4. Bruce

    I haven't voted for a Democrat for president in years and I wouldn't vote for Hilary Clinton if no one else was running but I would consider voting for Obama. He understands that the country is sick to death of all the partisanship that obsessed the Clintons in their eight years of running this country, while the Clintons are still running the kind of smearing, lying, knee-capping campaign that they always loved.
    Does this country need eight more years of the Clintons in the White House with Bill enjoying his cigars in the oval office again?! Good grief! For me-and half the population of this country-it's ABC for president!

    January 21, 2008 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  5. Herman

    All of America is confused and wishy washy on the candidates, Hillary and Obama.
    Prejudice is still well and alive in America,this is one of the times it radiates more, I think America would rather have a White Women as President than a black man.
    Either would be a first, America has gone to hell in a handbasket and we put ourselves there, I am African American who is a Independent and like Lou Dobbs. I see now why people have denounced the United States. I think Iam going to move to Australia.

    January 21, 2008 04:54 am at 4:54 am |
  6. michelle

    Obama claims he is running a honest and positive campaign, and not playing the race card,but it is clear by his behavior that he is is no different then any other politician. I participated in the Nevada caucuses and it was very clear to me that this campaign is all about race. There were Obama supporters who were only there because he is a black man.They couldn't even tell you what his plans were for any issue. They just said we support him because he was one of theirs.
    I find that unacceptable. At least I was very proud that the Clinton supporters were very informed and not behind her because she is female. I think we are going to see more tantrums coming from Obama especially if he doesn't do well in SC.

    January 21, 2008 04:54 am at 4:54 am |
  7. Bryan, Illinois

    To Don and Ann above,

    This is not childishness nor inexperience showing. Obama is simply exposing Bill Clinton's misrepresenting of his facts. He isn't crying on TV or portraying the presidency as some birthright of his. In fact, he continues to participate in as genuine a discussion of issues as possible.

    For Clinton to portray Obama's record on the war as inconsistent is hilarious. She has been far more inconsistent. Many of the other muck dredged up last week on Barack was also out of context. Striving to correct falsehoods is not childish.

    I might also point out that Obama hardly lost the Nevada caucuses. He apparently will have one more delegate from Nevada than Clinton. This is in large part because of his ability to reach out to a broad variety of people, even in rural areas, whereas Hillary's support was concentrated in metro areas. Since this is a race for delegates, and not a popular vote, Barack and easily be seen as having won the Nevada caucuses.

    January 21, 2008 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  8. Moe, NY

    Too bad too sad Obama...get over it! Start talking straight and stop the, dare I say it...yes I think I will....fairytale version of America...it won't work...we have to deal with reality, and after almost 8 plus years of BUSH.....we have to take the blinders off.....hang in though....with some experience you will do fine in the future.

    January 21, 2008 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  9. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    How anyone can accuse Obama of starting this mess is absolutely beyond me. Apparently people haven't been following this campaign since day one.

    Things got hairy when Bob Novak wrote a piece casually stating that "agents of Hillary Clinton" had a "scandalous" story about Obama that could destroy his campaign.

    Then Clinton supporter and former senator Bob Kerrey started spreading the already long debunked rumor that Obama had studied in a madrassa.

    Shortly after that, Bill Shaheen, husband of former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, suggested Obama may have sold drugs in the past.

    Then Hillary's absolutely classless campaign strategist, Mark Penn, went on "Hardball" and brought it up again. Penn was chastized, not only by host Chris Matthews and Obama strategist David Axelrod, but also Edwards' strategist Joe Trippi! (The clip is readily available on YouTube. Go see for yourself.)

    Then there was the ridiculous Clinton memo that Obama had wanted to be a president since Kindergarten...Andrew Cuomo's "you can't shuck and jive through a press conference" comment...the anonymous Clinton advisor's comment that Obama is "your imaginary, hip black friend"...Bob Johnson's "I won't tell you what he was doing" comment...Bill's Charlie Rose interview...

    Obama has held his head up through all of this, but there's only so much an individual can take before fighting back.

    The Clintons are shrewd, so when they're not intentionally misquoting Obama and mischaracterizing his positions entirely, they're sending out their "surrogates" to make controversial statements about him. This has been going on for months and only now is Obama starting to fire back. Good for him.

    People accuse Obama supporters of deifying the man, but seriously, how many times do the Clintons have to be caught lying red handed for their supporters to actually bite the bullet and admit that the moral compasses of their heroes, the Clintons, are extremely suspect? It was bad enough when Clinton flat out lied to us while in the Oval Office.

    "Fool me once, shame on you..."

    January 21, 2008 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  10. Derrick

    Obama should not be complaining about that type of stuff because the republicans will eat his lunch if he's that sensative to any kind of reteric, besides he's like Ronald Reagan that shows me how young he is because African Americans didn't ever like Reagan does anyone remember reaganomics? He started this fight stand up and fight

    January 21, 2008 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  11. Alex, Dallas TX

    People lets face Obama is a good guy and might still win this nomination but I think he is not ready to lead this country. If he (Obama) is complaning about running against the clintons then Michele Obama should not be on the trail too, he shouldn't have brought Oprah into this...Obama should stop whining and start doing some more face to face campaigning instead of all these rallies that don't really produce results.

    January 21, 2008 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  12. kenny

    i agree – the Clinton campaign is a stench of power crazed pieces of work.

    January 21, 2008 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  13. dave

    I see Clinton has gone to a black community in New York and asked her black supporters to make an announcement, with her standing there, to not make their decision based on color.
    However, we don't see her going to a white community and asking the same thing.

    You won't see that, because her whole campaign has been based on her working the color angle.

    January 21, 2008 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  14. J Moses

    I hate to see Obama's campaign coming apart like this. He needs to stay above it. The Clintons are fighting dirty and twisting every rule they can get their hands on. And, yes, they are distorting Obama's record and falsly claiming that Hillary has more experience. But the major appeal of the Barack Obama campaign was that he didn't resort to any of that and he's straying dangerously close now.
    Still has my vote, though. I'd sooner vote republican than see Hillary in office. I voted for Bill, but he's totally lost my respect and I think he'll find in the long run that'he's not helping his wife.
    If she does manage to get the nomination the Rebuplicans will run her over so fast she won't know what hit her. They've stockpiled dirt on her since her hubbie's first campaign and they'll bring out every little bit of it.

    January 21, 2008 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  15. Educated Woman

    Consider this, had Hilary not been married to Bill, her candidacy for President would be ludicrous.

    1) She would not have had any significant level of clout or name recognition.
    2) She would not have been a legitimate candidate for the New York Senate seat. In fact, her candidacy would have been laughable especially to New Yorkers with Hilary not having been from the State or even lived their prior to running.
    3) Consequently, her run at the White House would have been comedic at best.

    ALL of Hilary’s noteworthy achievements are directly attributed to Bill. Even her most loyal supporters unwaveringly list the ‘BILL factor’ as the number one reason for their support of her, number two being the fact that she is a WOMAN. As a woman I find it disingenuous and rather offensive to use the fact that one is a woman to gain the ‘women’s vote’ when one’s credentials are hand-me-downs from a MAN.

    January 21, 2008 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  16. rusty

    What is really depressing about the Clinton tactics is they are working. Democrats seem to be ready to get this thing over with, basically by February 5th. If the dems anoint Hillary, my prediction is they will know she will lose the election before the democratic convention is even held.

    January 21, 2008 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  17. Geneva

    Oh please! Maybe if you had a little more substance than "prose" Mr. Obama, this matter wouldn't be an issue. People may hate the Clintons, but every candiate has people who dislike them. I didn't want Bush re-elected, and look what happened. Turns out I was right. Hillary might win the nomination, and if so it's a clear path to the white house. Look at her republican competition. What a joke.

    January 21, 2008 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  18. Andrew K

    I'm happy to hear Obama's campaign is finally taking a firm stand against Bill's interference. He's really becoming quite nasty and inappropriate.

    I agree with other posters here that the candidates should be focusing on their own strengths instead of attacking the other. In this regard, Bill Clinton has little place in the process and should stay out of it - let Hillary speak on her own behalf. He's losing my respect by the minute, and I imagine I'm not alone.

    January 21, 2008 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  19. tere, fl

    i bet you are one of the hispanics in Nevada who voted against Obama! What is this minority vs minority racism that you possess. What do you think the Clintons will do for you? I am glad this election will not be decided by Latinos like you, we will win women votes like in Iowa and heck with the racist Hispanics.

    January 21, 2008 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  20. Tony

    Bill and Hillary are degenerating more and more.

    January 21, 2008 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  21. carmen

    The Clintons' conniving tricks and deceiving tactics ( in plain words: lies ) influence people that are not aware of their background; if people do not get informed, they will allow the Clintons to drag this country into chaos, which ultimately will hit low and middle income Americans. All American citizens have the duty to inform each other to be able to make the right choices; we need a new vision, a young , smart, energetic, sincere politician to try to make things in America better for everybody.

    January 21, 2008 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  22. Jimmy, Los Angeles, CA.

    Wow. Im a conservative and disagree with pretty much everything on the democratic platform. That said, Mr. Obama is someone who to me has a chance to really be a great President. When you look at the former greats, Reagan, JFK etc., they all had one very important thing in common, Americans beleived that they were the truth.
    While we all have policy differences, we should keep in mind that a President is elected to represent us all. Unity at the end of the day is all we have and is what defines our nations spirit. Mr. Obama when I watch & listen to him reminds me of that, and yet it looks like the Dems are going to continue to help let the Presidency look more like a dynasty for the Bush's & the Clinton's. Yuk. Oh well, polotics as usuall, Rudy 08!

    January 21, 2008 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  23. Adam, Plano, TX

    those of you saying Obama has resorted to dirty tricks, first of all, where? second of all, he's avoided the #1 dirty trick of them all, calling bill out for lying under oath, something that it seems none of hillary's followers even thinks about, he 100% confirmed that he was a liar, and hillary's supporters still lap it right up.

    January 21, 2008 05:48 am at 5:48 am |

    its possible for bill to be president for the third time? whatis going on in america this time around.?

    January 21, 2008 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  25. George, TX

    America is a Plutacrocy, not a Democracy. We elect sons, VPs, and now wives of past presidents quite regular. They have the wealth, contacts, upbringing, and the political machines to enforce this Plutacrocy we have. This is the system that Obama is up against. And if he wins, we'll probably be seeing one of his relatives running for the office in the future. If that happens, Obama will end up doing the same thing that Bill is doing now. To the victor goes the spoils. I'm sure Obama knows this, even though he whines about it now.


    January 21, 2008 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
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